Russian Ark is impressive in many ways, but its setting (Tsar Peter's Hermitage) imposes a severe limitation- we mostly see the heavily Westernized, largely aristocratic part of Russia. A lot of what distinguishes Russian culture is missing from the museum and therefore from the film. I would say the Hermitage, as big as it is, is not big enough to be the ark of Russian culture.
I think that was a major point in the movie, and that's where I see elements of Faust come into play.
The Narrator is Faust: a disembodied, lost spirit seeking transcendental answers, "Why Am I Here?" (also, place IS plot, in this movie!)
He encounters Mephistopholes - The European Marquis. They wander through the museum seeking 'Gretchen', Faust's Great Love, which in this case is the Soul of Russia, in the elements of culture preserved there.
The Marquis is everything Russia is not. He is Europe, and like Mephisto, he at first criticizes Her, then seeks to seduce her with jewels and luxury; then corrupt her (he is Roman Catholic, for example), and finally claim her soul. As she becomes more like him, the more he praises her, until finally proclaims, "No, I'm not leaving here"!
A critical point is when they find a small portrait of common people, and the Marquis jealously refers to them ad "Eternal People, who go on...". Another key moment is at the end, after the Grand Ball, as the Narrator exits, someone in the crowd asks, "Where is She? Oh, see, she is still here, nothing has happened to her", just before the Narrator opens the final door onto the great sea of the future.
Anyway, that's what I got out of it. Was fun to watch a movie that was actually produced as a work of art, rather than a simple telling of a tale.