If you’ve been following the news in the last few years, you’ve probably seen a lot of talk about Russia. Many media outlets have broadcast and written news about the country and its place in the world – but how much do we really know about the nation?
We’ve highlighted some of the most surprising facts about Russia and its citizens. Think you know everything there is to know about Russians? You might want to think again. Let’s take a dive inside one of the world’s most mysterious nations.
The Amount of Pollution
You might not realize it, but Russia is actually one of the most polluted places on Earth. Located just a few miles from a nuclear factory lies Lake Karachay – the most poisonous lakes in the world.
The factory suffers from chemical leaks that stream into the lake, causing it to glow a mysterious red color all across the year. Ultimately, it had to be paved with concrete to avoid even more pollution spreading into Russian waters.
Many people aren’t aware that Shamanism is still around in the world these days. However, if you journey on to a small island in Siberia, you’ll find it alive and kicking today. Found on Olkhon Island, it’s one of the last places in the world where you will find it.
Shamanism is the practice of entering an altered state of consciousness to interact with what they believe is the spirit world. While not recognized much today, if you want a trippy experience that transcends energies, visit Olkhon Island today.
Russian Big Macs
There are many important dates in Russia’s history – none more important that January 31, 1990. A date that will live in infamy in the hearts and minds of Russians everywhere. It marked the day that a Russian citizen could order their very first McDonald’s burger on their soil.
Located in Pushkin Square, Moscow, the opening of the fast food chain saw thousands of people line around the block to get a taste of the famous Big Mac burger. For some, it was the first time they had a taste of Western food.
Russia is known for the number of bears that live across the nation. However, did you know that some of them are battling their own demons? That’s right: the bears at Kronotsky Nature Reserve in South Kamchatka are busy battling addictions.
Weirdly, a lot of the bears in the area are addicted to kerosene and gas barrels that are used for jet fuel. No one knows how this crisis started, but many have witnessed them hunt down planes in the area to get a taste of that sweet, sweet gas.
Cats In A Museum
One of the most unique museums in Russia can be in St. Petersburg. The Hermitage hosts a bunch of unique artwork in an old building – so they have a rodent problem! Well, the owners managed to come up with quite an imaginative solution.
The Hermitage is home to around 70 cats who all protect the premises from rodent infestations. The tradition started in the 1700s by Empress Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter The Great and founder of St. Petersburg.
St. Basil’s Cathedral
Tourists travel all across Europe just to find some of the most amazing Cathedrals in the world. Well, those who are seeking something special need not look further than St. Basil’s Cathedral. Built in 1561, it was designed and constructed by a man called Postnik Yakovlev.
Upon being shown to the public, it was assumed that no one would be able to match the beauty of the Cathedral. Even nearly 500 years later, it seems like it is still one of the most impressive buildings in the world.
Battling Its Population
Unlike the rest of the world, Russia actually had to battle a REDUCTION in its population. To combat this decline, the Russian government created a ‘Day of Conception’ on September 12. From 2003, couples have the day off to work on building a family.
In the subsequent 16 years, there has been an increase in births in the month of June. In fact, young mothers who have children in June are often gifted with a tax break or even presented with items like cars or household products.
Russia is a pretty big country. In fact, it’s the largest country in the world by landmass. So, it should come as no surprise that the longest railway track is found in Russia. It’s called the Trans-Siberian railway, and it’s pretty big!
The Trans-Siberian railway crosses the whole country, starting in the European region and ended at the Asian Pacific coast. The entire ride takes around 152 hours to complete – would you do it?
Who Runs Russia? Girls!
Stereotypically, Russian men are the macho type who appear as though they are in charge of what’s going on. Well, looks can be deceiving! There are actually 11 million more women than men in the entire country.
While their life expectancy is around 75 years of age, Russian men live considerably shorter lives – although that might be by choice since Russian women are known to be bossy and in charge of the household. They also enjoy more freedoms than most other countries.
So we’ve already discussed the Day of Conception, but there’s another annual day in Russia that aims to help society as a whole. Subbotnik is one day of the year where Russian citizens get together and clean their communities.
If every community worked towards cleaning their front doors and streets, the entire world would be a much cleaner place. Would you arrange something like this for your local community? Subbotnik started during the Russian Revolution and still occurs today.
Fallen Monument Park
Anyone who knows their Russian history will be aware that it was ruled by the Soviet Union from 1922-1991. In that time, there were hundreds of statues erected in the form of leaders like Lenin and Stalin. Once the Union fell, so too did the statues.
But what happened to them? Some of them were destroyed but many of them were moved to Fallen Monument Park – a bizarre place that keeps them up and on display to remind people of the past.
Near St. Petersburg lies Catheron Palace of Tsarskoye Selo – once home to the famous Amber Room. It was a charming chamber with amber and gold panels and mirrors all on display for everyone to marvel at.
During WWII, the room was captured by the Nazis and was eventually taken to Konigsburg to get rebuilt there. Today, no one knows what happened to the room and what was once inside it. What do you think happened to the mysterious room?
Love of Cloakrooms
Weirdly, people in Russia love cloakrooms. Like, really love them. In fact, many businesses will offer them regardless of what they serve the public. For example, bars and restaurants will have cloakrooms for you to put your jacket away.
Usually, it is reserved for more formal settings, but the Russians are determined to put coats away to make sure people are comfortable. The people behind these cloakrooms are called baboushkas and it’s great to see old women still working hard.
Yttygran is one of the most beautiful islands to visit if you ever found yourself in Russia. Aside from its natural beauty, there is also something pretty strange about it: the large number of whale bones found on its shores.
Because of this, it received the nickname Whale Bone Alley. Today, these bones are decorated by the locals and positioned to become a staple on the island as part of its character. The unique items make for some fascinating tourist photos!
Its Amazing Metro
One of the most interesting parts of Moscow is its incredible Metro system. It is known as being one of the most beautifully decorated metro systems in the world. In fact, it is usually always spotlessly clean with its trains arriving every 90 seconds!
Weirdly, there is a mysterious ‘Metro-2’ line which is said to connect Moscow to several mystery military bunkers. This has not been confirmed – but anything is possible! Do you think there’s a secret track down there?
You might be brave, but are you brave enough to jump into -22 degree water? Well, for more than 100 years it has been a tradition for Russians to jump into waters that are well below freezing – but why?
Apparently, it can help boost immune systems and improve health in the long term. A 76-year-old woman has claimed that it helps improve back pain and blood flow. Would you jump into freezing water if it helped with your back pain?
Spooky Russian Fish
There’s a Russian deep-sea fisherman who has made quite the name for himself in recent years. Roman Fedortsov uses Twitter to post some images of some of the strangest fish he has ever captured while fishing in the Russian waters.
As you can see, these have spooky eyes, sharp teeth, and a weird color! To date, Fedortsov has directly been responsible for finding dozens of new species of fish. It is unclear if these species live anywhere else in the world.
Russian Fishing Culture
With the largest landmass on Earth, Russia is full of plenty of rivers, lakes, and access to seas. This means that there is an entire culture dedicated to fishing in the country. What are some of the things citizens do to catch their food?
Well, it can be anything from conventional fishing to deep-sea frozen fishing. If you ask 30 different Russians, you’ll be able to get 30 different answers to what their favorite way is to fish is!
Population Full of Rabbits
Aside from fish, there’s a whole other animal that has a charming reputation across Russia: the rabbit. If you cross the bridge out of St. Petersburg toward the Peter and Paul Fortress, you’ll spot a number of rabbit statues – but what do they represent?
The statues are tributes to all the many rabbits that used to live on the island in the 18th and 19th centuries. Due to ongoing floods in the region, many of the rabbits sadly died out – but their legacy lives on in these statues.
Look Out For Icicles
While they might look nice, you should always avoid walking underneath frosted icicles. In Russia, you’ll have to be extra careful! Due to some of the colder weather in the region, Russia’s icicles can reach record lengths.
In wintertime, some of the roads are even blocked off since they can cause some serious damage if they fall on someone. In Russia, looking up to make sure you’re safe has become fairly common practice – especially in the colder months!
Russia’s capital, Moscow, has a population of around 12 million people. That means there’s often quite a lot of traffic in its streets, sometimes delaying people for hours. Each day, commuters spend up to two hours just getting to work.
A known tactic among the rich in Moscow is to call an ambulance. That way, the traffic is opened up for them and they can cut through all the congestion. It’s a neat trick, but can get you in trouble if you’re caught doing it by the authorities!
Paying homage to the dogs
When walking around Moscow, you may notice that there are some statues of dogs. One of the is a bronze dog with a shiny nose situated at the Ploshchad Revolutsii metro station. People are supposed to touch the shiny nose for good luck.
The second dog statue is a monument to Laika the space dog. Sent to space in 1957, Laika paved the way for humans in space and sadly she did not survive her mission. Russians still lay flowers for her.
Only give an odd amount of flowers
Giving flowers to anyone is a kind gesture, but in Russia you must make sure to only give someone an odd number of flowers. In a bizarre superstition, Russians only give an even number of flowers at a funeral and an odd number in a display of affection.
Be careful not to make this mistake, you could end up in a very awkward situation and unintentionally offending someone. Count them yourself if you have to!
Don’t shake a hand in a doorway
Russians have specific ways of doing things and this even includes a certain protocol for handshakes. While it is common to shake someone’s hand, never do it under a doorway.
Russians believe that doing this is a bad omen and in most cases it will lead to a fight between the people involved. If you find yourself in Russia, make sure to check your surroundings before offering someone your hand to shake.
They have the largest forests in Europe
Many people don’t know that Russia has forests that rival those in South America. The trees in Russia absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide and give out plenty of oxygen.
For this reason they have been nicknamed the lungs of Europe and provide essential contributions to the environment in both Russia and Europe. These forests must be protected at all costs to ensure the ecosystem in Europe otherwise our air quality could be seriously compromised.
They love New Year
For most countries in the world, New Years Eve is one night of celebration followed by a national holiday on New Years Day, but Russia takes it to a new level. The Russians party for an entire week starting from New Years’ Eve until their Christmas day on 7th January.
The six days running up to Christmas are usually filled with gift exchanges, parties and dining while actual Christmas day is all about family, just like everywhere else in the world.
Their stock market is worth less than apple
Considering Russia has 78 billionaires living there, it is surprising how little their stock market is worth. Despite the huge amount of wealth that is accumulated in the region, their entire stock market is worth less than Apple.
In total, their stock market is worth around $513 billion while Apple alone if worth $652 billion. Considering Russia isn’t one of the cheaper places in the world, their economy should be stronger in general.
Tetris was born in Russia
Tetris was a game that was hugely popular in the 1980s and was played on the Nintendo Entertainment System. While it was thought that the game was made in Japan, this was a misconception and it was actually created in Russia.
It was the first piece of entertainment software to be imported from the Soviet Union to the United States. The creator was Alexey Pajitnov a Russian scientist and game developer and it became one of the most iconic games in history.
Russian dolls aren’t so Russian
Everyone knows what Russian dolls look like and they are fun to play with, but most people don’t know that they have a stronger connection with Japan than Russia.
Sergey Malyutin was the creator of the Matryoshka doll and when he was looking for some inspiration for the design of the Russian doll, he was given a Japanese Daruma doll to look at. These dolls have many smaller dolls inside them and from this, he went on to create the first ever Matryoshka doll in 1890.
It’s home to the coldest town on earth
Situated in the Yakutia region in Siberia is Oymyakon, the coldest town on earth. The inhabitants of this town are used to winter temperatures of -58°F on average and have to have pretty thick skin to be able to live through it.
There around around 500 people who live here and due to the frozen ground, they can’t grow crops so their diet predominantly consists of reindeer and horse meat. Their days vary from 3 hours in the winter to 21 hours in the summer.
Petergof is the world’s most luxurious city
When the 18th century Peter The Great stated that he wanted a city so incredible that is would make Versailles look like a slum, many people were questioning how this would be done, but he actually achieved it.
While Versailles is still far from a slum, Petergof is stunning and the epitome of opulence. It had over four cascades and 150 impressive fountains. Bolshoy cascade is truly a sight to see and it homes over 64 fountains and 225 bronze statues.
They play golf with helicopters
Russian’s tend to go above and beyond in everything they do, and golf is no exception. While all other parts of the world involve walking or taking a buggy to each hole, Russians do it with a helicopter.
Golfers will guide a 3 foot tall golfball down a snow path using a giant mallet that is supposed to look like a gold club. Choppers will take the golfers all around the course so they don’t have to step foot in snow at all.
Russians are superstitious
As a people, Russians tend to be very superstitious. Whether it is walking under a ladder, opening an umbrella inside, breaking a mirror or moving things out of the house at night, Russians believe it all comes with negative consequences.
In fact, in ancient times they would send a cat into a new house first as they believed the first person who stepped in would die. If the cat refused to walk in, they would start again with a new house.
It has the most bridges in a city
When thinking of bridges in cities, you automatically think of Venice with all of its waterways and canals, but it turns out that Saint Petersburg actually holds three times the amount of Venice.
There are some wonderful canals with classic architecture surrounding and from this, it has been deemed “Venice of the North”. If you’re looking for a quick vacation, Saint Petersburg has a lot less tourists than the city of Venice!
They have tight knit families
It is a part of Russian tradition to be increasingly close to their families. If someone was to marry into a Russian family, they would immediately be treated as they have always been in the family, with the utmost of care and respect.
It is quite rare to find a small Russian family as the vast majority of them are very big and family gatherings are huge events. They are taught from a young age to protect their families and cherish their loved ones.
Is Russia bigger than pluto?
Russia is the biggest country in the world and most people are surprised to find out it is not a continent. Their land mass is so vast it covers many different cities, rural areas, mountain ranges and coastlines.
In fact, Russia’s land mass is so big that the country is almost as big as the planet Pluto. Russia is 17 million square km while Pluto is 17.6 million square km. Of course Russia has many more inhabitants.
Russia vs America
Russia and America might be two of the greatest powers in the world, but they have not had the best of diplomatic relations over the years. The Cold War saw some intense tensions rise between the two nations but aside from their conflicts, they’re not so different if you look closer into it.
For example, Big Diomede Island is a part of Russia and Little Diomede Island is a part of America and the two islands are situated just two miles from one another, making Russia and America much closer than they seem.
Rich side and poor side
While Russia may have the greatest amount of billionaires in the world, there is also the other side of things and many people can barely afford to live. Research has shown that 17 million people are currently living under the poverty line in Russia and this 12% of people are making under $220 per month.
Moscow might be an incredible city with some breathtaking sights but it also has its fair share of homeless people who just can’t afford to have a decent lifestyle.
English is not the second language
The vast majority of countries in Europe have high percentages of people who can speak English as a second language but this simply is not the case in Russia. A mere 5% of Russians can speak English which is tiny in comparison to 70% of Germans and 51% of Greeks.
Learning a small amount of Russian before visiting is highly recommended to visitors to avoid any cultural and language barriers which can get you in a lot of trouble.
The Red Square
Red Square is located in Moscow and is considered one of the landmarks of the country. The sheer size and beauty of the area are enough to attract millions of tourists from around the world. While many people associate it with the Soviet Union, that’s not actually the history of the location.
Red Square can be translated from the word Krasnyi, which means beautiful. So, next time you think Red Square is an homage to the Soviet Union, remember that it is something else entirely.