Covering a vast area of Europe and Asia, Russia is a diverse and exciting place. It’s known for its history and intriguing politics, as well as its rich culture and literature.
This list of 30 facts about Russia will help you get to know this fascinating country. Read on to discover the land of Red Square, the Hermitage, and several incredible world records.
1. Russia Is Bigger Than The Planet Pluto:
Russia is, quite frankly, enormous. Not only does it span two continents – Europe and Asia – it also has a surface area of 17.13 million square kilometers. That makes it even bigger than the famous planet Pluto, which comes in at just 16.7 million sqkm. Not sure where to live in this huge country? Read about the best Russian cities to live in as an expat.
2. Red Square Has Nothing To Do With Communism:
That’s right, the famous Moscow square is actually named for its looks rather than any political persuasions. The Russian language is heavily influenced by Old Church Slavonic, which was Moscow’s official literary language until the late 1600s. When Red Square (Красная площадь, Krasnaya ploshchad) was completed in the late 19th century, it was named Красный (krasny), which means ‘red,’ from the Old Slavic word for ‘beautiful.’ This is hardly surprising, though, as Red Square is indeed pretty.
3. Russia Switched Calendars In 1918::
Most European countries gave up the Julian calendar in the late 16th century. However, it wasn’t until February 1918 that Russia finally switched to the Gregorian calendar, which it uses nowadays to celebrate its many festivals and celebrations. Apparently, using the Julian calendar led to the Russian Empire being 12 days too late for the 1908 Olympic Games in London.
4. Russia & The U.S Are Just 4km Apart:
Despite spending much of the 20th century ideologically opposed, Russia and the United States are separated by just 4km of water. Indeed, in the middle of the Bering Strait are two islands, Little Diomede and Big Diomede. Little Diomede belongs to the US, while Big Diomede (Остров Ратманова, Ostrov Ratmanova) belongs to Russia. The islands straddle the International Date Line, which means Big Diomede is almost a day ahead.
5. The First Human In Space Was Russian:
The famous cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to journey into outer space in 1961. If you don’t know the difference between an astronaut and a cosmonaut, wonder no more. A cosmonaut is trained by the Russian Space Agency, while an astronaut is trained by NASA, the European Space Agency, the Canadian Space Agency, or the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency.
6. Russia Has A Lot Of Trees & Fresh Waters:
One-fifth of the world’s trees are in Russia. That’s 643 billion trees – the most that any country has. About 45% of the country is covered by trees, much of it in Russia’s boreal forest, or taiga. These thick forest regions were once completely under glaciers and are now home to a whole load of brave species, including the Siberian tiger, wild boars, eagles, and owls.
Unfortunately, these forests face threats from deforestation and forest fires, so organizations like the WWF and Greenpeace are doing their best to protect them.
In Siberia, you’ll find Lake Baikal. Not only is the lake the deepest lake in the world, but it also holds around 20% of the world’s freshwater. Being in this chilly part of Russia, the lake regularly freezes during the winter, which means it’s even possible to drive across it. However, be sure you have the correct permits and go with an experienced guide. Read more about the rules of the road and driving in Russia.
7. St-Petersburg Has A Great Underground Scene::
If you live in one of Russia’s two biggest cities – St Petersburg and Moscow – you’ll almost certainly use the Metro. However, these metro systems are built way underground, so get ready to spend a lot of time on escalators. For example, St. Petersburg’s Admiralteyskaya (Адмиралтейская) station has four of the highest escalators in the world – rising 68.6 meters (225.07 ft). It takes about two-and-a-half minutes to go from top to bottom (or vice versa).
8. There Are A Lot Of Languages In Russia::
Of course, the most popular one is Russian. However, according to the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, the Russian population speaks at least 270 languages and dialects. Whether or not that figure is accurate, there are undoubtedly many languages spoken in Russia.
These include major foreign languages such as German and English and languages native to Russia, such as Tatar, Chuvash, Karelian, and Chechen. There are also several endangered languages, such as Votic and Ghodoberi.
9. A Clock In St Petersburg Marks The Exact Moment That Russia Became Communist:
Or at least, it used to. A clock in the city’s iconic Winter Palace was stopped at 02:10 on 26 October 1917. However, a century later, in 2017, the Hermitage Museum (now housed in the Winter Palace) held an official ceremony to re-start the clock. But there’s more to the Hermitage than fine art, Russian history, and clocks
10. Russia Is Home To The Only Buddhist Region In Europe::
The Republic of Kalmykia in southwest Russia is home to the Kalmyk people, a former nomadic group who moved to the region from Asia. Stalin ordered their deportation to Siberia, but they were permitted to return after his death. Since the 1990s, the Republic has boasted magnificent temples, religious shrines, and Buddhist ceremonies.
11. Most Russians Live In The Europe Part Of Russia::
The Ural mountain range divides European Russia in the west from Asian Russia in the east. However, despite the latter making up 77% of Russia’s total landmass, less than a quarter of the Russian population lives there. There are several reasons for this, including historical, geopolitical, meteorological, and cultural.
12. Russian Women Live 10 Years Longer Than Russian Men:
Russian women can expect to live to 78, while the average life expectancy for a man in Russia is 68. However, this difference has slowly been closing over the past decade. Indeed, in 2009, Russian women were generally expected to live 12 years longer than their male counterparts. This may be down to the aforementioned alcohol consumption: men drink on average 18 liters of alcohol a year, while women consume only four.
13. Russia Has The Longest Railway Network In The World:
And yes, it’s the famous Trans-Siberian Railway. At 9,288 km long, it’s more than twice the length of the second-longest (Toronto to Vancouver in Canada). The journey from Moscow to Vladivostock takes around six days and travels through the Ural Mountains and a lot of forests. It also passes the record-breaking Lake Baikal, so get your cameras ready for that leg of the journey.
14. The Coldest Permanent Settlement In The World Is In Russia:
In Oymyakon in the Sakha Republic, the average winter temperature is -50°C. Not only is it cold, but it’s also remote. Nearer to the Arctic Circle than the nearest city, it takes two days to drive to the Sakha Capital, Yakutsk. Its lowest temperature was recorded in 1924 – a nippy -71.2°C.
15. Russia Has Some Of The Longest Rivers In The World:
There is another record-holder in Volgograd. The Volga River, which flows from the Valdai Hills at Volgo-Verjovie to the Caspian Sea, is 3,690 kilometers long. This makes it the longest river in Europe. However, despite being Europe’s longest river, the Volga is not the longest river in Russia. That honor goes to the Lena, which is 4,294 kilometers long and flows from the Baikal Mountains to the Arctic Ocean. If you count the Ob-Irtysh river system as one river, this is even longer, at 5,410 kilometer.