Most people think of bears and vodka when Russia is mentioned. However, there’s much more to Russia that may challenge the obvious associations you have about the country.
Covering a massive area of Asia and Europe, Russia has always been a country of interest for various reasons. It is known for its enticing politics, history, literature, and rich culture. This list of Russia facts will help you know more about this fascinating country.
Read on as we take you through the land of the Hermitage, the Red Square, and several other world-renowned spots.
Startling Russia Facts
1. Russia is Huge
Quite frankly, Russia is enormous. Not only does the country span two whole continents, but it is 17.3 million square kilometers wide. Do you understand what that means?
That means Russia is bigger than the planet Pluto, which is 16.3 million kilometers wide.
2. Red Square Does Not Have Anything to With Communism
That’s right! The famous square in Moscow was actually named for its breathtaking looks rather than politics. The language of Russia has heavy influences on Old Church Slavonic, which was the official literary language of Moscow until the 1600s.
In the 19th century, Red Square was completed, and it was called “red,” which comes from a Slavic word that means “beautiful.” This, however, isn’t surprising since the city is indeed beautiful.
3. The Famous Matryoshka Doll Has Japanese Roots
The story goes that famous Russian artist, Sergey Malyutin was looking for a design for a Russian doll when he was gifted a daruma doll from Japan.
This doll had other smaller dolls hidden inside of it. The first-ever Matryoshka had eight dolls inside it and was made in 1890 by Zvyozdochkin, an expert crafter of wooden dolls. He used Malyutin’s drawings for the design.
4. You’re Going to Find Stray Dogs in the Metro
The dogs in Moscow have had to become street smart to survive the harsh winter.
While exploring the beautiful metro system of the city, you may find its clever canine citizens hopping off and on the trains. They’ve memorized the metro stops by the announcements while others have befriended the security guards.
They also help moderate the rat population!
5. Moscow Has One of the Busiest Metros in the World
Often known for being one of the busiest metros globally, the metro in Moscow has over 12 lines, and more than 6 million people use it daily.
While this may sound intimidating, it is also one of the easiest metros to use since you won’t have to wait more than 40 seconds between each train. There’s also a clock at each stop to time the intervals between trains.
6. Russians Have Several Superstitions
Whether they’re rubbing a dog’s paw (only from their left hand) to see a boost in their income or tossing a coin into Peter the Great’s boot (to make a wish), Russians believe in a lot of superstitions.
One interesting one is how Russians decided where they should build their homes. Russian ancestors believed that the first person to enter a house would die in the past.
They sent in a cat first to avoid this since they have nine lives! If the cat did not enter, they’d tear down the entire structure and build a house elsewhere.
7. Technically, Gerard Depardieu Lives in Russia
The most celebrated habitant of Saransk is Gerard Depardieu. He left France due to its new and more robust tax laws, and in 2013, he was granted Russian citizenship by Vladimir Putin.
For reasons that never saw the light of day, he chose to live in Saransk. He received an apartment as a gift from actor Nikolay Borodachyov. The actor also refurbished a cinema and has started a foundation in Depardieu’s name.
While you won’t necessarily find Depardieu walking the streets of Saransk, you can go to see a film he starred in the refurbished cinema.
8. Russians Had their Own Gang Wars
Local mafiosos created the notorious Uralmash gang for financial gain. Initially, they started controlling small businesses in Yekaterinburg but quickly gained power as the USSR dissolved.
The dissolution created widespread instability, and the city was soon in the grasp of sporadic turf wars. The arch-enemy of the Uralmash gang was the Central Gang.
Both gangs buried their dead in different cemeteries in two separate corners. You can also visit these famous spots since their gravestones are decorated with images.
On top of these gravestones, you’ll also see their defining qualities. While one gang member was an expert at throwing knives, another had amazing fist-fighting abilities. Different gang members own some juice bars, shopping malls, and hotels.
9. The Suzdal Village is 15 Kilometres and Has 53 Churches
The village of Suzdal is full of beauty. Even though the village’s population has gone above 10,000, it has still maintained its village-like charm and feels.
There is also a juxtaposition between the farmland and the Russian architecture.
10. Russia is Famous for Literature
If you love literature, you probably know that Russia has had its fair share of esteemed writers. Some of the great Russian authors are Ivan Turgenev, Alexander Pushkin, Vladimir Nabokov, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Anton Chekhov.
Several popular writers have dedicated museums you can visit. Most of these museums can be found in St. Petersburg and Moscow.
So whether you’re a fan of their work or don’t know who they are, you can learn a thing or two about Russian literature by visiting their museums.
11. Russia Has the Coldest Village in the World
There are no two opinions about the fact that Russia has some of the harshest winters in the world, and there’s no surprise that it has the coldest village in the world as well.
Oymyakon has an average of – 58 degrees Fahrenheit during the winters, and the lowest temperature ever recorded is – 96 degrees Fahrenheit.
These harsh living conditions have their share of disadvantages, though. For instance, if someone wears glasses outside in the cold, their glasses can freeze to their face. Furthermore, cars have to stay in heated garages to ensure they start when needed.
Moreover, getting to Oymyakon isn’t easy either! To get there, you’ll first have to go to Yakutsk, and from there you’ll have to take a two day car ride to the village. If you do, make sure you pack warm clothes!
12. America Bought Alaska from Russia for 7.2 Million Dollars
In 1897, Russia sold Alaska to America, and if you adjusted the price today for inflation, it would mean America bought Alaska for 120 million dollars.
At that time, Russia needed the money, and there weren’t many people living in Alaska. Apart from the money, Russia also believed that selling land to America would help subset the power of Europe.
13. There’s Only a 4 Kilometres Between Russia and America
Despite being on opposite sides for most of the 20th century, the USA and Russia are only separated by 4KMs of water.
Between the Bering Strait, there are two islands are called Big Diomede and Little Diomede. The USA owns Little Diomede, while Russia owns Big Diomede. The International Date Line runs between the two islands, which means that Big Diomede is a day ahead.
14. There Are Several Languages in Russia
The most popular one is Russian. The Ministry of Science and Higher Education claims that the country speaks around 270 languages with different dialects. These include major languages such as English, and German. They also include a few endangered languages like Ghodoberi and Votic.
15. The First Human to Go to Space Was Russian
The popular cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin went into outer space in 1961. Don’t know the difference between a cosmonaut and an astronaut?
Well, a cosmonaut is an individual who was trained by the Russian Space Agency, while astronauts are trained by NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, the European Space Agency, or the Japanese Space Exploration Agency.
16. Russia Has Lots of Trees
Russia has 20% (643 billion) of the world’s trees. No country has more. Approximately half of the country is covered by trees, and most of it is the boreal forest called Taiga.
These thick forests were once entirely under glaciers, but now, they are home to several brave species like wild boars, owls, the Siberian tiger, and eagles.
Unfortunately, though, these forests are now facing threats of deforestation, and organizations like Greenpeace and WWF are trying their best to save these forests.
101 Facts About Russia
It’s the biggest country globally and the source of vodka, the KGB, and Bond villains. These are 101 Facts about Russia.
The great country of Russia is an exciting place to visit if you love architecture, literature, history, and animals. While it isn’t necessarily one of the most popular tourist attractions, it is perfect for any person trying to get off a beaten path.
Hi I’m Jay. I grew up in Seattle, Washington and live in Los Angeles, California. I have travelled to 23 countries so far and planning to go explore more countries soon! My Favorite trips so far have been to Israel, Japan, Rome, Iceland and Australia. I started this site to share my love of travel with everyone and build a community of like-minded, free thinking, free exploring people.