When you think about Russia, you think of super cold weather, vodka and the villains in American movies. Seriously, why do so many Hollywood movies have Russian villains?
Russia, the largest country spanning over both Asia and Europe has many interesting stories to tell. Let’s check them out.
Interesting facts about Russia
1. Russia is the largest country in the world by area. In fact, the country’s total area covers 1/8 of the world!
Russia shares a border with 14 countries including Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, China, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and North Korea. No other country in the world has as many borders.
2. Russia has the most number of time zones. There are eleven time zones across the country, but since 2011 it has only used nine.
3. Russia is cold. Very very cold. In fact, Oymyakon in Siberia is the coldest inhabited town on the planet. The lowest temperature of −67.7 °C was recorded in 1933.
4. Lake Baikal in Russia is the deepest lake in the world. It is an estimated 5387 feet deep and its bottom is approximately 3893 feet below sea level. It is also the world’s largest freshwater lake containing about 20% of the total fresh water. The lake is home to more than 2000 species of plants and animals, two thirds of which can be found nowhere else in the world.
5. Almost half of the country is covered in forests. Russia also makes for 1/4th of the world’s reserves of wood. There are 642 billion trees in Russia. To know about how huge the number is I’ll tell you about Canada which comes second on the list with 318 billion trees.
The Siberian tiger is the most famous animal of the region. But they are very hard to spot as they are an endangered species.
6. Russians cats are employed by the famous Hermitage museum in St Petersburg. There are around 70 cats who act like guardians protecting priceless works of art from rats. The cats are valued by everyone. Each cat even has a personal passport and receives a regular salary.
And while the cats guard the museum, the dogs are being street smart. There are thousands of dogs living in Moscow and some of them have figured out how to navigate the metro. They hop on and off the trains easily and are used to the loud announcements and the crowded coaches. The people are also used to these furry creatures boarding alongside. The dogs easily befriend the fellow passengers. You have to look at those puppy eyes and BAM, you are hooked.
7. One of the major reasons for injuries during winters is huge icicles. The icicles hanging from the roofs in Moscow in winter are so enormous that the pavements below are sometimes closed so that no one gets seriously injured or worse killed!
8. Russians are often stereotyped with drinking alcohol and they don’t prove it wrong in any way. Russians are the world’s fourth biggest drinkers and an average Russian drinks more than 18 liters of alcohol per year. Surprisingly, beer was not considered an alcoholic beverage in Russia until 2013. That’s how the Russians roll.
9. Traffic in Moscow is really bad. There is a trick few wealthy Russians use to beat the jams. They hire/buy ambulances. Now that’s neat. Do you think it will work in India? I have seen many ambulances stuck in the jam so no promises on that front.
10. There are approximately 10 million more women in Russia than there are men. This is partly because many soldiers who were men died in battle during World War II. Another reason for the gap is because of lower life expectancy for males. Russian women live more than 10 years longer on average than their male counterpart.
11. Russia is home to Europe’s longest river, the Volga. It starts in the Valdai Hills to the northwest of Moscow and empties into the Caspian Sea covering a distance of 3690 km.
12. Lake Karachay was used as a dumping ground for nuclear waste. Today the site is considered the most polluted place on Earth from a radiological point of view. It is so radioactive that standing for one hour beside it would almost certainly kill you.
13. The capital city of Russia is also known as the billionaire capital. Moscow has one of the most billionaire residents in the world. With a current count of 70 billionaires, it is third on the list after Hong Kong (71) and New York (90). So don’t be surprised if you see an entourage of luxurious cars swishing away.
14. Russia and USA are much closer than you would like to believe. Well geographically of course. There are two islands, one belonging to Russia (known as Big Diamedes) and the second one belonging to the United States (known as Little Diamedes) which are just 3.8 km away from each other. The International Date Line separates the two islands and therefore both the islands have a 21 hours difference. Due to this, they are also referred as Tomorrow Island (Russia) and Yesterday Island (USA).
This separation happened when the United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867. Yes, Alaska was a part of Russia which it later sold to USA for $7.2 million.
15. Russia is the third largest producer of oil in the world, after United States and Saudi Arabia.
16. The Trans-Siberian Railroad is the longest in the world. It spans almost all the way across the county covering a distance of 9,289 kilometers. To travel the whole railroad, you would need to spend around a week in a train. The train starts in Moscow and ends in Vladivostok after crossing eight time zones.
17. There was a constant competition between Russia and USA for their space programs and even if Neil Armstrong was the first person to land on moon, it was a Russian who went in space before him. In 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first cosmonaut in space. In addition to sending the first person into outer space, the Soviet Union also launched the world’s first satellite in 1957, known as Sputnik.
18. To tell you how badass the Russians can be, I have to tell you about Helicopter Golf. Yes, this game is played exactly like how it sounds. You have to hit a one metre diameter ball on the snow with 5 metre golf clubs. Meanwhile you will be flying in a helicopter!
19. Moscow has the 2nd busiest metro in the world. With 2.4 billion people riding the metro annually, Moscow comes second in list just behind Tokyo.
The Moscow Metro is also considered to be the most beautiful metro in the world with clean and elegant stations.
20. Russians have a lot of superstitions. Shaking hands over a doorway is believed to be a bad omen. And if you want to give flowers to a pretty Russian girl (or a boy), make sure that they are in odd numbers. Gifting even number of flowers is considered bad luck and is associated with funerals.
21. A Russian woman holds the world record of giving birth, to 69 children. She was a wife to a peasant and gave birth to 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets and four sets of quadruplets. Interestingly the man had another wife who gave birth to 18 children. Was the man aiming for a century?
Trip leader Sakshi’s Recommendations if you are visiting Russia:
Lake Baikal: This huge high-altitude lake is the oldest and deepest lake in the world. It also contains 20% of the world’s fresh water. One of the best times to visit the lake is in winters when it is frozen. The lake is so clear that it’s possible to see up to 40 meters down into the water at some places. You can also ski across sections of the lake and take sleigh rides here.
Summer visitors, on the other hand, will be rewarded with marvelous scenery and the chance to swim in and boat on the world’s largest lake.
While here, you should also visit Olkhon Island, one of the world’s largest islands in Lake Baikal. The locals believe the island to be a powerful spiritual place. This area is also famous for its “walking trees,” an unusual phenomenon that causes strong winds to uncover tree roots on the beach and gives them the appearance of a standing person.
St. Petersburg: Russia’s second largest city is a wonderland for history and culture lovers. The city is filled with thousands of libraries, hundreds of museums, many beautiful theatres and edgy art galleries. The city has a European feel to it and attracts many travelers every year.
You can explore it on foot to admire the architecture, or hop on a canal cruise to explore this imperial city.
The Hermitage Museum, perhaps St. Petersburg’s most famous tourist attraction and the second largest art and culture museum in the world, has a collection of over three million arts art and artefacts. Don’t forget the cats who guard it.
Then there is Peterhof Palace located a little outside the city. Built in the early 1700s as a summer residence for Peter the Great, it greatly resembles the Palace of Versailles in France.
Amber Room located in the Catherine palace is a room comprising of gold leaf and mirror panels and is an amazing piece of art to witness. During the World War II many officials hid this treasure behind the wallpaper to secure the treasure from the Nazi army.
Visit the Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood and admire the intricate architecture.
Moscow: Visit the capital city which is home to some the best museums, galleries, and cultural institutions in the world
Moscow’s immense Red Square is the heart of the nation. Flanked on one side by the Kremlin’s red walls and the historic GUM department store on the other, it is home to the iconic St Basil’s Cathedral and Lenin’s mausoleum.
Moscow’s Metro stations are no less than palaces. Take a ride in the metro to check out the underground art.
Kizhi Island: A UNESCO Heritage site, this island showcases the iconic clusters of the 18th century Russian architecture. There are two large churches built from wood in a traditional Russian architecture and are the most famous attractions on this tiny island.
The Valley of Geysers: The second largest concentration of geysers in the world is located in Kamchatka region of Russia. The Kronotskiy Wildlife Refuge in the region is also one of the oldest wildlife reserves in Russia. Over 40 steaming-hot geysers and springs cover an eight-km squared canyon which makes for a stunning site.