Is it viable to get visa for Russia through consulate or the only way is through travel agents whose fee is too high?
Yes. It is worthy if you are able to get to the consulate easily. Fortunately, I live in Manhattan and the Russian consulate were relatively helpful and efficient in turning around the visa application promptly. I would recommend getting in line at least half hour before the business hour. I really encountered no problem and the staffs are generally friendly but very much by the book. They would turn you away unless you have everything in order. I was turned away because I put ten dollars more than they asked for on the money order.
I know that getting Russian visa is a pain, but I would say it's worth the effort. As long as you got your own invitation from the hotel or your host, it should be a relatively easy process to go through. Although I got my visas before the President Putin resumed power, and many of my friends told me things have become less smooth since the US-Russian relationship deteriorated. about 7 years ago
I recommend you get your Russian visa on your own, if possible. Be aware that the entire process is time-consuming.
There are 5 Russian consulates in the U.S. (N.Y.City, Washington, DC, Houston, San Francisco and Seattle) and they have all begun outsourcing visa applications. You can get their addresses, hours and maps online.
You must first fill out your long visa application online and have it sent to the Visa service you will go/or mail to. For any Russian visa (business or tourist) you'll also need an additional "invitation" which means you'll need to approach a visa agency and pay a service fee for it. Some visas require that you submit the original invitation and others will allow a fax.
Be warned that they are sticklers for small details and will not process anything with the smallest error and that's why it's best if you can do it in person. It may take up to two weeks before your passport is returned with the new visa.
I hope this is helpful. Good Luck. almost 7 years ago