11 things you might not know about Russia

It’s Russia’s independence day today (12 June). But how much do you and your students actually know about the famously enigmatic country?

1. We all know that Russia is huge. With a surface area of 17, 098, 240km squared, you could fit the UK into Russia 70 times. But did you know that its surface area is bigger than Pluto’s?

2. Russia accounts for 20% of the world’s forest area. And Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest and oldest lake, holds 20% of the world’s unfrozen fresh water reserve.

3. Russia has 11 different time zones, so when it’s midday in Kaliningrad in the west, it’s 10pm in Kamchatka in the east.

4. During the reign of Peter the Great, a ‘beard tax’ was introduced.

5. The Imperial Russian Olympic Team arrived 12 days late for the 1908 London Olympics because Russia didn’t officially adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1918. Even today, many Orthodox churches in Russia continue to celebrate Christmas on 7 January.

6. Russia’s natural gas reserves are the largest known in the world (equivalent to 13.2 billion Olympic-size swimming pools) and its gas pipelines could loop around Earth more than 6 times.

7. A quarter of Russian men die before reaching 55, compared with 7% of men in the UK. A study run by the WHO found Russians to be the fourth highest consumers of alcohol and research suggests that this trend in premature deaths is the result of a deep-rooted drinking culture. Russians even have a word to describe a week-long drinking binge: zapoi!

8. Like the character in his famous novel Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy also died at a train station.

9. In January 2012, a pack of around 400 wolves descended on the remote Siberian town of Verkhoyansk. Wolves usually hunt in small packs but, due to the declining food supply in their tundra habitat, they were forced to search elsewhere.

10. Under the Soviet Union, the distribution of Western goods was forbidden so some medical students etched Beatles songs onto discarded X-ray films.

11. Beer wasn’t considered an alcoholic drink in Russia until 2011.

Chapter 6 of  the 4th edition of geog.3 looks at Russia.

Image: Shutterstock