You already know a lot about Russia, even if you never looked for it. The biggest country in the world has regularly made news headlines and keeps doing so. But what do you actually know besides these headlines regarding Putin’s government and its involvement in international conflicts? These facts might actually surprise you!
1. Russia is only 4km (2.8 ml) away from the United States!
If you look at a world map under another angle, you will see that Alaska and Russia are actually very close. But how is is possible that only 4 km separates them? You have to take a closer look at the Diomede Islands. Big Diomede belongs to Russia and the other island, called Little Diomede is American. The two islands are located in the Bering Strait, that separates the mainlands of Alaska and Siberia. Only 3.8 km (to be accurate), or 2.4 miles separate the islands. The islands are also separated by an international date line, meaning that Big Diomede, also called Tomorrow Island is almost one day ahead (21 hours) of Little Diomede, called Yesterday Isle.
2. Russia’s territory is bigger than the entire surface of Pluto.
Do you remember Pluto? This small planet that was declared not-a-planet anymore in 2006. Pluto was once the ninth planet of the solar system, but today it is called a “dwarf-planet”. Anyways, the entire surface of Pluto is of 16,650,000 km2, while the entire area of Russia is 17,125,191 km2! So Russia is not only the bigger country of our planet, it is also bigger than another planet! And in case you did not know, Siberia covers up to 77% of the entire Russian territory.
3. Russia’s population is smaller than Bangladesh’s.
Russia might be the biggest country of the world by area but it is only ranked as 9th in terms of population. China has been holding the record for quite some time now, with its 1.3 billion people, closely followed by India, which also hit the 1 billion mark not so long ago. Bangladesh holds the 8th position as the most populous country in the world and Russia comes right after with its population of 143,375,006 people (Worldometers, 2017). Other countries that count more people than Russia are (in order): China, India, USA, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria and Bangladesh. It is also interesting to note that Bangladesh is 116 times smaller than Russia by area.
4. In Russia there are more women than men.
It was estimated in 2015 that for 100 women, there are only 86 men in Russia. According to the United Nations data, the global ratio is 101,8 men per 100 women. Or overall, there are around 10 millions more women than men in Russia, and in some regions the proportion is even more uneven, with 5 women for 1 man in the Caucasus, for example. This difference was allegedly attributed to the big human losses Russia had to endure during World War II. These losses represented a large majority of young men, creating a gap in the general balance between men and women. Life expectancy in Russia for men and women is also highly uneven. Women are expected to live to age 75, while men are expected to live to age 64 on average. Another hypothetical reason could also be alcoholism, that is still a major problem in Russia and that generally affects men more than women.
5. Russia lost around 27 million people during World War II.
It is obviously difficult to estimate precisely the amount of Soviet casualties of World War II, but it is generally accepted that around 27 million Soviet people died - almost half of the entire death toll caused by WWII. In almost every city of Russia, you can find memorials to soldiers who died on the front, listing thousands of names. This fact is often neglected when talking about the role of the Soviet Union in WWII.
6. Lake Baikal, Russia’s biggest lake is the deepest lake of the world.
Located in southern Siberia, Lake Baikal is the deepest lake in the world and often considered the oldest (25 million years). It is also the largest freshwater lake of the world by volume and represents around 22% of the world’s fresh water. Speaking of nature and geography, it is interesting to note that Europe’s highest mountain is also located in Russia. Mount Elbrus is Russia’s and Europe’s highest mountain, culminating at 5,642 (18,410 ft).
7. The deepest subway station of the world is in Saint-Petersburg.
The Saint-Petersburg metro system is the deepest of the world, by average depth of the stations, even though some metro lines in other countries might go even deeper. The deepest metro station in Saint-Petersburg goes 102 meters (335 ft) below the ground. It takes around 7 minutes to go to the station by escalator! The actual deepest subway station in the world is located at the Arsenalna station in Kiev, Ukraine (105.5 mt, or 346 ft). Saint-Petersburg’s metro system is the 19th busiest in the world and Moscow’s is the Sixth! Moscow metro system is also pretty deep, but above all it is considered one of the most beautiful subway system in the world. Guided tours are actually organized in Moscow to visit the prettiest stations of the Russian capital. Adding to this metro fact, Russia also has got the longest railway line of the world. You might have heard of Trans-Siberian railway, which is 9288 meters long (5700 ml) and spans from Moscow to Vladivostok, from the West of the country to the easternmost city of Russia. The journey takes approximately one week.
8. Russia has a wide diversity of cultures.
You probably picture Russians as Slavic guys, wearing adidas training outfits, squatting in circle, in a gloomy street in front of their old cars. Well, Russia is more than that. Russia spans from Northern Europe, to the Middle East, Asia and Eastern Asia. Ethnic groups are evidently very diverse from a region to another. Russian has been declared the official language of the Russian Federation by the constitution but each republic can declare another official language for its own region. It is estimated that there are over 185 ethnic groups considered as having their own nationality living in Russia. Even if all inhabitants of Russia are Russian, Chechens or Tatars for example have a different local identity and nationality. A few indigenous tribes still live in the North and Far East of Russia.
9. Russia has been home to many world-renown artists.
Russia always had and still does have a very rich culture. Russian artists performed in all artistic fields and acquired worldwide renown. In literature, we can mention Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, Gorky, Solzhenitsyn, Pasternak, Bulgakov and many more. In painting, you find Kandinsky, Chagall, Makovsky, Malevich, Popov, Repin, etc. In music and operas, Russians also marked history. You know The Nutcracker ballet, Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty by Pyotr Tchaikovsky. You have undoubtedly heard of other Russian composers, such as Prokofiev, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov or Stravinsky. Russia has really been through different golden eras, artistically speaking.
10. Two ideological tendencies in Russia.
After analyzing different Russian rulers through history, you can distinguish two main ideologies. Occidentalism gathered people also called “Westernizers” who believed that “Russia's development depended upon the adoption of Western European technology and liberal government” (Linguee), while Slavophilia was “... an intellectual movement originating from 19th century that wanted the Russian Empire to be developed upon values and institutions derived from its early history” (Linguee). So, simply speaking, you could say that Westernizers were more likely to strengthen their links with the Western world, because they believed that the best way to develop their society was to consider the West as an example. On the other hand, Slavophilia supporters believed that Russia was meant to go its own way and to develop itself in a unique manner that was typical of them. Throughout history, you can see that some rulers adhere to one or the other tendency. Hence Mihail Gorbachov for example can be considered a “Westernizer” while, Stalin, Lenin or even Putin, today, can be considered Slavophiliacs. Under the Tsarist regime, Russia was more oriented towards Occidental values, while the ideas of the Soviet Union were more Russia-centric, in a way. However, these two movements firstly appeared within intellectual and artists circles.
11. Russia is the country that possesses the most nuclear weapons.
Even though the exact number of nuclear weapons that a country actually possesses is a national secret, it is estimated that Russia possesses 7,000 total nuclear warheads, among which 1,950 are fully operational. This is more than the United States, which has around 6,800 warheads. In 1988, Russia had a peak stockpile of 45,000 warheads. With regard to their chemical weapon arsenal, Russia destroyed 57% of it.
12. Russia is the biggest producer of oil in the world.
Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United States have long been the three bigger producers of oil in the world, but each has had ups and downs. As of 2016, the order remains. Saudi Arabia closely follows Russia with 10,460,710 barrels a day, against 10,551,497 for Russia.
13. A few more anecdotes, just for the fun.
Russia is so large and fascinating that I don’t know where to stop! So, I’m adding here a few more interesting facts, without further explanations.
So Russia is not just its eccentric president, crazy guys posting utterly strange pictures on social media, bears, kalashnikovs and people skinny-dipping in frozen lakes (which is true and a popular tradition, but still). It offers so much more.
Still curious about Russia? Florane, the author of the article, did her Erasmus in the Russian Caucasus. Check out her travel videos!