Contrary to popular belief, the land known as a ‘riddle wrapped in an enigma’ has more to offer than frozen temperatures and premium vodka. Spanning 11 time zones and two continents, Russia is by far the largest country in terms of size, and you can bet in all that space there are some curious goings-on. Below are 21 seriously fascinating facts about the largest country in the world — some might even have you changing your opinion of Russia altogether.
Although it’s hard for English speakers to imagine, the Russian language does not contain articles such as “the” or “a” in its vocabulary. But with almost 260 million people fluent in Russian across the globe, the language has many other forms that don’t exist in English: like the concept of four grammatical genders.
Another strange fact about Russia is the amount of dogs that utilize the subway system – yes, dogs. About 500 homeless pups use this means of transportation per day to come into the city for food and return to the suburbs at night. They’re also commonly referred to as “metro dogs.”
Don’t worry, Russia has a fine setup for the cats of the country as well. There are over 200 felines that work at the Moscow Cats Theatre, performing in huge productions that sometimes take years of practice. It’s clearly well worth the wait since the theater recently celebrated its 25th anniversary.
A much less playful cat can be seen in the Siberian Alps – the Siberian tiger. Being the biggest cat in the world, it’s only right that its home is within the mountains of the biggest country as well.
Possibly deadlier than those tigers, are the massive icicles dangling from the roofs in Russia during its winter months. These death traps mostly hang from the gutters in Moscow where the sidewalks below them are usually blocked off. In 2010, over 150 people were injured due to falling icicles!
Though icicles aren’t necessarily killing Russians, their population is quite low. So much so that the governor of Ulyanovsk has come up with a “Day of conception” where couples are given half a day off from work every year to procreate.
We already know Russia is huge, but how big is it really? Well, the U.S.A. fits inside it twice, with room to spare. But even more surprising is the fact that it’s quite literally planet-sized. Russia is actually larger than Pluto – by more than 98 million acres to be exact. This means that it’s bigger than the 10th largest mass in the solar system!
Speaking of space, everyone knows about the infamous race to the moon between Russia and the United States. Though both sides made some serious sacrifices, rumor has it that Russia covered up a number of deaths that occurred during flight testing and failed launches. This group of essentially erased people have even been dubbed, “The Lost Cosmonauts.”
The bizarre procreation holiday, if you will, has nothing on Russia’s old beard tax. Though it’s no longer implemented, this odd rule was made to enforce a ban on long, hairy facial hair. If any bearded man was found, the Russian police would forcibly shave it off – in public!
The Russian people’s response to such odd laws throughout history was, well how they dealt with most things – alcohol. But did you know beer wasn’t even considered an alcoholic beverage until 2011? Up until that point, anything that had an alcohol content less than 10% was considered liquid food.
Something much stronger than beer that many Russians love to consume is, you guessed it, Vodka. It’s actually become the national favorite! Sadly, however, every year about 23,000 people die of alcohol poisoning, Russia being the highest of these rates in the world.
Alcohol abuse may be one of the leading killers in Russia, but the Grim Reaper also favors its journalists. Being a country obsessed with its reputation, it’s not that surprising to learn that those tainting it are usually quickly taken out of the equation.
Journalists aren’t the only ones being watched in Russia. Dash cams have almost become a necessity for drivers wanting to avoid fraud. Apparently, a high number of people will stage accidents on the streets in order to collect money!
What’s happening beneath the roads of Russia may be more alarming to you than a fake car crash. With Alaska so close, Russia has decided to build three underground tunnels connecting the country and the state. The project is called TKM-World Link, with its main goal being to save money on shipping costs…
Thought creating tunnels under sea level was a big deal? Check out these humungous pipelines! Russia has the largest reserves of natural gas in the world, making them the biggest exporter as well. With that much supply going around, these pipelines are long enough to wrap around the Earth six times!
While heaps of natural gas are exported from Russia, massive amounts of a drug called krokodil is being imported. Its name derives from it leaving users with reptilian looking skin, as it becomes gangrenous to the body. Being ten times stronger than morphine, many become addicted and die within two or three years.
For all of those that destroy their body in Russia, there’s an equal amount building it. Weightlifting, wrestling, and powerlifting are some of the most popular sports in Russia. Believe it or not, those who participate are mostly women.
Maybe that last fact won’t be so hard to imagine when you find out that there’s actually 10.5 million more women in Russia than men. Though there’s an equal number of boys and girls at birth, most men die young due to industrial trauma, war, and car accidents.
There’s actually something bigger than the number of muscular women in Russia, and that’s McDonald’s. Yup, Moscow is the proud home of the largest chain of the most popular fast food restaurant in the world. Over 30,000 people were served at its debut in 1990 – some waited almost 6 hours to have a taste!
20. A much more historical place than McDonald’s is the White Dining Room in the Hermitage Palace. On October 25, 1917, Russia’s provisional government was arrested by the Bolsheviks at precisely 2:10am, thus making Russia a communist country. A very special clock on the mantelpiece has been stopped at that time for almost 100 years!
If you wanted to visit a place like the Hermitage Museum, we’ll have you know that Russia actually charges tourists, as well as other foreign visitors, more than its residents. With around 10,000 British visiting yearly, Russia sure has enough money left over for other things… like vodka!
Most people obey “No Trespassing” signs without hesitation, but not in Russia. Ever since her teens, the Moscow native, Lana Sator, chased thrills by exploring all kinds of derelict buildings and forgotten places. By 2012, she’d built up quite a reputation.
Lana regularly shared footage of her exploits online. Other adventurers, impressed by her accomplishments, offered to team up and share intel. Their combined research led Lana to a site that would prove to be her biggest expedition ever.
On the outskirts of the Russian city of Khimki, a mysterious factory pumped out smoke every day. Clearly, the site was still active — except no one could say exactly what went on there. Lana intended to find out.
Under the cover of night, Lana and her team made their move. Using a few storage sheds on the exterior of the facility as cover, the explorers edged closer to the main building. It was amazing — the site was far larger than they initially expected.
Making sure her excitement didn’t overwhelm her, Lana kept an eye out for security. She didn’t know what would happen if they were caught, but she was sure it would be nothing good. The team continued their slow approach.
Lana anticipated the main gate would present their biggest challenge. They would likely have to sneak past professional guards, cameras, and spotlights. This was a big step up from the abandoned Cold War relics she usually visited. But what she saw around the central building blew her away.
Despite the factory still operating, there were no guards in sight. Lana and her friends just waltzed right in. They gazed up in amazement at the towering stacks and catwalks that loomed above them. There was so much to see!
Lana wanted to reach the highest point of the factory, but first she had to work her way up through various rooms filled with strange switches and meters. Halfway there, Lana froze. She led her team directly into the sight line of a security camera.
The team’s first instinct was to bail, but Lana made them wait. No guards came rushing in, and no sirens blared around them. If these cameras even worked, nobody on the other side was watching. The explorers had the entire factory to themselves.
With renewed confidence, Lana convinced her friends to continue their expedition. Their courage was immediately rewarded, as they came across sights that looked more like a sci-fi movie set than an actual factory. What could they possibly be building here?
After scoping out the base of the stacks for a while, Lana found what she was looking for: a way up. The passage was just a series of ladders — nothing fancy, or particularly safe — but Lana had no issues with that. She headed up.
The view from the top took Lana’s breath away. She could see everything around them for miles and miles, and more importantly, Lana got a birds-eye view of the entire facility. One central building really stole her attention.
Moving further inside the factory, Lana beheld gigantic pipes and storage tanks that dwarfed anything she’d ever seen before. This heavy-duty machinery clearly made something special. As she moved into an adjacent storage room, Lana gasped.
She stared at the clusters of tubes before her, trying to figure out where she’d seen them before. Then it hit her — she knew exactly what went on the factory her teamed as exploring.
These tubes were the engines for rockets! Lana called her friends over, and they put it all together. This Khimki factory made weapon parts for the Russian government.
The team confirmed their theory when they located the main floor, complete with a huge cylindrical stand where workers assembled the rocket engines. Thrilling as it was, Lana and her pals realized they had to get going soon. Daylight was fast approaching.
Of course, Lana snapped a picture of herself posing inside the stand before they left. She was so excited to post all of her latest photos online that she never stopped to consider who exactly might see them.
Within days, a Russian cyber-security team came across Lana’s exploits. They were none too happy that a bunch of thrill-seekers snuck into a top-secret factory and shared its purpose.
Soon after, Lana received a cease and desist letter. Addressing the adventurers as “cheeky mice,” the message warned there would be severe consequences if Lana didn’t stop her meddling. And this was no form letter either. The sender was none other than Russian Defense Minister Dmitry Rogozin.
Was this the end of Lana’s adventures? She shuddered at the thought of giving up her greatest passion, but she also didn’t want to make herself into an enemy of the state. Her entire future was hanging in limbo.
But people would always try to stop her, she knew, so she couldn’t let threats get in the way of her dream. Though the Khimki find was massive, Lana understood it was still only the beginning for her. There was still a light at the end of the tunnel — and it led to her next adventure.