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October 24, 2018

101 Facts About Russia: Bet You Don’t Know Half or More!

Winston Churchill said in 1939 that Russia was “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” For many, that definition still rings true. Here are 101 interesting facts about Russia, it’s culture, the people, the mentality and history:

20 Cultural facts about the Russia

Fact #1 Double Standard

In many touristic places or museums, foreigners pay a higher entrance fee than Russians.
 
Most of the time it’s a matter of a few Rubles, but sometimes it can be more than $20.

In Soviet times, this double pricing system was for virtually everything. Now, it’s only for museums or other cultural activities. Watch out though: the difference can be between $12 and $80 for a spectacular theater performance.

Fact #2 Flower Power

Russian women love to get flowers. But always make sure that you give an uneven amount of flowers.
 
Even amounts are only for funerals.

It’s very common in Russia to give flowers for birthdays, weddings and other events. Or just when you’re meeting a woman. Always count the flowers though, because giving an even amount means ‘death’ and is only reserved for funerals.

Fact #3 NYE Parties

The biggest celebration in Russia is NYE.
 
Also, a second smaller celebration happens on the 14th of January, when the ‘Old’ New year starts according the the Gregorian calendar.

On December 31st, most families have a very late dinner including Russian salads, herring, and sparkling wine. A short presidential address comes on TV at 11:55 pm local time in each of Russia’s time zones, and the president reflects on achievements from the last year.

Fact #4 Bribery

It is estimated that 50% of police officers take bribes in Russia.

However, the numbers seem to be going down. Or at least, it looks like that. The way people pay bribes has also changed, since nobody wants to accept envelopes with money anymore as it makes it very easy to get caught red handed. Bribing is punishable by Russian law with up to 15 years imprisonment.

Fact #5 Cat Theater

There is a cat theater in Russia where 120 cats do all sorts of tricks, such as slack lining and balancing on a ball.

The Moscow Cats theater features an interesting play between humans and cats, who do all sorts of tricks. The theater has been accused of animal cruelty, but the theater says that they only work with cats who really want to do the tricks. “Coercing or mistreating a cat doesn’t work, as the cat will lose trust and not do anything anymore.”

Fact #6 Lenin’s Body

You can see the preserved body of Lenin in his mausoleum at Red Square.
 
He died in 1924, and his body would’ve been 148 years old today.

The job of maintaining Lenin’s corpse belongs to an institute known in post-Soviet times as the Center for Scientific Research and Teaching Methods in Biochemical Technologies in Moscow. A core group of five to six anatomists, biochemists and surgeons, known as the “Mausoleum group,” have primary responsibility for maintaining Lenin’s remains.

Fact #7 Oil Budget

Revenue from oil production and exports makes up 40% of the federal budget revenue.

The higher the oil prices, the more money Russia’s government has to invest in the country. Right now, the country suspects the oil revenue to jump five-fold, which would mean a huge increase in the federal budget. Let’s hope this money goes to the majority of Russians.

Fact #8 Deadly Icicles

Every winter a 25,000 people crew shaves off the icicles hanging from Moscow buildings.
 
3 People died last winter from a shard falling on their head.

The most dangerous time of the year is not during the coldest part of winter. But rather when the temperatures rise at the end of winter. The ice melts a bit and the icicles (which can reach several meters in length) become deadly attackers, waiting at every corner.

Fact #9  Fake Ambulance beats Traffic

Traffic is so bad in Moscow that it is rumoured rich people hire fake ambulances to get around.
 
The worst times are in summer when everybody leaves to their dacha on Friday night and returns Sunday Afternoon.

There are many reasons why Moscow has one of the worst traffic situations in the world. 12 million people (+2 to 3 million illegals) live in a city, that was built in 1147. The 3-ring infrastructure that worked well throughout the ages, just isn’t suited for the more than 4 million cars in the city. About the ambulances, no-one is a 100% sure, but here’s an article with more information.

Fact #10 Alcohol Consumption

Russians are the world fourth biggest drinkers.
 
After the former Soviet states Belarus, Moldova and Lithuania

Alcohol has always been a problem in Russia, as it is more socially acceptable than in many other countries. The government is trying to cut down on the consumption by banning liquor trade at night, raising taxes and other measures. This is having an effect on the official figures, but many people fear that it’s only driving up the consumption of illegal alcohol.

Fact #11 Cold Dive

Russians love to go for a quick dive. Even in winter.
 
Every year they celebrate the Orthodox holiday, Epiphany by taking a dip in a frozen river.

The festival is always in January, when the water is cold everywhere. It is believed that swimming in the cold water acts a purifier for the body and soul. Also, many Russians love to take a dive into cold water after heating up in the sauna, which sounds like a lot more fun.

Fact #12 Domestic Foxes

Russians have domesticated foxes since 1959.
 
The Russian geneticist called Dmitry K. Belyaev started the breeding of foxes and it has been going ever since.

Foxes look adorable, and that’s why many people have tried keeping pet foxes in their house. this almost always ends up badly. Only in Russia have scientists succeeded in creating a tame fox population. He used the same tactics as ancient people have done to tame dogs.

Fact #13 Alcohol in Beer or Not?

Beer was not officially considered an alcoholic beverage till 2013.
 
It was one of the measures to counteract alcoholism in Russia.

Dmitry Medvedev signed a bill in 2013 that classifies beer as alcohol. Before, everything containing less than 10% alcohol was considered ‘food’. In the decade before the law change, beer sales had soared up by 40%, while vodka sales went down by 30%. Even though it wasn’t considered alcohol, you still had to be 18 years old to buy it.

Fact #14 McRussia

Russia once was home to the largest McDonald’s in the world.
 
The first restaurant opened in 1990 in Moscow and people had to wait 6 hours for their Big Mac.

McDonald’s had previously gained approval from the Soviet government in 1988 to open a restaurant. It was located at Pushkinskaya Square and had 700 seats inside, and 200 outside and was at that time the largest McDonald’s restaurant in the world.

Fact #15 Metro Stray Dogs 

In Moscow, there are stray dogs that ride the subways.
 
They go on the same schedule each day to find food in more populated areas.

There are roughly 35,000 stray dogs in Moscow, and about 20 of them have become regular commuters of the metro. They know which stops to get off and use the metro for travel. The reason why they can do this is likely a combination of factors: co-evolution with humans and their fine-tuned sensory capabilities.

Fact #16 Pay Per Minute Cafe

In Moscow there is a pay per minute cafe.
 
You can eat and drink all you want, and at the end pay per minute that you were there. Great for all the Muscovites in a hurry.

The price is 3 Rubles per minute the first 2 hours. Then 2 per hour for hour 3 and after 4 the counting stops, and  you pay 600 rubles. The cafe is located in the center at Tverskaya and is called Ziferblat. Everyone in Moscow is always in a hurry, so this is a great solution to get a quick breakfast or lunch. Russians call these places an anti-caffe. Because no “normal food”  is served. Only cookies, waffles, tea/coffee and so on. This places are more meant not for spending time with friends than really for eating.

Fact #17 Mosquito Festival

There is an annual mosquito festival in Berezhniki.
 
One of the highlights is the  *tastiest* person competition, where the person who got bitten the most wins.

The festival was founded 4 years ago as a joke. Russia has a lot of interesting (and slightly weird) holidays and festivals. During the competition, people have to stand in shorts and vests for 20 minutes while the mosquito do their thing.

Fact #18 Russian Export

Russia’s main export products are gas, timber and metals.
 
Major import products are vehicles, consumer goods, chemical products and consumer goods

The main trading partners of Russia are Germany, Italy, China, Turkey, Poland, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, and Finland.

Fact #19 Blind Money

Russian bank notes have (a type of) braille markings on them for blind people.

The banknotes have little marks on them so that blind people know exactly how much money the note is worth. It’s not exactly braille language, but rather a specific though up mark.

Fact #20 Russian GDP

The Russian GDP is $3.7 trillion.
 
This makes it the 6th largest economy in the world.

Russia’s economy is growing again, after declining in 2015 and 2016 because of the heavy sanctions. It is estimated that by 2022 Russia’s GDP will be growing with 3% per year, which is a good sign for Russia.

20 Historical Facts about Russia

Fact #21 Beard Tax

Peter the Great established a beard tax in 1698 for anyone unwilling to shave their beard.
 
Nobility and merchants had to pay as much as 100 rubles per year – peasants as low as 1 kopeck.

The Russian ruler had just spend 2 years in Europe to learn about the Western culture. He wanted to modernize Russia. One thing he found? That Europe wasn’t too big on the beards. His proposal to all Russian men to cut off their beard was met with a lot of resistance. He softened his stance and he imposed a tax instead of  a complete ban.

Fact #22 Old Enemies

Russia and Japan still haven’t signed a peace treaty after WWII.
 
Only at 9th November 2014, talks continued between the countries about a mutual peace treaty.

Stalin started the war with Japan on the 9th of August (the day when the ‘fat man’ atom bomb was dropped). The reason why it’s still not signed? Because of a dispute about the Kurill islands, which lay between North Japan and the Russian peninsula Kamchatka.

Fact #23 First Satellite

4 October 1957, Russia launched the world’s first satellite, named Sputnik 1.
 
Its batteries were designed to work for 2 weeks, but it exceeded expectations and was still sending out radio signals after 22 days.

The Soviet Union had been aiming bigger, but the size of the Sputnik 1 ended up weighing 184 lbs (83 kilograms) and was 23 inches (58 centimeters) wide. It was the worlds first satellite and paved the road for all the technological advances we enjoy now (internet, GPS and more).

Fact # 24 Immigrant Stalin

Stalin was a Georgian immigrant who only started learning Russian at age 8.
 
You can still visit his humble bedroom in his hometown Gori, 85 km from the Georgian capital Tbilisi.

Although technically he wasn’t an immigrant back then, since Georgia was part of the Russian Empire. Stalin was born 18th December 1878 in the historical town called Gori, west of the Georgian capital Tbilisi. He came from humble beginnings and his house of birth has been turned into museum.

Fact #25 Russian Tetris

The worlds most famous game ever, Tetris was invented by Alexey Pajitnov in 1984.
 
The original version was text-based and called ‘Amalgamation’.

Alexey Pajitnov was working at the Moscow Academy of Science in 1984 as a software engineer. He spend a lot of time thinking about a little wooden puzzle game named Pentominoes and how to re-create that on a computer. 

Fact #26 Laika the Street Dog

The first dog in space was the Russian Laika 1957.
 
She was a Moscow stray dog and traveled to space with just 1 meal and a 7-day oxygen supply.

She was plucked from the Moscow streets and send to the Earth’s orbit in the Sputnik 2. Sad as this tale is, because of her science advanced. She died a quick death in 15 seconds of oxygen deprivation.

Fact #27 Blind Architect

It is said that Ivan the Terrible blinded  the architect of St. Basils Cathedral, Postnik Yakovlev.
 
Why?
 
So that he could never make something as beautiful and magnificent again.

The church was initially build over the remains of a good friend and adviser of Ivan Grozny (Ivan the Terrible), Vasily Blazhenny. When the church was completed Ivan gazed at it and allegedly gave orders to blind the architect, because it was so magnificent, and he never wanted something as beautiful to be constructed again.

Fact #28 Wrong Calendars

The Russian team came 12 days late to the Olympics in 1908.
 
Why?
 
Because they were still using the Julian calendar.

Most countries adopted the Gregorian calendar around 1500 (invented by Pope Gregorius). Russia stuck to the Julian calendar (invented by Julius Caesar). Russia only switched in 1917 after the revolution – and missing the London Olympic Games in 1908 as a result of the double calendar.

Fact #29 Space Pioneer Gagarin

Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first human in space in 1961.
 
The Soviet News Agency prepared 3 versions of the flight report in advance: 1 for success, 1 for failed launch and 1 for Gagarins unfortunate death.

Luckily Yuriy Gagarin returned well to the Earth and only the first report was needed. The other 2 reports were a call for help if the launch fails and the ship would fall into a forest or see. The last one was about the unfortunate death. He would’ve been 84 now.

Fact #30 Longest Spacewalk

The Russian kosmonaut Anatoly Solovyev has the record of most spacewalk.
 
He made 16 spacewalks over the course of 5 missions in the 80’s and 90’s.

Another record on his name is that during those 16 spacewalks, he spend more than 82 hours in open space. That’s more than 3 consecutive days.  Here are 10 more Russian space records.

Fact #31 The Caesar Tsar

The word Csar comes from the latin word Caesar.
 
Ivan the Terrible adapted it as his own title from the old spelling of the word Tsesari.

Just like many other nations, the Russian took the title of the first Roman emperor, Julius Caesar and made it into their own form. It came from the older spelling of Caesar – Tsesari.

Facts #32 Pepsi for Submarines

In exchange for Pepsi products, Russia gave the company 17 submarines, a cruiser, a frigate and a destroyer.
 
Effectively making Pepsi 7th largest naval war force in the world at the time in 1989.

The trade started out in 1972 with Pepsi importing cola to the Soviet Union – and getting in return the only export rights to Stolichnaya vodka. However, in 1988 the first agreement went to expire, and Pepsi had already 20 factories in Russia. The new trade agreement costed about 3 billion dollars – which the export rights to Stolichnaya didn’t cover. The Soviet Union had a lot of excessive fleet left after the Cold war and offered it. Pepsi couldn’t refuse, because they knew it was the only way to continue business in Russia.

Fact #33 Cold War

During the 45 years of the Cold War the Soviet Union and the USA never fought each other directly.

The Cold War ended when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989. Russia did make plans to destroy the world in 1970 with hundreds of nuclear attacks – luckily the plan was never brought into reality.

Fact #34 Soviet Union Collapse

The Soviet union collapsed the 24th December 1991. 
 
It divided up into 15 separate countries.

The 2 main policies from Michael Gorbachev responsible for the fall were the Glasnost and Perestroika. Glasnost allowed for more freedom of speech and perestroika was a restructuring of many other things. Before things got better, they got worse though – as Russian people weren’t used to this freedom and relied on the government to take care of them.

Fact #35 Religion in the Soviet Union

Under the Soviet regime people were expected to be atheists.
 
The Kazan cathedral in St. Petersburg was converted into a museum of atheism.

The Soviet rulers thought that when they deprived the church of their power, religion would soon wicker away. When that turned out to not be true, they invented more and more new ways against religion. Stalin even shot thousands of religious people – and under Khrushchev it was illegal to teach your children religion.

Fact #36 Russian Churches

Suzdal is one of the smallest cities in Russia with a population of 9,978 people.
 
But there are more than 50 churches in the town. 

Suzdal was founded in 1024. Despite its size, it was a powerful city. It’s part of the Golden Ring towns: 8 cities that are located north east of Moscow. If you ever get the opportunity to visit these towns, either by boat or car, it’s a pleasure to go.

Fact #37 Metro Babies

During WWII, metro stations were used as bomb shelters.
 
217 babies were born in the Moscow metro.

First Muscovites were hiding in specific bomb shelters, but soon people found out that the 3 metro lines were much better. Pregnant women were allowed to sleep in the metro stations at night and  doctors on duty helped deliver in total 217 babies during the Great Patriotic War (WWII)

Fact #38 Soviet Prison Tattoos

In Soviet prisons, inmates got tattoos of Stalin and Lenin.
 
Why?
 
Because they believed guards were told not to shoot at images of national leaders

Soviet prisons were among the worst condition prisons in the world. The culture that developed between inmates was a very harsh – but honorful one. The thieves-in-law (Vor v Zakone) had many tattoos, each with their own intrinsic meaning.

Fact # 39 Russian Leaders

Russia has been in more than 100 wars and had more than 120 rulers.



For a complete list of Russian rulers, this website has listed them all and even gave them ratings. For example, Ivan Grozny gets a top-rating, but Stalin a negative one.

Fact #40 Day of Conception

In 2003, the government of Ulyanovsk issued 12 September as day of conception to combat low population levels.
 
The closer a woman gives birth to the national Russian day 12 June, the more chance she has to win prizes such as a car, refrigerator or money.

Sergei Morozov, the then-mayor of Ulyanovsk (a region 550 miles east from Moscow), chose the policy to increase the dwindling population level of the region. The first year 311 women signed up and 46 more babies were born in the following June – including 28 on 12th June.

20 People facts about Russia

Fact #41 Russia & Alcohol

According to official figures, the average amount of pure alcohol a Russian person drinks per year is 10 liter.
 
The real number might be much higher though, as 30% to 50% of alcohol sales are from samogon (
Russian moonshine)

Officials and statisticians were surprised when they saw the alcohol consumption drop in 2016. But the decline isn’t good news – as it can be explained by the increase in cheap illegal alcohol that doesn’t show up in statistics.

Fact #42 Russian Women

There are 9 million more Russian women than men.
 
For every 100 women, there are only 90 men. 

For every 100 women, there are approximately 90 men. This might seem like a big difference, but in 1950 there were only 76.6 men for every 100 women. That’s a crazy 3:4 ratio.

Fact #43 Life Expectancy

the average life expectancy in Russia is 72.5 years.
 
The crazy part?
 
For Russian women it’s 77. For men only 65.

The 11 year difference between life expectancy at birth was in 2016. Sasha from Sashat.me found that this lower number was strongly positively correlated with alcohol consumption. 

Fact #44 Russian Tea

Russians drink 6 times more tea than Americans.
 
They only started drinking tea inthe 18th century, but the samovar is already a national symbol.

Tea came first to Russia through Mongolia in the 18th century. The favorite taste is strong black tea. Why do Russians drink so much tea? One guess is that it’s a perfect way tow arm yourself during the long cold winters.

Fact #45 Russian Wedding Ring

Russians wear their wedding ring on the right hand.
 
This is similar to countries like 
Ukraine, Poland, Georgia, Germany, Spain, Austria, India and Greece.

Russian weddings are celebrated on a grand scale. If you ever get the chance to be present at a Russian wedding, don’t miss it. It will be an event you’ll never forget.

Fact #46 Dashcams

1 million drivers in Russia have dashcams.
 
Why?
 
Corrupt police, hit and runs and providing justice in case of an accident.

According to Marina Galperina, a Russian blogger, every Russian should have a dashcam in their car. It’s better and more effective than keeping a lead pipe under your seat for protection.

Note: facts 47-56 are Russian superstitions. By far not every Russian believes in these anymore, but some of the actions remain.

Fact #47 Doorway Handshake

Never shake hands over a doorway in Russia.
 
Also, men generally do not shake hands with women, unless they clearly invite by presenting their hand.

For foreigners, handshaking in Russia can be a total minefield. A man is supposed to shake everyone’s hand, but never over a doorway or over someone else shaking hands. Here are more tips to avoid making a grave handshake mistake in Russia.

Fact #48 Minute of Silence

It is custom since ancient times for Russians to sit down for a minute before going on a trip.
 
Why?
 
Originally to trick home spirits to stay home. But now mostly to gather thoughts before leaving.

This is one of Russia’s oldest rituals/superstitions. It goes back even before the Christian Russians. They used to believe that good and bad spirits are always accompanying a person at home or on the road. Sitting down before going on a trip *tricks* the spirits into staying home.

Fact # 49 Spilled Salt

In Russia, spilled salt means there will be an argument.
 
This comes from times when salt was as expensive as gold.

So watch your elbows when you’re eating in Russia. The name for this superstition is рассыпанная соль, (rasypannaya sol’). If this happens, then it is generally believed there will be an argument, because in previous times it was a sign of disrespect to spill something so expensive.

Fact #50 Bottles on the Floor

In Russia, empty bottles should be put on the floor.
 
This is a custom since 1812, when Russian cossacks returned from Paris after the victory of the Great Patriotic War, where they learned that French waiters charged them not for how much they drank, but for how many empty bottles were left on the table.

This goes for all bottles, not only alcohol. Now, people believe that leaving empty bottles on the table is asking for bad luck. But 200 years ago this was a very useful superstition.

Fact #51 Indoor Whistling

Only whistle outside in Russia. 
 
Whistling inside will make you loose all your money.

There are many explanations for this superstition. One of them is that Domovoy, the house spirit, doesn’t like whistling. Another is that whistling is the language of evil spirits and that by whistling in houses, you’re inviting them home. 

Fact #52 Russian Names

If a Russian person meets another person with the same name, it means good luck for both of them.

When you meet another person with your name, it means good luck. Here’s a list with the most common Russian names. Also, Russians have a first name, patronymic and then a last name. The patronymic is the middle name and is formed from the fathers’ name. If the father’s name is Михаил, the patronymic is Михайлович (for a son) or Михайловна (for a daughter).

Fact #53 More Same Names

If you sit in between 2 persons with the same name – you can make a wish.
 
Don’t tell anyone though – otherwise it loses its power.

Like we saw in #52, it’s pretty common to meet people with the same name. So you’re going to be pretty lucky in Russia. Here are some more Russian superstitions.

Fact #54 Stepping Shoes

If a Russian person steps on someones shoes, he will ask the other person to lightly step on his.
 
An unreturned step means they will fight in the future.

Most of the time, the person won’t even have to ask the other to do this, but it will happen automatically. Otherwise there will be a fight. Not everyone still believes this, but the custom remains common.

Fact #55 Forgetting Something

It is considered a bad sign in Russia if you forget something and come back home to  get it.
 
You can come back, but you need to look into the mirror or sit for a while to negate the bad effect.

This superstition came from a long time ago when crossing a threshold was considered a sacred act. Crossing this threshold without fulfilling your plans, will make spirits make. They can be calmed down by looking in the mirror or sitting down for a while.

Fact #56 Watch as a Gift

Never ever give a knife as a present in Russia.
 
Doing so might cause a fight.

If it happens that someone gets a knife, then it is custom to trade a small amount of money for it. So that it’s no longer a *present*, but rather a *trade* or bargain. Also, never lick anything off a knife – that will make you a cruel person.

Fact #57 School in Russia

Russian kids go to school for exactly 11 years.
 
They start when they’re 7 and end at 18.

The Russian school system produces a literacy rate of 98%. That’s more than most Western countries. The 11 years asre divided into a primary and secondary school. Primary is 9 years and the second ‘high school’ is 2.

Fact #58 Average Wage

The average Russian salary is about $500. 
 
But in Moscow the cost of living is the same as in many Western countries.

The average wage in Rubles is 38.000 (end of October 2017). For most Russian people, this is not enough to comfortably live from. It is estimated that around 19 million Russians live with an average income of only $139 per month.

Fact #59 Patriotism

Russians love to criticize their country.
 
But they will hate you if you do the same as a foreigner.

Ask any Russian person what’s wrong with their country and they’ll answer laughingly “Duraki i Dorogi” (fools and roads). There are more problems , but Russians are still very proud of their country and of the fact that they’re Russian.

Fact #60 Smiley Without Eyes

When a Russian ends his text message with ‘)’…
It means ‘:)’
 
The more )))))) the better.

The writer Vladimir Nabokov was credited with the invention of the smiley. Nowadays Russians use parenthesis to describe the intensity of the smiley. Whether it’s because of laziness, or because it’s actually more expressive – it’s a perfect way of expressing yourself.

20 Geographical facts about Russia

Fact #61 Alaska For Sale

U.S. bought Alaska in 1867 for just $7.2 million dollar.
 
The economical value of Alaska today is estimated at $2.5 trillion.

Now, 150 years after the sale many Russians feel like they’ve made a mistake. Alaska was originally sold after the Russia lost the Crimean war from Britain. Fearing that they would also attack and take Alaska, the Csar decided it would be better to quickly sell before it might be too late.

Fact #62 Planet Russia

Russia land mass is  17,075,000 square km. 
 
This is bigger than Pluto – which is only 16,647,000 square km.

Although the new NASA mission in July 2015 brought some new light on this. The new estimates of Pluto are that it’s 17,646,000 square km. So Pluto still wins in the end. Interesting to note is that Pluto was 2370 km (1270 mile) across – which fits easily into Russia’s 10,000 km wide and 4000 high.

Fact #63 Pareto’s Principe in Siberia

77% of Russia is Siberia.
 
But only 27% of the population lives there

Siberia stretches from the Ural mountains in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the East. From the Arctic Ocean in the north to the border of Kazakhstan, China and Mongolia. It’s truly a large part of the world with mostly trees. The largest Siberian cities are Novosibirsk, Omsk and Chelyabinsk.

Fact #64 Largest Country

Russia is the world’s largest country by area. It covers 1/7th of the worlds land mass.
 
It is only slightly smaller than if you were to combine the U.S and China.

Russia tops the ‘largest country’ list with ease. With it’s 17 million square meters it’s almost twice as big as the number 2-4. Canada, the U.S. and China are all approximately 9.5 million square meter.

Fact #65 Fresh Water 

The largest fresh water lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.
 
It houses more than 20% of the entire world’s fresh water.

Lake Baikal is more than 35 million years old. Scientist believe that it may turn into the next ocean – as it’s situated on the Titanic Siberian platform (earth plate). This is causing the lake to expand a little bit each year and in the next several million years it may very well become an ocean again. The rock on the picture is Burkhan rock – it’s on the largest island in lake Baikal, Olkhon Island.

Fact #66 Secret Cities

People say that Russia has at least 15 secret cities with unknown locations and names.

The concept of closed cities started in the 1940’s around cities that were imported in mineral/gas extraction. Others were used for army or research purposes. Russia had 42 of them – that opened after the Soviet regime fell. Former closed cities include Vladivostok, Nizhniy Novgorod and Tomsk. However, people suspect that there are still 15+ secret cities left, with undisclosed locations.

Fact #67 Alaska Russia Distance

Russia and America are only 4 km apart at their least point.
 
There are people who have swum this distance.

For those curious, there are several places in Alaska, from where you can see Russia. The easiest place would be Wales, where its 145 person population can see Russia from their doorsteps.

Fact #68 Beautiful Red Square


The Name Red Square doesn’t have anything to do with red.
 
(Russian: Krasnaya Ploshad)
 
It comes from krasniy which meant beautiful.

It’s the main place in Russia that resembles the country and is a magnet for tourist. Most people don’t realize though that the ‘red’ in the name has nothing to do with soviets or communism. But rather that it comes from the old Russian word for beautiful.

Fact #69 Time Zones

Russia has more than 9 time zones.
 
Some people have proposed a single time zone (like in China), but that people in the the East would most likely spend their entire days in the dark.

It actually used to be 11 time zones, but several years ago Dmitri Medvedev changed it to 9 to make Russia a more technologically advanced country and make internal communications easier.

Fact #70 Longest European River

Russia is home to Europe’s longest river the Volga: 3690 km (2460 miles).
 
Also, there are more than 100.000 rivers in Russia.

The Volga revier has played a crucial role in the history of Russia. It rises from a small spring northwest of Moscow and ends as a mighty river in the Caspian see.

Fact #71 Coldest Place

Oymyakon is the coldest inhabited place on the planet.
 
The lowest temperature ever recorded there was -67.7 C (-90 F)  in 1933

The population of Oymyakon is approximately 500 people. The name means ‘Unfrozen Water’ in the Even language of Siberia. Even though the town is so cold, people still live their normal lives, go shopping, work and enjoy hobbies.

Fact #72 Toxic Lake

Lake Karachay, Chelyabinsk is the most toxic lake in the world.
 
It is so toxic that a grown man would die of radiation poisoning after standing next to it for 1 hour.

It’s located on the premise of the Mayak foundation. A nuclear organisation that dumped waste into the lake. It was a secret facility till 1990 – that’s why Soviet doctors weren’t able to attribute the 21 percent increase in cancer incidence, 25 percent increase in birth defects, and a 41 percent increase in leukemia in the surrounding region of Chelyabinsk to radiation poisoning.

Fact #73 Lots of Trees

Russia is home to 20 percent of the world’s trees.
 
This number is quickly falling though, and scientist predict that the Russian lumber business will face a serious crisis in 10 to 20 years if they don’t focus on sustainability.

Russia has the most trees in  the world, but it’s only responsible for 4% of the world’s logging output. The rest of the trees are too far to be economically viable. Even though it’s so much, people are warning that Russia is running out of forest.

Fact #74 Trans Siberia Express

The famous Trans-Siberian railway is the longest single railway in the world.
 
It’s 9259 km( 5753 miles) long.

There are many different itineraries, for example you can go from Moscow to Vladivostok – but also from St. Petersburg to Bejing. One thing is sure, it’s a experience of a lifetime, that you’ll never forget.

Fact #75 Borders of Russia

Russia shares a border with 14 countries:
 
Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, China, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and North Korea.

No other country has so many borders. They have changed a lot over the last 100 years with the release of the former Soviet states. You can find an overview of Russia’s western border changing here.

Fact #76 Kremlin Fortress

The word Kremlin officially means fortress.
 
And did you know that Moscow is not the only Russian city that has a Kremlin?

The Kremlin was the main fortress in cities of old times. The Tula Kremin, for example, is one of the oldest fortresses in Russia. It was constructed in the 16th century. Here’s a list of other Russian cities with a Kremlin.

Fact #77 White Nights Saint Petersburg

In June there are *white nights* in St. Petersburg.
 
from the 11th of June to 2nd of July, the sun never dips below the horizon.

White nights aren’t unique to St. Petersburg, but the city is the highest altitude city with more than several million inhabitants. For 3 weeks in summer, the sun doesn’t set. It’s the most romantic place to be at that time of the year and thousands of tourists visit the city each year. 

Fact #78 Sochi Wintersport

Russia’s most famous wintersport resort is called Sochi at the black sea.
 
You can take a dive into the sea in the morning and slide down the mountains in the afternoon.

Sochi was home to the 2014 Winter Olympics. Which have never been more southly located. It’s on the black sea and borders Georgia. This makes it a very popular holiday for Russians, during winter and summer. The most famous place for skiing is Krasnaya Polyana.

Fact #79 Small Villages

More than 153.000 villages in Russia have a population of less than 10 persons.

Thousands of small towns that were once the booming places surrounding a factory or mining place are now disappearing. Many people move to the bigger cities looking for a better future.

Fact #80 Active Volcanoes

The largest active volcano in the world is the Klyuchevskaya Sopka.
 
It’s located in the East on the Kamchatka peninsula.

It’s 4820 meters high and this makes the Klyuchevskaya Sopka the highest volcano from Eurasia. In 1931 several climbers died when they were ascending the volcano and it erupted. A similar danger exists today. It’s part of a group of 14 active volcanoes. Kamchatka is a one of Russia’s most beautiful regions – you can see impressive pictures of Kamchatka here.

21 Other Interesting Russian facts

The 10 Richest people in Russia have a combined net worth of $115 billion. 
 
This is more than the GDP of Ukraine.

There is a huge income gap in Russia. The poorest can barely survive, while the richest have more money than other countries. Many of them became rich through the privatization of state-owned companies after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Fact #82 Nuclear Weapons

Russia still has more than 8,400 nuclear weapons.

Even though the Cold War has ended a long time ago, Russia still has large deposits of nuclear weapons left. This is enough to cause a global crisis and possibly destroy the world.

Fact #83 Moscow Metro

Moscow subway is one of the busiest on earth. Everyday more than 6 million commuters travel with it.
 
That makes it busier than the metro of NYC and Berlin – combined.

Every year it handles 2.4 billion rides. There’s only 1 metro busier: Tokyo. Every day 6.6 million passengers ride the metro. There are 16 lines, 222 stations and the total length is 379 kilometers. Which makes it the 7th longest metro in the world.

Fact #84 Putin, Merkel & a Dog

In 2007, Putin brought his pet labrador Konnie to a meeting with Merkel.
 
Why?
 
Because Merkel has a deathly fear of large dogs.

Even though Putin later denied that he wasn’t aware of the fact that Mrs Merkel is not too happy with dogs, it might be the reason why they can’t get along too well. It happened in his residency in Sochi. Putin has apologized for the incident.

Fact #85 Pipelines

All the pipelines in Russia combined have a total length of 1,712,000 km (1,063,000 miles).
 
They can go around the earth for more than 4 times.

The Russian company Gazprom is the owner of the majority of pipelines in Russia. There are 254 gas compressor stations with a total capacity of 46.7 thousand MW.

Fact #86 Russian Oil

Russia is worlds largest oil producer in the world.
 
It produces just a little under 11 million bpd per year.

This amount of oil puts Russia a the first place of oil producing countries. However, the U.S is set to go above that in 2019. Oil is a major source of revenue for Russia, and the rising oil prices are a great advantage to the country.

Fact #87 Cat Museum

The Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg is home to more than 70 cats.
 
They’re the museum’s little army that catches mice to protect the wonderful art.

Although they have become quite lazy because of all the pampering from the staff and visitors. The cats were found 15 years go, starving in the basement. The staff started feeding them and soon set up an action “a Ruble for a cat,” so that visitors could donate so that the cats could eat. Now, they’re part of the charm of the Hermitage museum.

Fact #88 Singer Gorbachev

Michael Gorbachev recorded an album of romantic ballads.
 
The original CD sold in 2009 for
£100,000 to an anonymous British mystery philantropist.

Michael Gorbachev was the president of the Soviet Union from 1985 to 1991. He recorded and sold the ballads in 2009 to raise money for the charity of his wife (who died in 1999). The music has been very welcome in Russia – and you can listen to it on YouTube.

Fact #89 Russian Math Problems

A Russian mathematician Christian Goldbach posed the worlds longest unsolved math problem.
 
He did this in 1742, and the problem has gone unsolved for more than 280 years.

His theory stated that “every even natural number greater than 2 is equal to the sum of two prime numbers.” For more information about this, check out this page about Christian Goldbach. Even though his name doesn’t sound Russian, he was born in Prussia, and later moved to Saint Petersburg.

Fact #90 Jurassic Plant

Russian scientists brought a plant back to life that got extinct 32,000 years ago.

A Russian team discovered a seed cache of Silene stenophylla, a flowering plant native to Siberia, that had been buried by an Ice Age squirrel near the banks of the Kolyma River. The seed was buried more than 32,000 years ago. The reason why it lasted so long, was because it was frozen in the soil of Siberia.

Fact #91 Stalins Metro

The Moscow metro is considered the most beautiful subway on earth.
 
The first stations were built in 1935 by Stalin. His vision was to create “People’s Palaces” underground.

Stalins vision was to create mini palaces in the metro for the Russian people. The first 13 metro stations were opened in 1935. Now, Moscow has more than 200 metro stations and every year, more and more are being built

Fact #92 Squirrel Collection

The Russian Pavel Gerasimov has the largest squirrel-related items collection in the world.
 
He has a record in the Guiness book of 1,103 squirrel statues.

The largest collection of squirrel-related items belongs to Pavel Gerasimov (Russia) and consists of 1,103 items as of 14 October 2013, in Moscow, Russia. Pavel Gerasimov’s collection consists of a variety of squirrel statuettes. One statuette dates from the 19th century and another is made entirely of gold.

Fact #93 Billionares in Moscow

106 billionaires live in Moscow.
 
That is the highest number in the world.

Steel tycoon Vladimir Lisin topped the rich list with $19.1 billion in wealth. Fellow steel tycoon Alexei Mordashov ranked second with $18.7 billion and metals magnate Vladimir Potanin placed third at $15.9 billion.

Fact #94 Russian Birthgiving Record

One Russian woman has given birth to 69 kids.
  
Among them were 16 twins, 7 triplets and 4 quadruplets.

Fyodor Vasilyev’s wife delivered 69 children from 1725 to 1765. Sixty-seven of 69 children survived infancy. She has been pregnant a total of 27 times.

Fact #95 Judo Putin

Putin has made a judo DVD.
 
It’s called “Learn judo with Vladimir Putin,” and you can watch it on YouTube.

Russian leaders are known for their extracurricular activities. And Putin has been doing judo all his life. He even recorded a DVD about it “Let’s learn judo with Vladimir Putin.” You can watch it here on YouTube.

Fact #96 Sushi in Russia

Sushi is more popular in Russia than in Japan.

It started when Putin came to power in the early 2000’s. Oil prices were sky-high and Russians could – for the first time in their lives – enjoy the good life. Now, the sushi has adapted to Russian tastes, and there are many variaties of sushi, for example with mayonaise and sour cream – or rolled in pancakes.

Fact #97 Putin Saves Lives

Putin once saved a TV crew from a tiger.

Unfortunately, the act was staged. If there’s one thing the Russian media is very good at: it’s the creation of the image (to both western countires and Russia itself) of their leader as a fearsome and strong leader.

Fact #98 Ice Hockey National Sport

Ice hockey is Russia’s most popular sport.

The reasons for that might be that the majority of Russia gets enough snow and cold to play it for a large part of the year. So it’s already ingrained in the culture for a long period of time. Now, since Putin is a big fan of the sport, many kids are also interested in the sport.

Fact #99 Endless Hermitage

There are more than 3 million exhibits in the hermitage.
 
Taking 2 minutes to see each one would take you more than 6 years to see everything.

The hermitage was founded in 1764 by Catherina the Great. It started when she received a large collection of art from a Berlin merchant. The museum is the second largest museum in the world. The exhibitions change all the time, but you can find more information on the museums site.

Fact #100 Addicted Bears

700 brown bears in the Kronotsky reserve have developed an addiction for kerosine and gas barrels from power generators.

The bears were first drawn to the smell of jet fuel from the helicopters and started sniffing it. Now, they actively seek out the barrels where the fuel is stored to try to get the excess fuel that leaks around the barrels.

Fact #101 Saint Petersburg Names

Saint Petersburg has had 3 names throughout the last century:
 
Petrograd, Leningrad and now St. Petersburg.

Even though Saint Petersburg is a relatively young city (it was founded by Peter the Great several hundred years ago), it has had a wide variety of names, among some unofficial ones like ‘Venice of the North’, ‘Petropol’, ‘the city on the Neva’, or just ‘Peter’.

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Author: Ari Helderman


I started learning Russian seriously in January 2016, and haven't stopped since. I created this site to help other foreigners speak Russian. You can follow my progress in Russian on my YouTube channel Ари Говорит по-русски.

  • Why didn’t you mention how Russians think it is very weird that Americans smile at strangers? Also, isn’t it true that Russian telephone conversations often end abruptly when somebody has nothing else to say? They simply hangup without saying goodbye.

    • Hi David! Thanks for the comments. Yes, Russians tend not to smile too much in public. It’s a completely different story once you’ve got a connection. Then they can be one of the friendliest and most hospitable people on earth.
      As far as phone conversations go, the ones I’ve had mostly ended with ‘пока’ or ‘созвонимся’ (but I don’t often speak with Russians on the phone).

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