Few countries are as fascinating as Russia. These days, when we hear about Russia, it only related to Trump or war or Putin. But there is so much more to the biggest country in the world than just Putin or war or Vodka.
Since the Cold War ended and the Communist regime ended in 1991, Russia has known many changes, social, financial, geopolitical, you name it. If someone from 80s Russia would land in his country today, he would hardly recognize it.
Since the year 2000, Vladimir Putin has been in charge of Russia, mostly as president, but also as the prime minister. But what do you really know about this country from the north that spans 11 time zones?
Here are some images that will help you get to know Russia:
1. The Land of Women
According to a 2014 Statistic Committee report, 10.5 million more women are living in Russia than men. While the number of boys and girls who are born is about the same according to parliament member Tatyana Moskalkova, somewhere around the age of 30, men find it hard to survive.
The primary causes are alcohol poisoning, car accidents, war or violent crimes. So if you’re a guy over 30, good for you! And also, stay safe.
2. Vodka Rules
This fact is hardly surprising, but Russians LOVE vodka. It’s the national drink and the most popular one in the country.
By the way, they drink it straight. NO ICE.
Alcohol consumption in Russia is one of the highest in the world, and about 23,000 people die of alcohol poisoning each year. That’s not counting any other alcohol-related death. The country has been trying to improve the situation through all sorts of alcohol-banning legislation, but so far it hasn’t been successful.
3. They Play Hockey with a Ball
Ice hockey is one of the most popular sports in Russia. So much so, that they invented their own form of ice hockey, called Bandy, or Russian Hockey, which is also highly popular. While hockey is played by two 6-player teams, the Russian version has two teams of 11 players which play two 45 minute halves – same as football. And they hit a ball instead of a puck.
Bandy is considered a national sport in Russian, and it’s the only discipline to have the official support of the national Orthodox Church.
4. The Pepsi Breakthrough
In 1959, then U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon held a televised debate with Russian premier Nikita Khrushchev in Moscow which came to be known as the Kitchen Debate, as it was held in a mockup of an American style kitchen. During the debate, in which each politician promoted his country’s political and economic agenda, Nixon offered Khrushchev a Pepsi.
While the Russian leader took only a “skeptical sip” from one of the symbols of Capitalism, in the 1970s the U.S. made a vodka for Pepsi barter deal with the Soviets, making the American soft drink the first Capitalist product to be sold in Communist Russia.
5. Women in Politics
While Russia is definitely a socially conservative country, women have managed to reach prominent political roles, occupying influential positions in both parliament and government.
One example is Ukrainian-born rising star politician Natalia Poklonskaya, who serves as Deputy of the State Duma, which is the lower house of the Russian Federal Assembly. Other notable women politicians are deputy prime minister for social affairs Olga Golodets and minister of health Veronika Skvortsova.
6. Brains and Beauties
The ‘Miss Russia’ beauty pageant has been running since 1992 and has produced some of the most beautiful women in the world. The winner of the contest gets to represent Russia at the Miss Europe’ Miss World and Miss Universe contests.
Not only have many winners gone on to conquer international beauty crowns, Miss Russia title holders usually are not merely beautiful faces. Past winners include a global economics student, a cybernetic systems student, and some went on to become a police officer or a power engineer.
7. A Beard Tax
Not to worry, hipsters, this is only a weird historical fact. Apparently, sporting a beard was also very trendy in 1698 Russia, to the dismay of Emperor Peter I.
He wanted Russian men to look more like their Western European counterparts (who didn’t have beards), so he made every Russian who wanted to sport a beard pay a tax. Those who couldn’t pay were publicly shaved. Nice.
8. Secret Cities Are a Thing
In Russia today, 44 cities that are officially classified as closed, holding a population of around 1.5 million people. Some speculate that there are 15 more, but nobody knows their names or their locations.
They are called ZATO, which stands for Closed Administrative-Territorial Formations, and access to them is strictly prohibited. Many of these closed cities used to be part of the Russian military or industrial complex, and, so you better stay away!
9. The Lost Cosmonauts
During the Cold War and the Space Race in the 1950’s, Russia scored some pretty big wins over the U.S., like the first artificial Earth Satellite Sputnik 1 and Yuri Gagarin’s first manned space flight in 1961.
While both the American and Russian sides made sacrifices in the race to the moon, it is rumored that the Soviets covered up many of the fatalities that occurred during flight testing and launches. They are called the Lost Cosmonauts, and their records have been almost entirely wiped out!
10. Russian Athletes
Russia has a very rich yet complicated history when it comes to sports competitions. During the Cold War, the Soviet regime pushed athletes to the limit in its quest to beat the U.S. in any sporting competition. This included using banned substances, which resulted in bans, stripped medals and deleted world records.
A recent state-sponsored doping scandal led to a partial ban on Russian athletes from the 2016 Summer Olympics and a complete ban from the 2018 Winter Olympics, which later turned to a partial ban.
Nevertheless, Russian athletes have known great success in almost every sport imaginable, like tennis superstars Anna Kournikova and Maria Sharapova (who was banned for a year) or Ice hockey player Sergei Fedorov, and long jumper Darya Klishina.
11. Red is Beautiful
When you say “red” and “Russian”, you automatically think of Communism. So it’s obvious that Moscow’s famous Red Square has something to do with the Soviet Union. Wrong!
The Red Square was initially constructed in the 16th century with the hope of becoming Moscow’s central marketplace but became a site for many public ceremonies, declarations and Czar coronation ceremonies. The square’s name comes from the word “Krasnyi,” which also means “beautiful.”
12. The Escaped Hare
To the left of the Ioannovsky bridge in St. Petersburg, near the Peter and Paul fortress you can find a metal statue of a hare that has a somewhat frightened look on it face.
This sculpture commemorates the hares that used to live on Zaychiy Ostrov (“Hare Island”) in large numbers, and those who perished in the many floods that plagued this beautiful city in the 18th and 19th centuries. Legend has it that one hare managed to survive by hiding inside the boot of Peter the Great.
13. The Amber Room Mystery
The Amber Room was a lavish chamber located in the Catherine Palace of Tsarskoye Selo near Saint Petersburg that featured gold leaves, mirrors, and amber panels.
After Nazis looted it in the World War 2, they took it to Königsberg, Germany in order to rebuild it. Mysteriously, the chamber was never seen again, and reconstruction efforts have failed.
14. It’s Always 2:10 am Somewhere
In the beautiful Hermitage Palace, above the mantelpiece in the White Dining Room, there is a very special clock. For more than 100 years, It shows the time to be 2:10 am.
Usually, you know the date when a revolution happened, but in this instance, you can be more precise: On October 25, 1917, at 2:10 am the Bolsheviks arrested Russia’s provisional government and Russia became a Communist country.
15. Everybody Has a Dash Cam
Go to any video site and type “dash cam,” you will find plenty of hair-raising crazy videos of near accidents or actual freak accidents. And more often than not, these videos come from Russia.
Russians use dash cams for two reasons: 1) To protect themselves from fraud, like people who fake injuries to get money. 2) To protect themselves from police harassment and fake traffic tickets.
One thing is sure, Russians do live on the edge.
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