8 curious (and not-so-widely spread) facts about Russia

8 curious (and not-so-widely spread) facts about Russia
07 August 2021

Russia is a vast country with a complex and fascinating history. It has made important contributions to humanity and always leaves plenty to talk about. And of course, being the largest country in the world, it is not surprising that it hides many curious facts. If you want to find out some of them, this article might be of interest to you.

1. Julius “Cae-царь”?

You’ve probably heard the word “tsar”. Well, this was the title given to the emperors of Russia (and the ruler of Bulgaria and Serbia) who reigned over Russia between 1547 and 1917. The word “tsar” comes from the Latin word “Caesar”, which etymologically means “imperial dignity” (does the name “Julius Caesar” ring any bells?) ?

Tsar Nicholas II

2. (Cheap) Alaska

This vast territory was owned by Russia until 1867, when Tsar Alexander II sold it to the US government for 7.2 million dollars. The sale was due, among other reasons, to the economic difficulties the Russian Empire was experiencing. In addition, Alaska was considered to be a difficult region to defend against a possible British assault.


3. Japanese touch

The famous matryoshkas, those traditional Russian dolls that are hollow inside and contain smaller replicas of themselves, symbolise motherhood and fertility. And although their origin is not entirely certain, they are said to have been inspired by traditional Japanese wooden dolls called “darumas”. Who would have thought that such an iconic symbol of Russia would have been inspired by another very interesting culture?

Darumas and Matryoshkas

4. Beer vs. Foodstuff

Until 2011, beer, like all alcoholic beverages up to 10°, were considered foodstuffs, not alcoholic beverages. This changed when the Russian president at the time (i.e, 2011), Dmitry Medvedev, proposed a law to change its category in an attempt to reduce its consumption.

Beer (пиво)

5. Ethnic multiculturalism

Although Russians may be commonly associated with Slavic traits, there are more than 190 ethnic groups in the country, making it one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world. Ethnicities include Tatars, Tuvans, Buryats, Yakuts and many others. There are also ethnic descendants of some Caucasian and Central Asian countries to be considered, such as the Tajiks, Uzbeks, Armenians and Kazakhs.


6. Время – деньги!

In Russia there are “anti-cafés”, which are establishments where you don’t pay for the products or the service, but for the time you spend there! Such is the case of the coffee chain “Ziferblat(Циферблат), which was founded in September 2011. The idea of the foundation is to make its guests feel at home, which is why here you can do whatever you like (without violating the company’s rules, of course), whether it’s drinking tea and coffee, eating cake, cooking, reading, playing games, organise movie nights, using the establishment as a co-working space, or just relaxing. And yes, it’s all free! The only thing you pay for is the time you spend there, which is not much (about 180 roubles per hour).

Time is money!

7. Do. Not. Enter

In the Soviet Union, there were cities that were home to important atomic, metallurgical, chemical and military industry centres. Today, several of these cities are known as “forbidden/closed cities”, which became restricted access areas that are normally only accessible to certain persons/institutions with special authorisation, be they military or scientific institutions. Although today access to some of these cities is approved for Russian citizens, there are others where even Russians are denied access. Nowadays, there are 44 of these “closed cities” that are publicly known, but it is estimated that there are at least 15 others whose location and names are not (yet) known to the general public.

“Closed Administrative territorial entity. Access and passage is FORBIDDEN except for residents of Mezhgorje”

8. And to conclude!)))

One of the things I noticed after messaging with Russians is that they often use parentheses at the end of their sentences. At first, I thought it was a typo, but after seeing it several times I knew there had to be a meaning behind it. And so there is: as strange as it may seem, for Russians the number of parentheses in a text message is very relevant, as they indicate the intensity of happiness. There is a big difference between a: Good luck to you! and: Good luck to you!)))). In this case, the latter is clearly expressing more happiness.



Of course, there are many more facts and curiosities about Russia, but I tried to pick a few that (maybe) are not so common, so that, in the best case, you might have learned a thing or two.

If you liked this post, make sure to check out more facts about various topics related to Russia by clicking here.

Posted by Fabio Reyes

Здравствуй! My name is Fabio and I study Applied Linguistics at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences in Switzerland. I am currently interning and studying Russian at Liden & Denz St. Petersburg, which is why I will be keeping you up to date with blogs related to Russia for the next 12 weeks. Stay tuned ?!

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