31 Eye-Opening Facts About Russia

Russia has always been surrounded by misunderstanding, legends, and mysteries. So, I decided to make a post that will give you a better understanding on how things are going here. Here you will find the most unexpected facts about Russia that may change your attitude to the country, or at least make you look at it from a different angle.

Moscow is Not Russia. Or at Least That’s What Russians Say

Moscow is famous as the biggest and the richest city in Europe. 12 million people live there (which is 8% of the total population of Russia). There are more billionaires in Moscow than in any other place in the world – 79, according to Forbes.  In comparison, the rest of the country seems calmer and friendlier. That’s why locals say: “If you’ve been to Moscow, it doesn’t mean you saw the real Russia.”

A Dead Man is One of the Main Tourist Attractions in Russia

Facts about russia

This construction on the right in the photo is The Lenin’s Mausoleum – a place where you can actually see the mummy of a Soviet leader in a glass coffinette. It’s not like modern Russians are huge admirers of the communist leader,  they just prefer not to break things they can live in peace with. By the way, in 2019 you can have a look at the leader of the world proletariat for free!

Soviet People Had Never Lived Communism

Soviet citizens didn’t manage to reach communism, promised by the party leaders after the revolution and the subsequent establishment of the Soviet Union in 1922. People of the USSR have only reached socialism, which is a kind of a midway station between capitalism and true communism.  An announcement about the achievement of this long-cherished goal was made in 1934. However, the real-communist dream had never become true.

Russians Call WWII Differently

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Military actions against the USSR are known as the Eastern Front, but Russians call the WW II by a different name: the Great Patriotic War. For the first time, this phrase was pronounced in the official radio message to the nation at 12:00 on the 12th June 1941: “…The Great Patriotic War of the Soviet people against the Nazi invaders has begun….” This phrase was enshrined in memory and is still used as a synonym to WW II.

One-eighth of All Land in the World is Russia

The total area of Russia is 17 million square kilometers—almost ½ of the Moon’s surface area. Russia takes ⅛ of all land on the Earth and by all means, this is the largest country in the world. It is washed by 12 oceans and stretches over 11 time zones. It’s the length from East to West is around 9,200 kilometers (over 5,700 miles) – that’s more than 200 marathons. So if you want to cross the whole country you’ll have to do a lot of running.

Russia is Shrinking Fast

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Автор: Braginjohn – собственная работа, CC BY-SA 4.0, Ссылка, Changes made: translation from Russian into English

With 144.5 million population, Russia is experiencing a demographic crisis. In 1917, Russia overcame a very bloody revolution that took about 8% of the population. WWII in 1941 took the lives of 12% of the country. In 1991, with the collapse of the USSR, Russia experienced a severe crisis. To improve the demographic situation, the government pays 7,500$ to each mother who has a second baby.

Uninhabited Lands Make Russia Large.

Since the 15th century, Tzars have sent expeditions and troops to unknown Eastern lands. In Europe, Russia had to fight like hell to get new territories, while in the East, soldiers didn’t meet opposition. Tzars didn’t break the traditional aborigine’s way of life, so the integration happened in a relatively bloodless way. This is how Russia got vast desert Northern territories. Even these days they seem virgin. Take a unique chance to see these pristine lands!

Russia is Inhabited by Russians… and 180 Other Different Peoples

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Although Russians the largest part of the population – 79%  – there is a great number of various peoples and nationalities with their own languages, traditions, and cultures: Tatars (20%), Ukrainians (10%), Bashkirs (6%), and many many others. All in all, Russia is a place for about 180 different peoples who manifest more than 70 religions.

Russia hasn’t Been Discovered

The term “discovered” may not be applied to Russia as there were no settlers who came to inhabited lands.  Before Russia or Rus’ was founded, it’s territory was settled by Slavic and Finno-Ugric tribes. These tribes wanted to end up with permanent confrontation between each other and in 862 A.C. called “an external manager” – Scandinavian Rurik. He and his brothers ruled the main cities of the region. This year is considered to be the year of the ancient Rus foundation.

Russia is Divided Into 85 Pieces

Russia is called the “Russian Federation” because, like any other federation, it consists of constituent units. Russia is sort of an alliance of 85 federal subjects. Except for the overall Russian Constitution, these units have their own constitutions or charters as well. From this standpoint, Russia is a federative state, the same as the USA, Canada, Germany, and many others.

Russia Changed its Name 5 Times

Since the foundation, the country has been called Rus’. In the 5th-16th centuries it was called Russia, until 1721 when Peter the Great claimed the country and called it The Russian Empire. The name remained until the 20th century. After the Revolution (from September 1st, 1917) Russia became the Russian Republic, and then four months later – the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Though it is strongly associated with the USSR, it was one republic out of many others. Finally, after the USSR collapsed in 1991, the country was renamed the Russian Federation.

Russians Relax on 0,15 acres

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A classic “dacha” is a small seasonal home, located on a tiny patch of land (600 sq. meters (or 0,15 acres) in the vicinity of a town. Though nowadays Russians can afford to go abroad for a vacation, many people prefer to spend time at their dachas, where they traditionally grow potatoes, tomatoes, and cucumbers. In the heavy times of the 1990s, products grown on these smalls plots of land made a substantial part of a daily menu.

Russians don’t Drink as Much as You Think

According to the WHO, Russia has dramatically reduced consumption of alcohol per capita annually: from 15,800 liters in 2010 to 11,700 in 2016. Vodka is disappearing from Russian tables giving place to vine and beer: over the last ten years, strong liquor consumption has reduced by 10% and now it’s comparable to America’s. High prices, forbidding the sale after 11:00 p.m. and criminal prosecution for drunk drivers made alcohol much less available and attractive.

There’re Just 4 Kilometers (2,5 miles) Between Russia and the US

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Permission details

Though the distance between Washington and Moscow is almost 8,000 km (5,000 miles), geographically Russia is separated from America by just 4 kilometers (2,500 miles). This is the distance between Ratmanova Island (Russia) and Kruzenshtern Island (USA) in the Bering Strait. So, you can literally see people on the other side of the border.

The Russian Flag Was Abandoned for More Than 70 Years

The Russian tricolor became the official flag of the Tsardom of Russia in 1696, but during the Soviet era, it was replaced with a red flag with the blue sickle, a hammer, and a golden bordered red star in the top left a corner. The flag of the USSR and its Russian Soviet republic were alike, but they were not the same. The tricolor was returned as the official flag in 1991, after the dissolution of the Soviet regime.

The Soviet Inventor of Tetris is Now Working for Microsoft

The world-famous matching-puzzle video game was originally developed by Soviet game designer Alexey Pajitnov in 1984 and in 2007 it become second in the list “100 Greatest Video Games of All Time”. Although more than 170 million copies of the game were sold, Pajitnov himself didn’t make much money on his invention. Nowadays he working on a multi-user version of the game in Microsoft. And he’s close to completing it!

Russians are not Angry, They Just Smile Differently

In the European tradition, a smile is an obligatory attribute of any polite communication, but for Russians it plays a different role. First of all, Russians don’t smile “with teeth”. Secondly, a smile is a sign of personal sympathy, that’s why they don’t smile to unknown people. A Russian smile also needs to have a specific reason: a good joke, pleasure of communication, otherwise, as a proverb says, it’s a sign of stupidity.

Alaska Was too Much for the Russian Empire

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Emanuel Leutze (d. 1868) [Public domain]

In 1867, Russia sold Alaska because it was too far from St. Petersburg, making the territory difficult to manage, control, and protect. It also didn’t promise any sustainable incomes (at that time nobody knew about its rich resources). Russia couldn’t spread its sources that’s far, so it picked up Syberia as a region to put forces into. The money from this deal – 11 million rubles, were spent on the development of the Russian railway net. 

Russia is a Woman

The phrase “Mother Russia” comes from the fact that Russian people identify their country with a feminine substance. For ancient Slavs, a country meant a land, and soil is something that gives birth, so it’s strongly identified with a woman. The term “Mother Russia”, or “Motherland” was largely popularized by Soviet propaganda. However, nowadays nobody says this phrase in their daily life.

200 years ago, Russians Froze the French

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Russia defeated Napoleon in Franco-Russian conflict (a part of the British-American War) thanks to smart tactics and… to the weather. From June to September 1812, the French army moved inland, having destroyed everything on its way and instead of fighting on the borders, Russians stepped back. But then winter has begun and the French army appeared to be trapped on totally devastated lands with all the consequences: hunger, diseases, and even lack of suitable clothes. This was the time where Russians consolidated their power and stroke back and destroyed Napoleon’s army.

The Most Northern Russian City is not the Coldest One

Pavek is the furthest Russian northern city: it’s just about 350 km (270 miles) from the Arctic Circle. There, 4000 people live in severe climate conditions: the average winter temperature is -28С (-18.4F) with the lowest -50 (-58F). However, the coldest place in Russia is Oymyakon – a tiny town with a population of about 500 people, where the minimal registered temperature was -77C (-106,6F)

Russians Gravitate Towards Life-long Rulers

The current president, Vladimir Putin, has been governing the country for 15 years: from 2000 – 2008 and from 2012 – now. His term expires in 2024 and the total period of his presidency will be 20 years. By that time he will be 72. The previous record was made by Leonid Brezhnev, who ruled the USSR for 18 years that ended with his pass of at the age of 75.

Russian Presidential Elections are Held Once Every 6 Years

The Russian president is elected once every 6 years (before 2008, it was once every 4 years). The president is elected by the direct voting of people. On a certain day, Russians citizens come to voting addresses and fill in the bulletin and give their votes to one candidate. Last time, 67% of Russians participated in the president’s elections.

Russians Never Drink Vodka Slowly

Facts about russia

When Russians drink vodka, they usually use short glasses and do it in one go. For the drink to go smoother, it should be very cold. Vodka has no pleasant flavor or taste, so it’s usually chased with herring, pickles, or anything sour or salty. At the table, Russians usually make toasts. If you want to drink like a real Russian, I have an article, that discloses the major drinking traditions.

Russia is a Wild Mix of Europe and Asia

If we assume the Ural mountains are a border between Europe and Asia, most of the Russian territory is on the Eastern side. However, the vast majority of the population of the country live in the European part. Culturally and politically, Russia was influenced by the Roman Empire and Byzantine (as most European countries) and by Mongols, that came from the East. According to a recent poll, most Russians consider that the country is more European than Asian.

Russia Fought for Alaska

The first to see the land of Alaska were Russian expeditors in 1648. Over the next 200 years, Russians consistently settled the region. However, not without problems: in 1802, locals started fighting against the Russian colonists, but were suppressed. This conflict is called the Russian-Indian War. In the 1820s, Russian Company crossed with the British Hudson’s Bay Company and, to avoid confrontation, countries established the property lines in 1825.

Russian Roulette Hasn’t Always been “Russian”

This extreme fun with a lethal outcome was popular in the Russian army at the beginning of the XX century was called “Hussar roulette” because it was extremely popular among Russian officers, along with duels. To the world, it’s known as “Russian roulette” thanks to the article by Georges Surdez in Collier’s Weekly in 1937, where he describes the procedure.

Russians are #1 in Programming.

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Russia has inherited a great school of maths from the USSR. At universities, math departments had quickly evolved into the Institutions of informatics and computer sciences. At school, Russian students are never allowed to use calculators and learn about polynomials from the age of 14. There is a system of special mathematical schools and lyceums that develop computing skills from childhood.

Russians Don’t Say “Comrade” Any More

When you are in Russia, don’t say the term “comrade” or “tovarich” to address locals – it would seem veeeeeery weird. Nowadays, this word, which meant “a close friend” is strongly associated with a totalitarian regime and unfreedom. Back then, it was a word that meant equality, but these days the word has a negative meaning and may be said in a sarcastic way.

Almost Every Russian Driver Has a Dash-cam

Corruption and scam on roads as well as very expensive car insurance means Russian drivers all have a dash-cam in a car. In the vast majority of cases, courts totally rely on what the policemen say in the protocol, so the only way to prove your innocence is to show a video record of the event. This is a reliable source of information that has actually helped many people across the country avoid unfair trials.

Russian Blue Cats are the Best

These hats have incredibly soft and plush fur that makes them very pleasant to touch. It is preferable for people with allergies. They’re also highly intelligent animals, well-behaved, and easy to train. Their curious and playful character means they won’t be sad while their owner is at work. They like a human’s company and this makes them a good candidate for a family.

Anastasia Korol

Anastasia Korol is an enthusiastic Russian language tutor. She gives effective, goal-oriented lessons to students all over the world. Thousands of people have already followed her Instagram.

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