Almost anyone you ask can tell you a few basic Russian facts, like for instance, the obvious fact that Russia is where Siberian Tigers come from, or that vodka is one of Russia’s most prized commodities, but not many people know these other fascinating facts listed below.
So buff up on your Russian knowledge and impress your friends with these interesting facts about Russia!
From an outsider’s point of view, Russia may appear to be a man’s world, but surprisingly, women actually outnumber the men by almost nine million!
Did you know that Russia is larger than the (dwarf) planet, Pluto? Pluto is 16.6m km², and Russia is roughly an impressive 17m km².
In 1867, Alaska was still a part of Russia, but the United States bought it for 7.2 million dollars. It wasn’t until the year 1959 that the United States declared Alaska as the official 49th state.
Just last year, in 2013, Russia finally recognized beer as an alcoholic beverage. Before that, the government declared that any drink containing less than 10% alcohol content wasn’t harmful, so it was sold at all hours of the day. There are now rules in place to control and regulate any heavy drinking. Today, beer is the 2nd most popular alcoholic drink in Russia, after vodka of course. Bonus fact: The word “voda” means “water” in Russian, which is where the word “vodka” comes from.
During Peter the Great’s reign (1721-1725), all men with beards were encouraged to shave their faces, or they were forced to pay a beard tax. For those individuals who chose to wear long robes instead of embracing the more modern clothing styles of that time had to pay a robe tax as well. This was Peter’s way of implementing social modernization in Russia.
Cats serve as art guardians at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. That’s right, cats live in the palace basement, putting their keen hunting skills to use to keep rats and other rodents off the premises. The cats have comfortable beds and baskets to sleep in, are provided food to eat, and are looked after by the museum’s “Cat Curators” right under visiting tourists’ feet.
Lake Baikal is located in Russia, which just so happens to be the largest, deepest, and at 25 million years old, believed to be the oldest freshwater lake in the world. Lake Baikal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to over 1,700 species, including the mysterious (and adorable) Baikal Seal. On that same note, 26 items on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list can all be found in Russia.
The beautiful Moscow Metro is the fourth largest subway system in the world, used by roughly nine million people every day. There are 195 stations, most of them underground, reaching depths of 243 feet. Tourists flock to document this incredible underground system mainly because of its impressive artwork and construction. Some people say it could almost double as an art museum!
Did you know that because of its size, Russia shares a border with 14 other countries? Finland, Ukraine, Mongolia, Norway, Kazakhstan, Belarus, North Korea, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, and last but not least, China.
Though the United States may have been the first to land on the moon (in 1969), it was the Russians who launched a man into space first. Yuri Gagarin, a Soviet Cosmonaut, journeyed into outer space on April 12th, 1961 and successfully completed an orbit of Earth in his Vostok spacecraft.
These are just ten of the hundreds of fun facts about this unique and historic country. Uncover all of this and more when you travel Russia for yourself! What will you discover?