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10 Fascinating Facts About Russia

MIKE DEVLIN

JUNE 15, 2013

As the world’s largest country, Russia encompasses nine timezones and contains within its borders dozens of ethnic groups. For about seventy years, it existed as the Soviet Union —a communist superpower considered by much of the world to be an “evil empire”. The Cold War tension between the Soviets and the United States very nearly led to nuclear war on several occasions, until the dissolution of the USSR on Christmas Day, 1991. Today, the country exists as a “federal semi-presidential republic”, with a president, a prime minister, and a cabinet—but many allege that the power belongs squarely with hardline President Vladimir Putin. Putin enjoys considerable popular support, though some within the country believe him to be responsible for several nefarious doings. With vast natural resources, a government in flux, and a dwindling population inexorably steeped in alcohol, Russia remains one of the most fascinating places on earth.

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Dash Cams

The holiday season is usually marked by a weeklong binge. traditionally guzzled neat.” And there is no more inexorable stereotype of the Russian people than their traditional love of vodka. Sometimes it comes from police cars—and the rest of the time it comes from cars in Russia. in excess of 23. Although the footage provides entertainment—such as by capturing film of the meteor strike over the Chelyabinsk region in February 2013—the real reason Russian drivers so frequently employ dash cams is to protect themselves from fraud. assaults. 9 Vodka There’s a Russian proverb which goes: “The church is near but the road is icy. which involves the staging of accidents in order to profit from insurance claims and lawsuits. the average Russian is said to spend $400 on alcohol alone. An unfortunate cottage industry has sprung up in the country. Such risky behavior is not without consequence. The scams can be elaborate —but they’re often as simple as a pedestrian throwing himself in front of a slow moving car and then feigning injury.Anyone with an internet connection will have seen some pretty crazy dashcam footage. during this period. and suicides are all among the highest in the .000 people die of alcohol poisoning each year in Russia— and alcohol-related homicides. the tavern is far but I will walk carefully.

While this proved mildly effective. with the average man expected to live the tender age of sixty-three. Other alcohol-deprived Russians are desperate enough to consume any product containing alcohol.world. . alcohol was available in massive quantities. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev introduced an anti-alcohol campaign that sought. the country went into a tailspin from which it has yet to recover. a homemade liquor of wildly varying quality. Life expectancy is lower than in many developing countries. a great deal of “surrogate” alcohol began to be manufactured illegally. reminiscent of moonshine. and the population rejoiced. to decrease alcohol production and to raise prices. ranging from cologne to aftershave and even window cleaners. the fall of the USSR six years later turned into a party. As a result. Some of these substances can have alcohol levels twice as high as standard vodka. among other methods. all of a sudden. measures of prohibition can lead to more problems than they solve: 8 Surrogate Alcohol In 1985. There have been several attempts by the government to stem this national tragedy—but as seen in America’s recent history. and contain plenty of toxic ingredients as well. On top of legally-produced vodka. A great deal of this is “samogon”.

including civilians—around fourteen percent of their entire population. Charged with single-handedly defending an entire frontagainst the Germans. the Soviets may have lost in excess of thirty million people. it is believed that more Soviets died than the Americans lost during the whole war. 6 National Sex Day .It is almost impossible to determine just how serious the alcohol problem is. In the Battle of Stalingrad alone. but certain measures—such a 2010 policy to double the minimum purchase price of vodka—have only made things worse. 7 World War Two The final death toll of World War Two remains a subject of contention. but there can be little doubt that the Soviets suffered far more casualties than any other nation.

participants have numbered in the hundreds. and the area’s birth rate generally triples every June. women who give birth closest to June 12 —Russia’s National Day—receive prizes which include cars. which grants couples a half day off from work to procreate.In 2005. While the federal government doesn’t quite offer flashy automobiles to encourage potential parents. and appliances. decided to deal directly with his country’s dwindling population. cash. While the contest seems a little tongue-in-cheek. 5 Dead Journalists . Governor Sergi Morozov introduced September 12 as a “Day of Conception”. it does provide subsidies and vouchers to many families with children. the regional governor of Ulyanovsk. an area in central Russia. Russia’s population has declined sharply since the dissolution of the USSR. Nine months later. with some claiming that it may fall below one hundred million by 2050.

Russialeads the world in the murder of reporters. and often criticized President Vladimir Putin. dozens of journalists have met similar fates. Since the early 1990s. a former Lieutenant Colonel in the KGB whom she accused of trying to lead Russia back toward a Soviet-style dictatorship. 4 Serial Killers . Mexico. and prosecution is always unlikely. and Iraq. She was an outspoken critic of the Chechen conflict. threatened. Most of these cases go unsolved.It is perhaps not surprising that in a country and a culture obsessed with the preservation of state secrets. poisoned. Perhaps the most notable of these was the killing of Anna Politkovskaya in 2006. and eventually killed—shot dead in an elevator at her apartment building in Moscow. journalists frequently lose their lives for peering too close. These allegations led her to be beaten. Along with hotspots like Egypt.

and sometimes served his victims to unwitting friends. “Raskolnikov in a skirt”. equal to the number of squares on a chessboard). He was eventually found not guilty by reason of insanity. such as “The Butcher of Rostov”.While the United States is definitely the serial killer capital of the world. and “The Chessboard Killer” (so-named because he confessed to wanting to kill sixty-four people. 3 Krokodil . or “Metal Fang”. who—you guessed it—wore a vicious set of metal teeth. He was a cannibal. The country’s serial killers are often given lurid nicknames. although it is believed that he may have killed as many as one hundred. and spent some thirty years in mental facilities before being released. Dzhumagaliev was caught in 1981 and accused of killing seven prostitutes. Particularly frightening is the case of Nikolai Dzhumagaliev. Russia has also had its fair share.

and amputations are not uncommon. an even more insidious opiate has been hitting the streets. but in recent years.Russia is already the world’s leading importer of heroin. cases of abuse have begun popping up throughout Europe. Easily derived from over-the-counter codeine drugs. 2 Cosmonauts . horrible skin is just the beginning of the nightmare. The flesh around injection sites rapidly becomes necrotic and gangrenous. The codeine itself is relatively harmless. Krokodil users rarely live for more than two or three years after becoming addicted to the drug. Unfortunately. Although the phenomenon has been largely confined to Russia. reptilian skin. It is so-named because it leaves addicts with scaly. krokodil is eight to ten times more potent than morphine. but the drug is manufactured with adulterants such as gasoline and paint thinner.

The weapon wasn’t intended to defend them from alien forces. including those of the famous “Lost Cosmonauts”. which they wanted to the world to believe was infallible. The Soviets achieved the first major success with Sputnik in 1959. In 2006. .In the 1950s. While it is easy to believe that his was done with sinister intent. as well as the first manned flight by Yuri Gagarin in 1961. Russian cosmonauts once traveled into space armed with a triplebarreled pistol called the TP-82. with American and Soviet scientists scrambling to be the first to reach various milestones. As an interesting aside. but to protect them in case they landed in a hostile area. As in America. the space program because something of a microcosm for the entirety of the Cold War. which was chambered with two shotgun rounds and a rifle round. it was usually done to erase “disgraced” (and still very much alive) cosmonauts from the records of their space program. who have been mentioned before on Listverse. There are rumors—probably exaggerated—that the Soviets covered up other deaths. these excursions did not come without sacrifices—including the death of Vladimir Komarov. whose Soyuz 1 spacecraft was known to be faulty before launch. the TP-82 was retired in favor of a semiautomatic handgun. These stories were likely exacerbated by the USSR’s habit of editing cosmonauts out of photos.

Construction is already nearing completion on a railway which would allow the movement of supplies to the farthest reaches of Siberia. it would certainly rank as one of the most phenomenal feats in the history of engineering. given the remoteness and the challenging climate of the region—but others allege that the tunnels could save billions in shipping costs. The project. is estimated to cost about $65 billion. but Russia has begun to advance a program which would see three tunnels constructed beneath the sea. dubbed the TKM-World Link. Some people have questioned the practicality of the project. Once completed. And the idea of driving from New York to London does seem pretty cool. and they began to colonize the New World. The land crossing has since been replaced with impassable ocean. .1 The TKM-World Link In prehistoric times. joining Russia with Alaska. the people we now call Native Americans moved over a land bridge that crossed the Bering Strait from Russia.