Russia is an amazing country. It’s the largest country in the world – spanning 11 time zones – and is known for several things: being incredibly cold, the Cold War and its many secrets, and vodka, to name a few. However, there’s so much more to this country than just that (though you’ll see plenty of that on this list)! Since the year 2000, Vladimir Putin has been the President of Russia and it’s been a fascinating time. There’s a lot to learn about the country, though there’s just as much that’s kept a very tight secret. So, get ready to hear some seriously fascinating facts from the biggest country in the world:
1. It’s raining women
Though a man, Vladimir Putin, rules Russia, men are outnumbered in the country. In 2014, Russia’s State Statistic Committee published a report that showed that there were 10.5 million more women living in Russia than men.
According to a member of the Russian parliament, Tatyana Moskalkova, there is an equal number of boys and girls at birth. However, at around the age of 30, males begin to pass away, falling victim to, among other things, industrial trauma, war, and car accidents.
2. Everyone can agree on one thing: vodka
Russians LOVE vodka. They love pretty much all alcohol, but vodka is the national favorite, traditionally downed neat. During the holiday season, spending on alcohol usually averages $400 alone!
Every year, 23,000 people die of alcohol poisoning, and that’s not even including deaths caused by alcohol-related homicides, assaults, and suicides. Russia has the highest of these rates in the world! Russia has tried prohibition, but it hasn’t really worked out for them.
3. Russia and bodybuilding
Weightlifting and wrestling are very popular sports in the former Soviet Union, resulting in a large number of Olympic champions originating from the region. Powerlifting is also considered popular, and believe it or not, these sports aren’t considered solely masculin.
Russian women have been lifting weights and ruling the ring for ages while maintaining their femininity. Some of the best known names include weightlifter Nadezhda Alexandrovna Yevstyukhina, who won a gold medal in the 69 kg category when she was only 17, Maryana Naumova, who was entitled the youngest powerlifting world champion with 15 world records to her name, and powerlifter and fitness icon Julia Vins.
5. Beauty pageant winners
The “Miss Russia” beauty pageant is known to introduce some of the most beautiful faces to the world. The contest has been running since 1992, and the winner gets to represent her country in both Miss World and Miss Universe.
That’s not all the Russian beauties are up to, though. Past Miss Russia winners included a Power Engineer, a retired police officer, a global economics student, a cybernetic systems student and several ballroom dancers.
9. Russians and Athletics
Russia has a very rich history of competing in sports and winter sports in particular, though the most popular sport in Russia is apparently soccer. Ice Hockey, tennis and athletics are also among the Russian favorites.
A lot of Russian athletes became regular household names: Professional tennis players Maria Sharapova and Anna Kournikova became international superstars, as well as Ice Hockey player Sergei Fedorov, and long jumper Darya Klishina.
10. There is no “the” in Russia
Russian is the largest native spoken language and the eighth most spoken language in the world. There are upwards of 260 million people who are fluent in Russian across the globe.
One of the most distinct features of the Russian language is that there is no “the” or “a.” Not one of its 260 million speakers could say, “Take me to the movies.” Nor could someone demand in Russian, “I want a doughnut.”
20. Beer wasn’t considered an alcoholic beverage until 2011
By now we’ve all learned about the Russian’s love of alcohol, so it’s not really surprising that for years and years, beer wasn’t considered to be an alcoholic beverage. This legally didn’t change until 2011!
Up until that point, anything that had an alcohol content less than 10% was just considered to be a foodstuff. Even with all of the new regulations on alcohol hitting the country, beer sales are still up a whopping 30%! Guess you really can’t take alcohol away from the Russians.
42. Smiling with meaning
Russians are stereotyped as not very friendly and not too prone to smiles. The truth is that Russians save their smiles for when they are mean them.
According to a Russian proverb, “Laughter for no reason is a sign of foolishness.” This means that Russians won’t smile if the occasion doesn’t merit it. When a Russian smiles, it’s said to be due to formality, it’s not out of sincerity.
43. There’s a huge drinking problem there
Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev tried to introduce a massive anti-alcohol campaign to Russia in 1985 that sought to decrease the production of alcohol and raise their prices massively. It worked for a few years until the fall of the USSR caused a massive nation-wide party.
People drink tons of vodka, but they also drink lots of illegal “samogon,” a homemade liquor that sometimes has alcohol levels twice as high as vodka, and often contains a cocktail of toxic ingredients. It’s safe to say that prohibition didn’t work and alcohol is there to stay!
44. The Ushanka
The Ushanka, or the “ear flap hat,” is a fur cap designed to protect its wearer’s ears, chin and jaw from the wind and cold. This cosy, fuzzy hat is very popular in colder climates, though it is mostly identified with Soviet Russia.
The Ushanka has been made part of many armed forces’ winter uniform, including the Russian army. Want people to think you’re tough? Keep your Ushanka’s ear flaps tied behind your head at all times, unless the temperature drops below 68 degrees. Otherwise, you’d be considered a weakling.
45. The Odd Flower
Russian tradition has plenty of beliefs and superstitions that would seem very odd to outsiders. One of those superstitions is all about something most people associate with gifts and joyous occasions–giving flowers. If you want to give flowers to a loved one, always make sure they’re in odd numbers.
The reason for this strange rule is that flowers in even numbers are only used at funerals. Breaking this traditional rule is considered very rude, and come on, you don’t want to be THAT person.
46. The Purring Custodian
The Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg is known as one of the greatest museums in the world. With artworks by the likes of Michelangelo, Raphael, and El Greco as well as a vast collection of antiques from all over the world, you’d expect its patrons to pay special attention to their precious exhibits. But just how special?
As it turns out, the Hermitage Museum’s custodial staff consists not only of skilled humans, but also a large number of cats! These well cultured cats live inside the museum and even have their own press secretary, as well as a number of caretakers. Their job? To keep the place mouse free, of course.
47. The Twin Stars
Like oddly themed restaurants? You’re going to love this. Moscow’s Twin Stars restaurant has quite the extraordinary staff, and you need to be part of a twosome to work there. That’s right, this restaurant only employs identical twins, and obviously, they have to wear identical clothes while waiting tables and serving drinks.
According to the restaurant’s owner, Alexei Khodorkovsky, the quirky concept was inspired by a 1964 surreal Soviet film named Kingdom of Crooked Mirrors, about a girl and her identical twin who live in alternate realities. How appetizing?
48. A Glass Half Empty
Russians are usually pretty good at holding their liquor, so this a pretty important rule to those going out for drinks with Russian companions–if you’re not much of a drinker and you don’t want to get hammered, never let your cup run empty.
An empty cup usually means you’re ready for another drink in Russian culture, meaning your hosts will just fill it up again. Don’t want anything to drink at all? Try telling your drink buddies the doctor said you aren’t allowed to drink a all. Works like a charm!
49. Saint Basil’s Cathedral
You know that beautiful, colorful church that basically looks like candyland located in Moscow’s Red Square? Currently used as a museum, this unusual structure was erected in 1561 and was originally intended to commemorate the capture of cities Kazan and Astrakhan.
The cathedral is designed to look like roaring flames rising into the sky. Legend has it that after the church was complete by acclaimed architect Postnik Yakovlev, he was blinded by Czar Ivan the Terrible so he could never build anything as beautiful again.
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