Intriguing Facts About the World's Largest Country, Russia
How much do you know about the intriguing society, landscape and people of Russia? While Russia is well known for its vodka production, stunning scenery, chilly weather, intense athletics and vibrant wildlife, the country contains a multitude of fascinating attractions, historical markers and extreme social customs that set it apart from the rest of the world.
From feline museum monitors to a landscape of hidden cities, these are some engrossing facts about the planet's largest country, Russia.
The Hermitage Is a Cat Palace
Of all the historical landmarks in Russia, there is no better place to witness breathtaking artifacts, artwork and other items of importance than Russia's treasured museum, the Hermitage. However, if you are allergic to cats, you might want to steer clear of this location!
An Insane Way to Beat Traffic
No one enjoys being stuck in a traffic jam. Moscow roads characteristically become parking lots during rush hour(s). How do Moscow's citizens cope? While the working class must simply wait out the traffic, uber-rich Russians employ a unique (and illegal) method of breaking through the crowd: fake ambulances.
Smiles Aren’t Welcome
Why do Russians often hold back their smiles? While Americans citizens may be accustomed to smiling in a wide variety of situations, Russians are more reserved with theirs, even when surrounded by loved ones. They also don't smile at strangers; it is not considered polite to do so.
The Christmas Schedule Is Different From Ours
In the U.S., most people celebrate Christmas on December 25th. However, in Russia, they follow the Julian calendar of holidays, causing Christmas to fall on January 7th. While this might seem strange to Americans, it’s still better than not celebrating Christmas at all — and for a long time, it wasn’t.
The Bears Are Addicted to Fuel
The Russian wilderness can be a bizarre place, especially with fuel-addicted bears dominating the landscape. After helicopters in eastern Russia began to dump kerosene containers into the wilderness, bears got in the habit of climbing into old fuel barrels to sniff the jet fuel.
Stray Dogs Catch the Train
Let's face it: Russian winters can be ruthless, and most people — including animals — try to escape the cold however they can. As a result, many of Russia's stray dogs have developed a fascinating means of keeping themselves off of the freezing streets: riding the underground trains.
Russians Have a Strange Variation of Golf
Moscow may be known for football and ice hockey, yet they have one variation of golf that is purely Russian: helicopter golf. What does this game entail? Just like its implied, helicopter golf is a blown-up version of golf… only the players are piloting a helicopter as they smack the ball.
There's a Holiday for Cleaning
Have you ever heard of Subbotnik? Originating during the October Revolution, subbotniks (rooted in the Russian word for Saturday) were days set aside for volunteer work during the weekend. Who came up with this chore-based holiday? The revolutionaries, who wanted to promote the positive impacts of socialism.
The Underground Isn't Grimey
Imagining the underground in cities like New York or Chicago doesn't exactly produce images of glamour, cleanliness or grace. More like concrete, dirt, and chaos, right? However, Moscow's underground is surprisingly polished, architecturally gorgeous and aesthetically pleasing. Some of the stylish stations put the MET to shame.
A Bizarre Number of Time Zones
Do you think all of the U.S. time zones are difficult to keep up with? Try living in Russia. In the United States, there are only four time zones to juggle: Eastern, Central, Mountain, and Pacific. How many did Russia start with? 11. Fortunately, Russia cut down to nine time zones in 2010.
Beer Was Once 'Non-Alcoholic'
The citizens of Russia are the fourth-biggest alcohol drinkers on the planet. Russia is also the birthplace of vodka, one of the strongest types of alcohol ever produced. This might be why beer used to be considered a non-alcoholic drink. Surprisingly, this wasn't corrected by law until 2011.
Refrain from Whistling Indoors
Have you ever whistled to call your dog, kid, or spouse to dinner? You don't want to try this in a Russian household — unless you want to get kicked out. Whistling indoors in Russia is considered extremely unlucky, and it can, say the old legends, lead to great financial misfortune.
The Landscape Is Record-Breaking
Russia has some of the most breathtaking natural settings in the world. From vast steppes to the Ural Mountains, Russia’s landscape is amazing. Over half of the country is covered in lush greenery and expansive wilderness. Russia holds up to 20 percent of the world's forests.
There’s a Radioactive Lake
You want to steer clear of the water in Lake Karchay. It became a dumping ground for radioactive waste in 1951 when Russia was still part of the Soviet Union. Additional waste has been accumulating from nearby nuclear weapons facilities for the past 70 years.
Many Men Die Young
While Russian men are notoriously tough, their inability to turn down a drinking challenge may have consequences. Based on their average life expectancy, Russian men can expect to live nearly a decade less than Russian women (64 compared to 76). One out of every four Russian men can expect to pass away before their 55th birthday.
Russians Love McDonald's Shrimp
Russians have plenty of eclectic foods on their menus (including pancakes with sour cream, chicken foot stew, and meat or egg gelatin), yet they love fast food as much as the next guy. The most popular fast food restaurant among Russians is McDonald's. In fact, the country is home to the largest McDonald's in the world.
There Are Rules for Flowers
Have you ever gifted a bouquet of flowers to a loved one to celebrate an anniversary, graduation, or other cherished event? While Russians citizens also consider flowers to be a lovely show of affection, their flower-gifting is accompanied by ultra-specific rules, particularly regarding the number of flowers in a bunch.
'Russian Nesting Dolls' Are from Japan
Russian nesting dolls, known formally as matryoshkas, have always been credited to Russia. However, these nesting dolls got their start in Japan. The designer of the first matryoshka, Sergey Malyutin, was working on a wooden doll when he was gifted a Japanese doll with eight bodies inside of it.
The Railway Is a Week's Commute
It's no secret that Russia has accomplished some major feats in transportation, including a record-setting railway. The Trans-Siberian Railroad is the longest train track on earth, spanning over eight separate time zones and 6,152 miles. Do you know how long it would take to ride the train from start to end?
There Are Plenty of Billionaires
Russia is known for three b's: booze, bears, and billionaires. Their capital, Moscow, is home to the largest number of billionaires in a single city in the world. Moscow houses over 70 of these ultra-rich people. Do you think they all get together to grab a yearly bite?
The Strange Exchange for Pepsi
Back in the 1980s when Russia was still part of the Soviet Union, the government aided PepsiCo in forming the seventh largest submarine fleet in the world. Yes, you read that right. The citizens of Russia adored the taste of Pepsi, yet their money wasn't accepted worldwide. As a result, they acquired Pepsi products through trade. They typically exchanged their treasured vodka for Pepsi products.
There Are Hidden Cities
Most of Russia consists of tiny villages and vast landscapes, and there are plenty of cities hidden away in the wilderness. Created during the Soviet era, these "closed cities" served many purposes, from housing research facilities and nuclear weapons to promoting Russian academia.
A Cat Was Almost Mayor
Who says the top dog can't be a cat? In the Siberian town of Barnaul, a feline mayor almost became a reality. In 2015, Barnaul's citizens were sick of local government corruption. As a result, when they were polled for their votes for the next mayor, the majority nominated a cat.
Fish Farts Nearly Started a War
In the 1980s, the Swedish Navy began to pick up on bizarre sounds in the ocean. They interpreted them as hostile Russian ships attempting to conduct surveillance against Sweden. It led to a great deal of tension between the two countries before escalating into a full-blown diplomatic conflict.
Soviet Prison Tattoos Told a Story
Soviet prisons were some of the most oppressive in the world, but the prisoners inside still found ways to communicate. How? Through tattoos. These markings allowed criminals to display their crimes (murder, assault, etc.) and criminal status (guilty, not guilty) for all to see. Most tattoos were inked by other inmates.
Facial Hair Used to Come at a Price
By the end of the 17th century, facial hair was no longer considered suitable for modern men in European countries. As a result, the Russian czar, Peter I — a.k.a. Peter the Great — wanted to ban facial hair, or at least discourage men from growing beards and moustaches.
One Russian Broke a Crazy Childbirth Record
One 18th-century Russian mother broke the record for number of children birthed by a singular woman. Considering how dangerous childbirth was in the 1700s, this is pretty impressive. Just how many children did she have? 20? 30? Nope — 69.
Grooms Must Pay a Bride's 'Ransom'
Can you imagine paying a ransom for your kidnapped bride before your wedding? In Russia, this is a celebrated tradition. When a groom shows up to retrieve his wife on the wedding day, he is expected to bring a "ransom" along to rescue his beloved bride from her "kidnappers" — her friends and family.
A Striking Gender Imbalance
Russia has one of the largest gender imbalances in its population in the world. 10 million more women are Russian citizens than men. This makes 46 percent of the population male and 54 percent female. This statistic has persisted for the last century.
Russians Are Extremely Superstitious
Believe it or not, Russians are extremely superstitious. Because of generational legends dating back to pre-Christian times, Russia has many superstitions that seem extreme to outsiders. Russians are often very cautious about ensuring they follow them.