Life in Russia is More Bizarre Than You Think
They Have a Thing for Odd Numbers
If you’re thinking about bestowing a bouquet of roses on your better half while in Russia, think twice about making it an even dozen.
You’d be better off making it 11, or 13. A simple rule to keep things straight: even numbers in Russia are bad luck or reserved for somber occasions.
One flower means that person is ‘the one’, and showing up with seven flowers means there’s an engagement proposal on the way.
Some Weddings Are a Party You'll Never See Anywhere Else
Russians are well known for their rich matrimonial traditions. The wedding celebrations usually last for a couple of days, but sometimes they take up a whole week full of feasting, drinking and dancing —along with the requisite taking of awkward photos.
These newlyweds look as if they wanted to create their own Eastern European version of Bonnie and Clyde with Kalashnikov rifles in their hands. They even had their wedding guests lying around pretending to be shot dead.
Dogs Ride the Subway in Moscow
Prior to the fall of the Soviet Union, Moscow, like most major urban centers, kept their stray dog population under control by rounding them up.
Following its collapse, the dog population in Moscow began to rise in numbers as animal control squads died off. Winters are harsh there, and some of the smarter canines found their way to the subway system.
Packs of friendly strays are frequently seen throughout the tunnels. They have learned to ride escalators. Instead of being removed by metro workers, they offer them food.
The Weather Is All About Extremes
Winters can be brutally cold, reaching temperatures as low as -67 °C (-90°F) from November through March. January is usually the country’s coldest month.
The coldest inhabited place in the world is the Russian village of Oymyakon, where this picture was taken. In 1924 the lowest temperature in Oymyakon was −71.2 °C (−96.2 °F).
When summer starts at the end of May, the temperatures change drastically. The summers are really hot and can see some regions hitting highs of 32°C (90°F).
Source: Weather in Russia
Pigs Get Chauffered Before They Get Eaten
Life behind the Iron Curtain was always full of challenges for the ordinary people of Soviet Russia. They had no other choice but to figure out how to cope with poverty and a shortage of basic goods.
Learning how to be resourceful when resources are limited seems to have taken root, so even after the Iron Curtain has long fallen some Russian citizens still prefer to keep their food sources in sight even when traveling.
Its Famous Buildings Look Better With Cats
A visit to Moscow can’t be complete without a mandatory Red Square selfie with St Basil’s Cathedral in the background. Even the cats know that.
This impressive building is not just the most important landmark in the city of Moscow, but a symbol of a whole Russia, too. It was built between 1555 to 1561 by order of Ivan the Terrible, Tsar of All Rus’ to commemorate the victory over the Tatars of Kazan.
Source: St Basil’s Cathedral
Lake Karachay is the Most Polluted Place on Earth
This place holds the title as the most contaminated site in the world. Lake Karachay is so polluted that if you stand near the lake for more than one hour it would probably kill you.
The lake is located near Russia’s largest nuclear weapons facility, situated in the southern Ural mountains in the central region of the country. Karachay is an environmental victim of toxic waste from that facility, with was top secret until 1990.
Alcohol-Related Deaths Are Astronomical
You might expect a country that until 2011 classified beer as a soft drink to have an issue with excessive drinking.
In 2018, Russia’s Minister of Health, Veronika Skvortsova, made a claim that compared to five years ago Russians are drinking 80% less.
Although exact numbers are difficult to confirm, some estimates put the number of alcohol-related fatalities in Russia at upwards of 500,000.
As of 2014, nearly one-quarter of Russian men die before the age of 55, with many of those deaths related to alcohol.
Vladimir Lenin is Mummified
Vladimir Lenin was head of the Russian government and the Soviet Union. He died in 1924, and after his death, his body was put on display in a mausoleum situated on Moscow’s Red Square.
Two scientists, Vladimir Vorobyov and Boris Zbarsky, embalmed the body with a chemical mixture to save it from decomposing and changing its shape.
Lenin’s muscle structure, skin and skeleton are all well-preserved, but his organs have all been removed — as well as his brain.
Vladimir Putin Likes to Flex
It is thought that Russians like to brag about the sizes of pretty much everything — the size of their country, the size of its capital city, the “size” of their history and their rulers.
Even the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, likes to show off every now and then.
Since he is only 168 centimeters (5’6″) tall, he has found another way to impress the public with his appearance – a shirtless one highlighting his “vigorous torso,” as one female fan of his put it in a comment when the photo was released by the presidential office.
Russian Scientists Have Bred Foxes to Be Pets
Dimitry Belyaev, together with a group of scientists and the Institute of Cytology and Genetics in Novosibirsk, showed that wild foxes could be tamed over time through selective breeding.
These domesticated Siberian foxes are affectionate and trainable – and exceptionally expensive.
The fur of the fox can be different colors; usually red, silver, black and Georgian white. They are excellent swimmers, they dig like dogs and can jump an impressive 1.8 meters (6 feet).
Source: Russian Red Foxes as Pets
There's a Sport Called Helicopter Golf
How is this game played? Well, it is a little bit different from traditional golf. Okay — it’s a lot different from the conventional game.
The players fly a helicopter and with a large stick that weighs approximately 10 kilograms (22 pounds) as they push a large ball through a snowy route.
The game was first played in 2013 when a helicopter company and country club joined forces. It sounds like it would be a difficult ‘game’ to master, on top of also being a costly one.
Russia Doesn't Have a Word for Fun
The people of Russia know how to have lots of fun but in their own, very distinctive way.
That might explain why there is no word for “fun” in the Russian language — does this mean their perception of what “having fun” means is different from the rest of the world?
They do use the word “веселье,” to express joyfulness and happiness, but that’s not reall “fun.”
Whether the guy in this photo is having fun or “веселье,” we’ll let you be the judge of that.
Siberia Winters Can Destroy Vehicles
While the Swedes and Finns are debating whether Santa Claus lives in Sweden or Finland, it seems quite possible that he actually lives in Russia. Isn’t this man the spitting image of Santa? Judging by appearances, yes!
Jokes aside, this photo shows a very real person standing outside in the Siberian winter that can be so severe and freezing that the oil in this truck could congeal, its tires could be turned into dust and the shell could crack like glass.
A Russian Couple Had 69 Children
During the 1700s, written records show that a Russian woman named Valentina Vasisilyeva and her husband Fedor Vassilyev had 69 children.
Valentina gave birth to 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets and four sets of quadruplets in just 40 years. Valentina is proclaimed to be the most fertile woman ever!
However, not only is Valentina the most fertile woman ever, Fedor is not that bad himself. He had 82 children in total including the 18 he had with his second wife.
Source: Most prolific mother ever
A Cat Army Protects Priceless Works of Art
St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum might be the world’s second-largest art museum, but it also wears another badge of honor:
It has a basement full of stray cats.
200 years ago, cats were encouraged to take up residence in the Hermitage with the mission of keeping the rat population under control.
Today, upwards of 75 cats call the museum floor and its basement their home, and they are embraced by staff and visitors alike.
Source: Russia’s Museum Cats
Their Submarines Inspire Hollywood
Another pride and joy of Russia is its military weapons and equipment. They like to show their weaponry every May 9th in a massive military parade they organize to mark a victory in World War II, but also to politely remind the rest of the world what they have.
Not everything can be brought into the center of Moscow and displayed on the Red Square, but it can still be demonstrated, like this huge submarine known as the “Typhoon” that surfaced near a crowded beach.
Resourcefulness Is a Way of Life
An old proverb says that “necessity is the mother of invention,” but this level of creativity could probably be found only in Russia.
When a couple of guys hit the road in a car, it would be more than reasonable to expect that they have a spare tire is in the trunk. Well, not in Russia.
When this tire popped, they just pulled out an old three-wheeled moving dolly, put it under the car and hit the gas.
Russian Dating Sites Can Get... Interesting
This photo reveals what “from Russia with love” truly means. Found on one of the Russian dating websites, this image shows how some of the Russian women try to lure men — with vodka, of course!
This charming young lady has decided to pull out the big guns. She took a photo standing next to a bed with a tray in her hands and offered a future courtier a preview of what he could expect if he bites the bait.
Ivan the Terrible Was a Jerk
Ivan the Terrible was the first Russian Tsar.
Also known as Ivan the Fearsome, he ruled the Russian Empire for over 50 years, first as the Grand Prince of Moscow, and then from 1547 as the Tsar of All Rus’.
He tried to be a progressive sovereign who would reform the country but ended up as a tyrant who waged wars and terrorized his own people.
Volleyball Gets Played With Bricks
If you are a sports fan but still have never heard of this sport — brick volleyball — don’t worry about it. It’s only because it doesn’t really exist anywhere else but in Russia!
The very name of this sport sounds painful, but these young Russian soldiers seem to enjoy it.
It’s hard to say how this game was even invented, but we certainly do not recommend that you try it for yourself. Let’s stick with beach, rather than brick, volleyball.
Some say that real soldiers always sleep with their eyes open, but judging from this photo this young Russian wannabe tank crewman is far from that.
It looks like this guy has found an easy way to fulfill his childhood wish of becoming a tank driver, without going through the strict military training.
Instead of investing a couple of years of his life and actually learning how to maneuver a tank, he got himself a helmet and continued to dream about it in this matching bedding.
There Are Glimpses Into Their Political Past Everywhere
Modern Russians are often divided in their attitudes towards socialist revolution and communism. Some believe that overthrowing the emperor was a huge mistake, while others hold that Bolshevism did much more good than bad for the people of the Soviet Union.
Either way, that communist country no longer exists, but its remaining symbols can still be found all over Russia and the rest of the countries that have gained their independence after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
They Tie the Knot — Literally
As you can see here, Russian weddings have their share of slightly odd photos. We’re not sure how many bottles of booze were consumed before this pic was taken in addition to the two in the photo, but let’s guess… a lot.
This goes along with the tradition of the groom tying a kitchen towel in a knot during the wedding ceremony to symbolize the strength of his love for his bride. He then unties the knot to demonstrate his ability to manage any future family issues.
The Catfish Are Insanely Huge
Have you heard about that Chernobyl disaster thing that happened in Russia back in 1986? It was horrendous, destroyed lives and changed an entire region of the country forever. The area basically uninhabitable now, except for catfish.
Yes, catfish. Very big catfish.
Chernobyl’s cooling pond is now home to giant wels catfish, which can tip the scales at 158 kilograms (350 pounds). And before you jump to any conclusions, know that radiation has nothing to do with their size. They’re just naturally big and slimy.
A Politician Saved Tennis in Russia
Tennis has had a bit of a hit and miss history in Russia, but it bounced back in the early 1990s thanks to a very unlikely fan of the sport: Boris Yeltsin (not pictured here, but it really would be awesome if this guy was in politics).
The Russian president loved the game, both as a spectator and a player. He is largely credited for Russia’s recent success on the court, with the country now claiming 10 Grand Slam titles since Yeltsin’s pushing of the sport back into the spotlight.
There's Lots of Trash
Russia is currently having a major problem with garbage, and part of the problem comes from government agencies and cities simply not being able to work together to enable workable plans to fix the issue.
Only nine percent of landfill waste is recycled in the country. It is estimated that in three years all of Russia’s dumps and landfills will be at capacity, but the slow battle to win over Russians to the idea of large-scale recycling is still ongoing.
The Kissing Quiz
Apparently, someone out there had a dream fulfilled after they found out they couldn’t really ride a giant swan on their wedding day but just happened to have a friend who dabbles in Photoshop.
Besides the usual “you may kiss the bride” aspect of weddings, in Russia kissing plays another role. The bride, blindfolded, has her hand kissed by several men and the groom, one after another. It’s up to her to guess which kiss was her husband’s.
They Still Love Fur
At one point, Russia was responsible for nearly 40 percent of the world’s fur production, most of which was centered around mink, fox and sable. The industry is one that relies heavily on the global market, although in recent years more Russians have been able to afford fur-related apparel.
Animal rights organizations such as PETA are not much of a concern, due to the public’s support of the fur industry and people wearing fur more out of necessity in the colder climate than for fashion.
Source: Furs And Russia
The Lada Was "the People's Car"
In the late 1960s, Russia was on the prowl for a car that its citizens could actually afford and be seen driving to help further their image as being just as great as America. The answer came in the form of the Lada.
Basically a cheap knock-off of 1967’s Car of the Year, the Italian-made Fiat 124, the Lada 124R cut corners on some the amenities offered with the Fiat but buffed up the construction of the car to keep it running on Russia’s horrendous roads.
Here Kitty Kitty
How much do the people of Russia love cats? It has the Kuklachev Cat Theatre, where cats are put in front of an audience to… play. In a global survey of 43,000 people, over half of the Russian respondents said they have a cat. That’s a lot of kitty litter to be cleaning up.
It’s also home (along with China) to the Amur leopard, classified as the world’s rarest cat. In Russia, officials were thrilled in 2015 when they doubled the cat’s population to 57, up from 30 in 2007.
Russian Websites Are Still Offering Brides for Sale
The concept of mail-order brides is one that has been firmly attached to Russia’s hip for years now, and it understandably doesn’t come with much support. Human trafficking has always been an issue, but there are still agencies that offer a legal take on the mail-order bride idea.
Women use these agencies of their own accord, but sexist guidelines are still in place. They must be pretty, educated and preferably young, or else they won’t be allowed to upload a profile to the agency website.
Newlyweds Start Married Life Getting Salty
A long-standing custom at Russian weddings dating back to the 15th century involves a round loaf of bread being presented on a decorated tray by a young woman dressed in traditional garb. Balanced atop the bread is a salt shaker.
The lucky couple takes turns breaking off pieces of bread and covering them with salt (no low sodium diet concerns here). This acts as a symbol that they will forever look after each other.
You Couldn't Legally Pump Iron There Until the '80s
Up until 1987, bodybuilding was illegal in Russia, unless you were a strongman circus performer. In that case, officials were willing to look the other way. The need to pump iron simply went against Communist Party principles.
Weights were unavailable and instant baby formula was used to help build up body mass. “Pumping up muscles and posing in front of a mirror? What does a Soviet person want with this – admiring one’s reflection?” – Soviet Ministry of Sport, 1973.
You Won't Find a Sink Next to the Toilet
Imagine walking into your bathroom at home. Is it a decent size, or perhaps a little too small for your liking? Now, picture that with a wall right down the middle with the toilet on one side and the sink on the other.
It’s how many bathrooms in Russia are set up, no matter how small the living space might be. Two separate rooms, usually decorated with as a mirror image of one another. You might want to put a rubber glove on before opening the door to the toilet room…
Source: Russian Bathrooms For Dummies
According to historians, Ivan the Terrible might have died while in the middle of a chess match in 1584. Does that make these two guys playing the game on the toilet more acceptable? Probably not.
Chess has long been embraced by the Russian people. Starting in the early 1900s, it embodied the country’s communist ideals — it requires skill and solid brain power. It’s also relatively cheap to play, meaning it is a game for the people, not just the elite members of society.
You Have to Keep Your Car Clean
If you find yourself driving in Russia, there are a few things you need to be aware of, First off, not everyone there uses spare faucets to repair A/C issues. Second, try and keep your car clean.
As far back as 2006, news agencies such as the BBC were reporting that Russian motorists were being fined for having unclean vehicles. The law might actually only state that the license plate must be free of dirt, but some less scrupulous Russian police apply the rule to the entire car.
Rugs Are for More Than Just Walking On
In many Russian cities, you’ll find an odd love affair with rugs, especially the variety you can hang on the wall. They’re usually large and impossible to miss, not just for their size but for the patterns on them. It seems as though the general rule is the bolder, the better.
It all started in the 1960s. Rural folks were flocking to urban centers to live in concrete apartment buildings. These buildings were notoriously cold, so rugs became an extra layer of insulation. Needless to say, the idea caught on.
Shoes Get Held Hostage
Pre-wedding traditions can be more like a survival of the fittest challenge for Russian grooms. In some instances, when the future husband arrives to pick up his bride from her home he must make it through an obstacle course laid out by the bride’s friends and family.
In other cases, either the bride or her shoe is ‘kidnapped’ and the groom is required to pay a ‘ransom’ to get them back. That payment is delivered to the bridesmaids and can come in the form of flowers or chocolate.
Hang Ten, Dude
When you think of Russia, you’d be forgiven if one of the last things to enter your mind would be the word ‘surfing.’ Russian has some coastal locales that offer fairly decent waves, but make sure to pack a parka — or whatever the wetsuit equivalent of a parka is.
With water temperatures dipping down as low as 5ºC (41°F), you definitely need to be prepared for the cold. We don’t recommend using an ironing board, but if you do go check out the Kamchatka Peninsula or the coastal areas around Sochi.