That doesn’t mean that its mystery has been lost. It is still an enormous enigma which people seem to either love with abandon or despise with a passion. After reading this, you will know a lot more about this diverse and intriguing country and learn many surprising facts. Hop on for an exciting wild ride into the depths of Russia, its places, and its customs.
Russia is the Size of Pluto
By now, we understand that Russia is big, it is the biggest country on Earth, but it’s still hard to comprehend exactly how big. To illustrate this point, we have come up with an example that may help you understand the sheer size of the country.
Simply put, Russia is almost as big as an entire planet. It is 17 million square kilometers, while the planet of Pluto is 16.6 million square kilometers. Yes, they are basically the same size. Try and wrap your head around that…
Women, Women, Everywhere
Over the past century, there have been more women living in Russian than men, a lot more. According to a 2018 countrywide survey, 10.5 million more women live in Russia than men. That makes women 54% of the population to men’s 46%.
So how did this happen? Although pretty much the same number of boys and girls are born each year, the females end up living much longer. Men after the age of 30 begin to pass away for a variety of reasons, including war, car accidents, industrial trauma, and more. This has left more older women around than men.
These interlocking dolls have become a symbol of Russia, and not many tourists who visit the country leave without purchasing one, but their origin actually has a strong connection to Japan. The doll was created by Sergey Malyutin, a crafts painter who was trying to design a Russian doll that would last for generations.
Many believe that he was inspired by the Japanese Daruma doll and that when he examined it, he discovered that it held a doll within a doll and so on. This clearly gave him a great idea, and that was how the first Matryoshka doll was born in 1890.
Russia is home to many rivers, lakes, and seas, and therefore it is no surprise that Russians are crazy about fishing and that fish are an important part of their diet. Every fisherman believes he has the best method, but Russians are experts in ice fishing. When the temperatures drop below freezing, and the lakes freeze over, they can finally get to work.
They start by cutting a hole in the ice with an ice saw, or slightly less convenient, an auger or a chisel. The lures they use include fatheads, wax worms, and crappies. Fishing in most places is known as a manly pastime, but in Russia, the women are just as avid to catch some fish as the men, and maybe even more so. So, if while visiting you see some women on the ice, there’s no need to be surprised.
The Mystery of the Amber Room?
One of the most expensive and exquisite rooms in the world once existed in the Catherine Palace of Tsarskoye Selo near the city of Saint Petersburg. It was dubbed the Amber Room because of the beautiful amber panels on the walls, which were adorned with mirrors and gold leaf.
When the Nazis invaded Russia in World War II, they dismantled the Amber Room and moved the pieces to the German city of Königsberg. Since then, its whereabouts have never been confirmed, and the fate of the priceless artifacts remains a mystery.
The Trashtag challenge is getting people together to clean things up, and that is something that everyone can get behind. It’s nice to see people looking up from their phones and actually getting something done, but the Russians have been doing the same thing for a little over a century, and they didn’t need a clever hashtag to do it.
One day each year, which is known as Subbotnik, the residents of every city get together and just clean it up as a community. They pick up garbage, fix things that are broken and take care of recycling. The tradition started not long after the Russian Revolution and has been going on ever since
Fraud is Rampant
In the United States, dashboard cameras are mostly used by the authorities, and the footage taken by them can mostly be seen in court or on Cops. In Russia, however, almost every car on the road has its own personal dashcam, and the videos from these cameras have become an Internet phenomenon.
In a country that is extremely large and in which law enforcement is oftentimes corrupt, the dashcams protect regular citizens from insurance fraud, in which motorists or pedestrians fake car accidents in order to collect the insurance money.
Part of the Family
If you are single while visiting Russia and end up meeting someone, take into account that you are not just gaining a significant other, but a whole new family. Russian families are extremely close and if one of them has chosen you, expect to be welcomed into the fold.
Typically, Russians are very supportive of their loved ones and will do almost anything for them. So when you get ready to meet the parents, don’t be surprised if you are promptly adopted into the family and treated like their own son or daughter.
Russia’s Massive Pipelines
Russia is not only big in size, but it is also rich in natural resources. It has one of the biggest petroleum industries in the world, with the largest reserves. It is also the leading exporter of natural gas and has the world’s second-largest coal reserves.
All those gases need to be transported somehow, and Russia has developed an extensive network of pipelines. There are so many pipelines that if you put them all together, they would make a pipeline that is 259,913 kilometers long. The circumference of the Earth is only 40,075, so traveling through all of Russia’s pipelines is like going around the world six and a half times.
A National Pastime
Chess has been one of the most beloved games in Russia for hundreds of years. Historians have even been known to claim that Czar Ivan IV died in 1854 in the midst of a chess match. In 1917, when the Bolsheviks came to power, the game’s popularity increased, and it became Russia’s favorite pastime.
Russians love chess because they feel that the game represents their ideals. It is not a game of chance but requires skill and a carefully thought-out strategy. The state-sponsored its first national chess tournament in Moscow in 1921, and to this day, many of the best players in the world are Russian natives, including the current number five Alexander Grischuk.
Secret Russian Cities
There are some cities in Russia that you will never get the chance to visit. According to the rumors, Russia is home to about 42 cities that the Russian government has classified as secret. apparently, only a handful of people in the country are privy to the names and locations of these hidden cities.
These special cities don’t appear on any map, and don’t plan on visiting them any time soon because it is against the law to even enter one of them. They are places in which metallurgy, military, and chemical industry take place and are known by the name ZATO, which stands for closed administrative-territorial entities. We know they are intriguing, but there’s no point in adding them to your travel itinerary.
The Shamanistic Island
Although once hugely popular, Shamanism has declined in most places in the world, but it is still alive and kicking on one isolated island in Siberia. The remote island of Olkhon still practices the religion in all its glory, probably because its remoteness has kept away influences from other religions.
Olkhon Island is not only home to Shamanism, but it is also the third-largest lake island in the world. The island is covered in forests and is known for having very little rainfall. Less than 1,500 people live on the island full time, but in recent years it is drawing more and more tourists due to its natural beauty and interesting culture.
Come In, the Water’s Freezing
The Russian people love to go to the beach to swim, and they won’t let a little thing like freezing winter temperatures stop them. While some only do the cold dip once a year to start the new year off right, others enjoy their icy swims all winter long.
Many Russians believe that swimming in ice-cold water is good for their health and head to the beach even on the coldest days. Their bravery has earned them the adorable and appropriate nickname “walruses.”
Odd Number of Flowers
If you ever find yourself having romantic feelings for someone with a Russian background, don’t forget to show your feelings with flowers, but never show up with a dozen roses, only with an odd-numbered bouquet.
This may sound strange, but in Russia, even-numbered flowers are reserved for funerals. Meaning that no matter what your intention, you may risk giving offense and end up without a date.
The Cats of the Hermitage Museum
If you are in Russia, the Hermitage Museum is a must-see. However, we hope that you are not allergic to cats. There are currently 70 cats who make the museum their home. They spend their time there as guard cats, protecting the artwork from any rodents who are even thinking of chewing up the priceless artifacts.
There have been cats in the Hermitage since the 1700s, when Empress Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter The Great, who also founded the city of St. Petersburg, suggested having them move in as a way to ensure the safety of the exhibitions.
Tourists Pay More
As we already know, Russia is an enormous country and a great tourist draw. Although the country has a lot to offer, including forests, islands, and more, visitors usually stick to the most famous cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg.
If you do intend to check out all that Russia has to offer, get ready to pay – a lot. Tourists in Russia pay higher prices than the locals to visit the country’s famous attractions. For example, the price for the Hermitage Museum on the website is significantly higher if you are on the English page versus the Russian version. According to the museum, the lower price is intended only for Russian citizens.
Home to Many Beautiful Women
The “Miss Russia” beauty pageant is considered the perfect place to discover the world’s next supermodel. It has been taking place each year since 1992, and the winner goes on to represent her country in the Miss World and the Miss Universe global beauty competitions.
These gorgeous women are not just pretty faces. However, former Miss Russia winners include a power engineer, a few ballroom dancers, a global economics student, a cybernetic systems student, and a former police officer.
Russians and Vodka
How much Russians love their vodka has become a worldwide cliché, but in truth, they love almost every type of alcohol. Their relationship with vodka, however, is special, and they prefer to drink it neat. Each year when the holidays arrive, the average Russian spends roughly $400 on alcohol alone.
This may sound like a good time, but unfortunately, all that drinking does catch up to them. Sadly, every year about 23,000 people die of alcohol poisoning in Russia. That is the highest percentage in the world! Alcohol abuse has also been linked to numerous instances of assault, homicide, and suicide.
The Lungs Of Europe
It is a little-known fact that Russia has the world’s largest forest reserves, bigger even than the entire Amazon Rainforest. This enormous forest produces an incredible amount of oxygen and is second only to the Amazon in the amount of carbon dioxide it absorbs.
That is the reason Russia’s forests have earned the nickname ‘The Lungs of Europe.’ These forests must be preserved from industrialization and protected from disease, or the air quality in Europe will suffer greatly.
Swimming in the Winter
Every year, not long after New Year’s Day, countless Russians take a leap into freezing waters to kick off the cold season. This tradition, which may seem crazy to us, started over a hundred years ago. The swimmers must cut holes in the ice beforehand in order to be able to actually swim in the freezing water.
You may be shivering just thinking about this, but many Russians believe that cold swimming is good for their body and soul. 76-year-old Jitka Tauferova talks about the benefits - “The last time I had the flu was 25 years ago, and my back pain disappeared. Better blood circulation improves healing broken bones, and my heart is like a hammer. I feel great.”
The Russian Language
Over 260 million people all over the world are fluent in Russian, and it is the official language of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. It is also the largest native spoken language, as well as the 8th most spoken language in the world.
What makes the language unique, however, is that it has no articles. There are no definite or indefinite articles, meaning Russian doesn’t have a “the” or an “an.” It is almost impossible to try and explain the concept of articles to people who only speak Russian.
So, we know that Russia is big, and it seems like they prefer other things to be big as well, including in their outdoor activities. For example, if you use a golf cart to get around on a regular golf course, some Russians believe you can’t even play golf without a helicopter.
In this special type of golf, the player guides a three-feet-tall ball with a helicopter that has a giant mallet attached to it. The player flies around the court in the helicopter until the ball reaches the final hole. Talk about a rich man’s game, don’t see this being played on the playground anytime soon.
The Fallen Monument Park
Russia’s time in the Soviet Union, from 1922 and 1991, is a famous part of the country’s history. Stalin and Lenin, the heroes of the Soviet Union, could once be found in sculpture form in parks and squares all over the country.
You may have wondered what happened to those famous statues when the Soviet Union fell. Many were obviously destroyed right after the fall, while the few others that survived can be found and enjoyed at the Fallen Monument Park in Moscow.
When you walk down the Ioannovsky Bridge in St. Petersburg on your way to the Peter and Paul Fortress, you can’t help but notice the statue of a rabbit standing on a wooden pole in the water. The sculpture represents the many rabbits that used to live on the island in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the time, the island was even known by the name “Hare Island.”
During that time, St. Petersburg was plagued by many floods. Both rabbits and people had to fight the floods in order to stay alive. Unfortunately, there aren’t many rabbits left on the island today, but at least there are plenty of statues around to remind us of their presence.
Russia Has The Biggest Landmarks
Since the country of Russia occupies ten percent of the land on Earth, it is no surprise that they have some of the biggest natural landmarks in the world.
The Volga River, which flows from central Russia to the Caspian Sea, is the biggest river in Europe and an estimated 2,300 miles long. Lake Baikal in Siberia, which is believed to be the world’s deepest lake, holds 20% of the planet’s drinking water supply. Lake Elton, in the Volgograd region, is Europe’s largest salt lake and the Sarykum Dune in Dagestan is Eurasia’s biggest sand dune.
A Broken Clock Shows 2:10 AM
There is a very special clock that resides in the White Dining Room in the Hermitage Palace, but its function is not to tell time. In fact, it has been shown the time 2:10 AM for over a hundred years.
The stopped clock serves as a reminder of what took place on October 25. 1917 at 2:10 in the morning, when the Bolsheviks arrested Russia’s provisional government. That was the exact moment in which Russia officially became a communist country.
Pepsi is the Popular Choice
When Vice President Richard Nixon visited Russia in 1959, he participated in a televised debate with Soviet First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev, which later became known as the Kitchen Debate. The two leaders talked about their countries and discussed possible options for future cooperation between them.
Not everything was serious politics. However, there was one moment that had everyone in the audience smiling; it happened when Nixon and Khrushchev shared a Pepsi. Soft drinks may have been completely unknown in Russia back then, but that is not the case today. Russia actually accounts for 8% of all Pepsi sales worldwide.
Is Beer Alcohol?
We’ve already seen how Russians feel about their booze, but it seems we may even disagree about what booze even is. For example, the law that stated that beer was an alcoholic beverage only came into effect in Russia in 2011.
This may seem hard to believe, but until about ten years ago, drinks with less than 10% of alcohol were not legally considered alcoholic beverages. The law may have changed, but that doesn’t mean that Russians are drinking less alcohol. Instead, the change in beer’s status has made it more expensive and has simply driven more Russians back to their traditional favorite – vodka.
The Beloved Holiday
Russians are crazy about New Year’s Day. It is their favorite holiday, all businesses are closed, and no one goes to work on that special day.
It is typical for Russians to take time off on the week before Christmas, and the week after New Year’s and January 1st to 5th are national holidays. These days are often spent in celebration, eating, drinking, spending time with family, gift exchanges, or just relaxing.
Poverty in Russia
So far, we have only shown you the beautiful and glamorous sides of Russian life. However, there are many people in this country who will never get the chance to experience this beauty and luxury. Official data states that there are currently roughly 21 million Russians who are living under the poverty line.
When that figure is compared with the general population, it emerges that 14% of the population earns less than $220 dollars per month. That figure has been growing each year for the past several years. This can be seen all around. Moscow, for instance, is one of the prettiest cities in the world, but it also has an astounding number of street beggars.
Remember the Hares
On the side of the bridge, which takes you to the Peter and Paul Fortress, there is a statue of a small hare in the water. The adorable sculpture was built to help the Russians commemorate the many hares that once ran free on the island where the fortress still stands.
There aren’t many hares left, unfortunately. The floods which plagued St. Petersburg in the 18th and 19th centuries wiped most of them out. According to legend, one hare did survive by jumping onto the boot of Peter the Great as the water was rising.
In the 18th century, after his visit to the French court, Peter the Great decided that he wanted to build a palace that would overshadow even the impressive Versailles. He set his architects and landscapers to work, and that was the beginning of Peterhof Palace.
The beautiful complex is still around town, and you can visit the impressive cascades in which over 150 fountains reside. The most famous and renowned among them is the Bolshoy cascade, which features 64 fountains and 225 bronze statues.
The Elegant Metro System
It seems like Russians know how to appreciate beauty if they have even turned something as functional as their subway system into the most beautiful in the world. The metro operates in and around Moscow and is considered a tourist attraction even if you don’t want it to take you anywhere. While using this underground mode of transportation, don’t forget to look around; you won’t regret it!
The ceilings are beautiful works of art, while the floor you walk on is spotless. Every metro station is unique and features a different work of art. There are also rumors that there is a special line known as Metro-2 that leads to secret military bunkers, but its existence has never been confirmed and probably never will be.
Is Russia Red?
The immensely popular tourist draw, the Red Square, was built in Moscow in the 16th century as a market. Over the years, it has become a symbol of the city as well as a must-see on visitor’s agendas. Countless coronations and public ceremonies have taken place in the square in the centuries since it was built.
Many people mistakenly believe that the name is a reference to the color which is identified with communism, but that is not the case. The name comes from the Russian word “Krasnyi,” which sounds like the word “red” but actually means beautiful.
Dangerously Cold Winters
Russia is famous for its icy winters. The weather is so cold it has literally stopped invasions. Both Napoleon and Hitler’s armies could not survive the frigid temperatures in Russia and suffered from disease and lack of food, which eventually forced them to retreat.
Another danger that is typical of Russian winters can be found in gutters all over the country. The icicles that form have more than once fallen on people walking underneath and caused serious injuries or even death. In the winter of 2010 in St. Petersburg, more than 150 pedestrians were hurt by falling icicles. So if you are visiting in the colder months, don’t forget to look up.
Cloakrooms, Cloakrooms, Everywhere
It must be something in their blood, but the Russian people adore a good cloakroom. It may have started due to the cold winters, but these days any business that respects itself has one.
It doesn’t matter if you step into a restaurant, a bar, a theater, or a museum; the first thing that will occur is the request to place your coat in the cloakroom. Most of these garment storing rooms are operated by older Russian women known as babushkas. They not only offer great service, but it is also a way for them to make some extra money. In that case, how can we refuse?
Saint Basil’s Cathedral
The iconic Saint Basil’s Cathedral is what many people see in their minds when they think about Moscow. Located in the Red Square, It is one of the largest, most intricately beautiful cathedrals around and a symbol of the country. The cathedral was built in 1560 by Postnik Yakovlev and is a major Russian tourist destination.
Sadly, according to the stories, Postnik was not rewarded for his amazing work on the cathedral. Rumor has it that once Saint Basil’s was completed, Ivan the Terrible had him blinded. His reasoning was that he didn’t want Postnik to build anything so magnificent again or anything that could even compete.
Pollution at Lake Karachi
This oddly colored body of water is Lake Karachi, and it has the dubious honor of being the most polluted lake in the world. That is hardly surprising since it is situated beside the biggest nuclear facility in all of Russia, which is leaking. The nuclear waste flows straight into the stream of the Techa River, which flows directly into Lake Karachi, where it unfortunately remains.
The solution that was offered by the Russian government, they filled the lake with concrete to keep it from touching the shore.
Despite their image in the world, Russians are not only fans of winter sports, even though they are good at them. The most popular sport in the country is actually soccer. They also enjoy ice hockey, handball, boxing, tennis, athletics, and car racing.
Many Russian athletes have made a name for themselves in professional sports. Tennis players Anna Kournikova and Maria Sharapova are amazing athletes and international superstars. Alexander Ovechkin and Sergei Fedorov spring to mind immediately whenever someone brings up the sport of ice hockey.
Addiction Among Bears
The brown bears that live in the Kronotsky Nature Reserve in South Kamchatka are famously addicted to kerosene and gas. They sniff the leftover barrels which power the generators on the reserve. The bears even follow helicopters in flight, hoping that a few drops of precious kerosene will fall to the ground.
Once a bear has secured a barrel, they will sniff it for a few minutes and then dig a hole in the snow, lie down in it on their backs and pass out. Russian bears have also been known to be addicted to alcohol, which people give to them because they think it is funny.
Impressive Amount of Billionaires
Most people expect billionaires to live in New York because of its financial center or in San Francisco, home of Silicon Valley. It turns out that 62 billionaires call New York home, and between them, they have $280 billion. London and Hong Kong also have their fair share of billionaires, with 43 of them living in each city. Moscow, however, has got all of those cities beat.
It is the home to 84 of the richest people in the world, with a combined wealth of over $366 billion. Leonid Mickelson, the world’s richest man, also lives in Moscow and has amassed a fortune of $14.4 billion. You may have also heard of another famous billionaire that lives in Moscow, Mikhail Prokhorov, the owner of Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets.
Venice of the North
Venice, Italy, is famous for its beautiful canals and exquisite bridges, but not many people know that the city of St. Petersburg in Russia has three times the amount of bridges as the Italian tourist mecca. This has earned the Russian city the impressive nickname “Venice of the North.”
Apparently, visitors recommend visiting this city and give it high marks over the real Venice because it is much less crowded and also supposedly even more romantic. It makes you wonder if they have gondoliers, and if so, how do they sound in Russian.
Not shaking hands under doorways is only one example of the very superstitious nature of Russians, but they have many others and have earned their reputation as some of the most superstitious people on Earth. They believe that one of the worst things that can happen to them is to walk under a ladder or accidentally break a mirror.
To ward off bad luck such as this, they invented a tradition that goes back many years. Whenever a new home was built, the first one to enter was always a cat. This is due to the belief that the first to enter the house will also be the first to die. But don’t worry too much about the cat; after all, they are known to have nine lives. However, if the cat would simply refuse to enter the house, they were forced to destroy it and build another somewhere else.
If you’ve reached a certain age, you have nothing but fond memories of Tetris. The game was first released in the 1980s on the Commodore 64 and IBM PC but became a massive hit when it was launched on Nintendo’s Gameboy. Despite what many believe, Tetris was not invented in Japan.
The game was created by Russian scientist and game developer Alexey Pajitnov. It was the very first entertainment software that came to American from the Soviet Union. To this day, Tetris is considered one of the most successful games in videogame history.
The Day of Conception
Russia, as a nation, has been dealing with low population rates for many years. Therefore, as of 2003, the government decided to create a holiday which is all about how to put this politely, getting the birth rates up. It sounds like science fiction, but we can assure you it is very real. The holiday, which is celebrated every year on September 12th, is known as the Day of Conception.
It turns out that it was not such a strange idea, especially since it seems to be working; there has been a rise in births in the month of June. But we can’t give all of the credit to the holiday; there is also a rewards system in place. The government gives out cash and prizes to families whose babies are born in June, ranging from household appliances to expensive things like a new car.
Whale Bone Alley
Yttygran Island is another beautiful and haunting Russian island that is worth a visit. The island’s North Shore is known as Whale Bone Alley because of the multitude of whale bones that can be found there. The bones, however, are not just interesting to look at; they serve as a reminder of the whale hunting that took place there centuries ago and also, many believe, as a spiritual place.
The placing of the bones seems purposeful; the rib cages are placed in the ground in rows and create a tunnel-like effect. The whale skulls are positioned facing different directions, and it is unclear what they are looking at. No one is certain how the bones reached this location in the first place, but the most common theory is that it used to be a whale hunting ground for local tribes, where they gathered together to kill their prey. The bones, which were left behind, maybe a way to thank the gods for the plentiful food the whales provided.
Bodybuilding is Popular
Russians are known for their athletic capabilities, and some of the sports in which they excel are wrestling, powerlifting, and bodybuilding. These sports are extremely popular in the country and have produced some local champions. Unlike some other places, they are pursued enthusiastically by both men and women.
The women who excel in these sports are known for their femininity and strength. Nadezhda Alexandrovna Yevstyukhina is a famous weightlifter who won the gold medal in the 69 kg weightlifting category when she was just 17. Maryana Naumova is known as the youngest powerlifting champion in the world and has 15 world records under her belt. Fitness icon Julia Vlns has also made a name for herself as a powerlifting champion. These women, and others like them, are Russian celebrities and have an enormous following.
Russia’s Famous Dogs
If you think highly of a man’s best friend, you’ll be happy to know that the Russians appreciate dogs too. They have even immortalized two dogs in Moscow by creating sculptures of them. One of the bronze statues at the Ploshchad Revolyutsii metro station is of a patrolman and his dog. It is considered good luck to stop and rub the dog’s nose when you walk by.
The second dog that was honored was Laika, the space dog, who has her own monument. Laika, who was sent to space in 1957, did her part for space exploration and paved the way for the humans that came after her. Laika may have not survived her journey into space, but she has not been forgotten. Six decades later and people still visit her monument every year and even leave flowers.
Women in Politics
On the world stage, Russia may have an image as a conservative country in which men call all the shots. However, there are actually many influential women in Russian politics who hold important positions in and out of government. An example of one such woman is Natalia Poklonskaya, who serves as the Deputy of the State Duma, which is the lower house of the Russian Federal Assembly.
Poklonskaya, who was born in Ukraine, was a prosecutor in her home country, but she left that position in 2014 and became the Prosecutor General of Crimea, and in 2016 went on to be elected to the State Duma.
The next destination is only for the more adventurous travelers. In the Yakutia region of Siberia, there is a town by the name of Oymyakon, which is famous for being the coldest town on Earth. This fact has not stopped people from making it their home for hundreds of years.
On an average winter, the temperature in Oymyakon reaches -58°F, but the coldest winter on record took place in 1938. The temperature reached an almost unbelievable -108°F. It’s incredible that the people there survived the winter, and I can only imagine how happy they were for the arrival of spring.
The subway system in Moscow is not used just by humans; more than 400 homeless dogs live in Russia’s subway stations. They are known by the name “metro dogs” due to their continuing presence on the trains and platforms.
According to Russian biologist Andrey Poyarkov, the dogs have devised an ingenious system to survive. In the daytime, they use the subway to come into town and scrounge for food, and at night they retreat to the safety of the suburbs.
McDonald's Has Arrived
It was on January 31, 1990, when the United States invaded Russia. We are joking, of course, but that does not change the fact that it was on that day that Russia received their very first McDonald’s.
It opened its doors right next to Pushkin Square, which is in the center of Moscow. This was still back in the days of the Soviet Union, and it is no wonder that a building of such symbolism instantly attracted the masses. Thousands of people got in line to be the first to try what the West had to offer, culinary-wise.
The Stock Market
Many wealthy people call Russia their home. An impressive 78 billionaires live in Moscow alone, which is the largest concentration of billionaires in the entire world.
Don’t let that fool you into thinking that Russian stocks are a good investment. In fact, the entire Russian stock market is worth less than one major US company, Apple. Case and point, the Russian stock market is worth roughly $513 billion, while Apple is currently worth about $652 billion.
Emergency Traffic Jam
Enormous traffic jams have become the norm in big Russian cities, and the harsh winters only make matters worse. It is not unusual for cars to be stuck in the same spot for hours on end during rush hour.
The rich, however, have found some creative solutions to beat the traffic. They can call an ambulance which helps them get out of the traffic snarl fast. Another option is to pay for blue emergency lights and install them in your car. Unfortunately, the use of these methods has made drivers stop clearing the path for actual emergency vehicles that need to get through.
In terms of area, Russia is the largest country in the world, so it’s no surprise that they also have the longest railway system around. Their railway is the world-famous Trans-Siberian railway, which has appeared in many books and movies.
Lovers of long train rides are in for a treat if they decide to travel through Russia this way. They will start on the country’s European side and will travel all the way to the Asian Pacific coast. This massive journey takes 152 hours and 27 minutes to complete, but it is the experience of a lifetime.
Icicles are pleasing to the eye and are a fixture of the winter landscape, but have you considered that they could be dangerous? Russians try to never walk underneath icicles, and they have good reason for not doing so.
In Russia, these pieces of frozen ice have been known to reach record size, and every year there are some accidents in which people are even sent to the hospital after a run-in with them. However, local authorities do try and keep mishaps down to a minimum by blocking off potentially dangerous pavements and forcing the people in the area to walk around and not under.
Moscow’s Wild Side
The city of Moscow is home to museums, churches, and classical concerts, but it also has a wild side. They even adhere to the Vegas rule, saying, “What happens in Moscow, stays in Moscow.” It turns out; some people visit the city just to let their hair down and have some crazy fun.
If you are visiting the Russian capital, take extra care after night falls. You may be in for the night of your life, but you can also find yourself in some dangerous situations. Tourists are encouraged to stay in the city center and always keep an eye out for pickpockets and other individuals who may be looking for trouble.
They Used to Have a Beard Tax
This may seem like a joke, but just a few centuries ago, men who wanted to grow hair on their faces had to pay a special tax. Turns out, Emperor Peter I did not like the fashion trend in which Russian men wore long beards, so in 1689 he implemented a beard tax. The amount of the tax varied according to position and social status, and those that paid carried around a beard token they could show to authorities when questioned.
And what about those that couldn’t afford to pay the tax? The police would forcibly shave them out in public. That seems pretty crazy, right? But the reason behind the tax is just as weird. Historians claim that the reason for the tax is that the Emperor wanted Russians to look more like the Western Europeans.
If you’ve ever wondered, the common practice of shaking someone’s hand is the proper way to greet someone new in Russia, but be careful; Russians will never shake your hand if you are standing beneath a doorway.
This is due to a local superstition that shaking hands under a doorway is bad luck that will lead to bad blood between both parties. Keep that in mind before you head off to Russia on your next vacation or business trip.
The Distance Between Them
It is a widely known fact that the United States and Russia have been rivals for decades. The tensions between these two superpowers were at their highest during the era known as The Cold War, in which it felt like the world was split into the Eastern Bloc and the Western Bloc.
The two countries seem far apart, ideologically and geographically, but at least in the actual distance, that is not the case. In the Bering Strait, there are two islands. The island of Big Diomede belongs to Russia, while the Little Diomede Island belongs to the United States. The gap between these two islands is a measly two miles. The time difference, however, is an incredible 21 hours!
Tunnels to Alaska
The distance between Alaska and Russian is not that great, and for years the Russians have been planning to connect the two by building a 64-mile tunnel under the Bering Strait and train tracks leading up to the tunnel. The project is titled TKM-World Link, and it has earned the support of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Such a massive undertaking, believed by many to be the greatest engineering feat in history, will cost a whopping $65 billion and take 10 to 15 years to complete. The project is being funded not only by Russia but also by the United States, China, and Canada. The passage will transfer not only goods but also oil, natural gas, electricity, and passengers.
Where Are The Cosmonauts?
Back in the day, the whole world was watching the space race between Russia and the United States. In the 1950s, everyone was wondering who would be the first country to reach the moon. In 1959, Russia took the lead with Sputnik, and in 1969, they launched the first manned flight with cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.
The race to the moon took a heavy toll on Russia, and some of the people involved even paid with their lives. Due to the Russian's extreme secrecy, there have been allegations that they covered up those deaths. The men who allegedly lost their lives during the test launches are known today as the Lost Cosmonauts.
The Red Square
Visiting the famous Red Square in Moscow is on every would-be Russian traveler’s bucket list. The square is breathtakingly beautiful and extremely large and separates the Kremlin from a historic merchant quarter. Millions of tourists fill the square every year.
Many believe that the name of the square refers to Russia’s Soviet past, but that is simply not true. Many large squares in Russian cities are named “Red,” but only because the word for the color is very similar to the word for beautiful. The square and the Kremlin were both designated UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1990 because of their connection to Russian history.
Journalists Must Be Wary
Despite everything we’ve learned about Russia, there are many more things that remain a secret. Both the government and the people who live there feel that it is important to protect their image in the world and like to keep things under wraps. It is quite dangerous to try and shine a light on those secrets, as some journalists have already discovered. Russia holds the questionable record as the country with the most murdered journalists every year, many of which were highly esteemed by colleagues and readers.
In 2006, journalist, author, and human rights activist Anna Politkovskaya, who was known as a critic of President Putin, was murdered in the elevator of her apartment building. Maybe as a lesson to others, Politkovskaya was threatened, beaten, poisoned, and eventually shot.
Home to Many Incredible Animals
The sheer size and diverse landscapes of Russia pretty much guarantee that interesting wildlife will be found. The country is home to many species of animals, including the Siberian Tiger, the Siberian roe deer, the Russian bear, and many others.
The Siberian tiger, which is the biggest cat in the world, can be found in the Siberian Alps. The Russian bear has been a symbol of Russia for generations and is the country’s most popular animal. The Zov Tigra National Park has been established to aid in conserving Russia’s native species.
Russian men may keep a high profile out in the world, but many people don’t realize the women in Russia have plenty of power of their own. Equal rights for women became guaranteed by law in 1993, including the right to paid maternity leave.
Russian women also have a much higher life expectancy than men, typically living to 75 years of age. Russians are known for their appreciation of women, and the women who live there are considered by many to be some of the freest women in the world.
Creatures of the Deep
This enormous country has plenty of fascinating animal specimens. Deep-sea fisherman Roman Fedortsov has become quite famous in the last few years, sharing his strange and interesting catches with the world on Twitter.
It doesn’t sound all that exciting, right? Well, wait until you see the fish he found; they would fit right into a scary movie or your nightmares. Fedortsov has even discovered whole new species, including sharks, sea spiders, and fish with incredibly sharp teeth.
A Long History with Helicopters
Although the very first helicopter was actually built by a Frenchman by the name Etienne Oehmichen, it was only capable of flying for one kilometer. It took Russian aviation pioneer Igor Sikorsky to modernize the flying machine and allow it to fly for longer distances.
Sikorsky also invented a type of helicopter in 1910, more than ten years before Oehmichen, but he took it apart for parts only a year later, when he realized it was never going to fly. In 1940, three decades later, he designed the VS-300 model, which he managed to test successfully. Its technology has been the basis for the vast majority of helicopters that have been manufactured since.
Say What You Mean
In many countries around the world, the question “How are you?” is part of polite small talk and will typically earn the asker a quick, one-word response. Although you better think twice before asking that question in Russia.
Asking a Russian “How are you?” means you are really interested, and they will tell you exactly how they are, at length and in detail. It is actually considered rude in Russia to answer the question with just a “fine” or a “good.”
The 439-meter-long SkyBridge lies 207 meters above the Krasnaya Polyana valley and forms part of the Sochi SkyPark, located to the northeast of this year's Winter Olympic host city.
The footbridge, which opened in the summer, also includes observation platforms that offer scenic views of the encompassing mountains and the Black Sea coast. At the same time, the most adventurous visitors can bungee jump from an observation deck halfway across.
Russians are Taught Not to Smile
Russia regularly takes first place when it comes to being the World’s Least Friendly country. Apparently, Russians are taught not to smile in school.
But despite this, most Russians are friendly and willing to help and will even assist tourists when they can.
In St. Petersburg, there sits Vasilevskiy Island, and it offers an incredible selection of attractions, including a set of 15th-century sphinxes from Egypt on the riverside.
If you ever happen to visit, be sure to check out the museum, which has a gallery full of biological quirks where you can see the skeleton and preserved heart of Peter, the Great’s gigantic personal servant.
Now That's a Big Museum
We've mentioned the Hermitage before, but did you know that if you spent 2 minutes at each exhibit in the Hermitage, it would take you 6 years to see it all, that's how big it is!
The Hermitage comprises six buildings, with over 3 million exhibits inside. Another interesting fact is that it’s also one of the biggest and oldest museums in the world as it was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great.
High Heels in Moscow
We all have this picture in our heads of women walking around in Moscow in 6-inch heels. Russia indeed equals the land of fabulous shoes.
And Russian women never failed to amaze as they traverse the cobbled streets in their 6-inch high-heels, never faltering. Maybe all the vodka numbs the feet?
Russians Pickle Like It's Their Job
Seeing as their summers pass by in the blink of an eye while winters drag on forever, pickling is an important part of Russian cuisine. To preserve their summer harvest, Russians pickle everything they can - from cabbage, mushrooms, apples, beetroot, and even their former leaders.
In Moscow's center, a mausoleum serves as the resting place of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin, and his preserved body has been on public display there.
Some Strange Artifacts
For all the history buffs out there, the Hotel Astoria in St Petersburg is where Hitler planned to hold a substantial celebratory banquet once he'd conquered the city.
The city was called Leningrad back then, of course. Nowadays, only its restaurant remains in place and is said to be one of the best picks in town to sample traditional Russian food.
As a transcontinental country situated in Eurasia, Russia has borders in both Europe and Asia. This would mean that Russia has borders with 16 countries, including two maritime boundaries with Japan and the United States.
Russia has a land border encompassing 20,241 kilometers (12,577 mi) and has the second-longest land border of any country, after China. As a transcontinental country in Eurasia, Russia shares borders in both Europe and Asia.
Fines For Having a Dirty Car
You may have forgotten to wash your car, or maybe it has rained, and you just haven’t used it in a long time. In Russia, that doesn’t happen because there is a rule that fines you if your car gets dirty. This fact, even if it may seem excessive, has some logic.
Being a country where it rains and snows a lot, a large amount of mud is generated and often prevents seeing cars' registration plates in case of recklessness. So excessive dust is also taken into account by the police authorities.
The Village of Suzdal
The ancient village of Suzdal is only 15 square kilometers but has an incredible 53 churches. Suzdal is full of picturesque charm, and even though the population is now over 10,000, it still manages to retain its village feel.
In this small, unassuming town, there is a beautiful juxtaposition between Russian architecture and farmland. Suzdal is a tourist attraction as a part of the Golden Ring of Russia.