15 Unbelievable Facts About Russia

Everyone’s heard a thing or two about Putin and the USSR.

But few people have heard anecdotes about real-life in Russia and the Soviet Union.

So Business Insider put together a list of stranger-than-fiction facts about Soviet pop stars, military classes in high schools, a lake that could kill you… 

And that’s just the beginning.

Back during the Soviet Union, high school students had to learn how to assemble and take apart an AK-47 in order to graduate.

Mikhail Kalashnikov, chief designer of Izhmash Concern, a Russian firearms producer. (April, 2006.)

There was a course in school called 'начальная военная подготовка' (beginning military training), in which students had to learn how to assemble and take apart an AK-47 under a time limit.

Students also learned how to shoot a rifle and march, several people who attended high school under the Soviet Union told Business Insider.

This was a graduation requirement.

A female Russian politician proposed that 'each female citizen of Russia will be able to receive by mail the genetic material of the President' to have a baby.


Chairwoman of Parliamentary Commission on Women's Affairs, Children and Family Yelena Borisovna Mizoulina reportedly said:

'The essence of my proposition is simple. Each female citizen of Russia will be able to receive by mail the genetic material of the President, get pregnant from him and have a baby. These mothers will be receiving special allowances from the government.'

Source: Trust (Russian), New York Observer (English)

There are North Korean labour camps in Siberia.

North Korea outsources its labour force to work in Siberia in an effort to generate hard currency.

Vice News went to visit the camps and discovered that workers had 10-year labour contracts, 'Dickensian working conditions, squalid living quarters, inedible food and the majority of their wages garnished and sent back to North Korea.'


Russia has a bigger surface area than Pluto.

Pluto's surface area is 16.7 square kilometers.

Russia's surface area is 17,098,242 sq km.

Source: CIA Factbook

Russia's natural gas reserves are equal to approximately 19.2 billion Olympic sized swimming pools.

Russia has 1,688 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves.

And Olympic sized swimming pool has a volume of 88,000 cubic feet.

Source: EIA

A Russian senator proposed creating a Russia-only internet, and naming it after a popular cartoon character Cheburashka.

Cheburashka, left, with friend, Gena the Crocodile.

Russian senator Maxim Kavdzharadze proposed creating a domestic Internet (mostly for 'scientific information') because Russia needs to 'get out from under the wing of the US, otherwise information leaks will continue.'

He also suggested that other countries (Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan) could maybe have access.

Additionally, Russia's Presidential Library announced in November that it was working with Russia's National Library to develop an online encyclopedia as an alternative to Wikipedia.

Source: The Moscow Times

Just standing on the edge of Russia's Lake Karachay for 1 hour only will give you enough radiation to kill you. (We're not even talking about putting your toes in the water.)

Most people aren't willing to risk their lives to go take a picture of the lake.

Radioactive waste was dumped into Lake Karachay during the Soviet Union, including long-lived fission products such as Strontium-90 and Cesium-137.

The area around the lake (the Chelyabinsk region) had seen a 21% increase in cancer, a 25% increase in birth defects, and a 41% increase in leukemia.

The nearby Techa River was so contaminated that roughly 65% of locals got radiation sickness.

Source: Daily Mail

Traditionally, Russians don't give an even amount of flowers to each other. That's reserved for funerals.

Alla Pugacheva, one of the most famous Soviet/Russian performers, sings popular Soviet single 'Million Scarlet Roses.'

So stay clear of giving a dozen roses to superstitious people.

Can't get enough about Russia? You're in luck. There's more:

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