From Tsars to Soviets: 76 Essential Insights into the History and Culture of Russia

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1Disaster

Disaster

The practice of focusing on disasters elsewhere when one occurs in the Soviet Union was so common that after watching reports on Soviet television about a catastrophe abroad, Russians would call Western friends to find out whether something had happened in the Soviet Union.


2. During the Siege of Leningrad in WWII, 9 Soviet scientists died of starvation while protecting the world's largest seed bank, refusing to eat what they saw as their country's future.


3. During the Cold War, the USSR was able to tell a Soviet passport was a forgery because the staples in real passports would corrode due to the poor quality of metal.


4. USSR liberated more concentration camps than the rest of the allies combined during World War 2.


5. A Soviet Union Marshal named Gregory Zhukov commissioned a colorless Coca-Cola that resembled vodka because he liked the taste and was embarrassed to be seen drinking coke in public.


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6Alexey Pajitnov

Alexey Pajitnov

Alexey Pajitnov, the creator of TETRIS (1984) did not receive any royalties from one of the most popular video game titles until 1996 as the rights were owned by his employer, the Soviet government.


7. From 1979 to 1992 Soviets drilled a super deep bore called the Kola Superdeep Borehole that reached 12,262m (40,230 ft) just to see how deep they could drill.


8. 25 Russian soldiers under the command of Yakov Pavlov defended a building during the Battle of Stalingrad so well that it never fell. Vasily Chuikov, general of the Soviet forces in Stalingrad, later joked that the Germans lost more men trying to take "Pavlov's house" than they did taking Paris.


9. In WWII, a woman-only Soviet bomber regiment was nicknamed the "Night Witches" by German soldiers. For a successful bombing run, the Witches would cut the engine of their archaic and noisy aircraft. Gliding in, they would release their bombs before the enemy even knew they were there.


10. The Soviet Union did not admit that a reactor had exploded at Chernobyl until nearly three days after radiation from the disaster set off alarms at a nuclear plant in Sweden 1000 km away.


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11Operation Barbarossa

Operation Barbarossa

The German invasion of the Soviet Union caused 95% of all German Army casualties that occurred from 1941 to 1944.


12. The Soviets made "The Hobbit" movie in 1985 with the full name "The Fairytale Journey of Mr. Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit." The full movie is available on Youtube.


13. A Soviet NKVD executioner personally killed 7000 Polish officers over a 28 day period with a pistol, working 10 hours per night and averaging a person every three minutes. He personally accounted for almost one-third of the Katyn Massacre.


14. The first animal launched into orbit, Laika, was found as a stray wandering the streets of Moscow. Soviet scientists assumed that such animals had already learned to endure conditions of extreme cold and hunger.


15. Russia has a monument to laboratory mice, to celebrate their contribution to science


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16Nazino Affair

Nazino Affair

In 1933 Soviet Russia dumped 6200 people on an island in Siberia and left them with only flour for food, a few tools, and no shelter. A month later about 4000 of them were dead.


17. During the Cuban missile crisis, a Soviet Submarine came under attack from depth charges, the captain assumed WW3 had started and prepared to launch a nuclear weapon, but his executive officer overruled him. It turned out the depth charges were training rounds being used to signal them to surface.


18. The physical document that dissolved the Soviet Union is missing as of February 7, 2013.


19. The United States and Russia signed a treaty in 1967 agreeing not to nuke the Moon


20. A Russian submarine named Kursk sank in August of 2000 due to an accident involving poorly maintained torpedoes. None of the crew survived due to old, poorly maintained Russian rescue equipment and the Russian Navy’s refusal to accept Western aid.


21Russian cosmonauts

Russian cosmonauts

Russian cosmonauts urinate on the right rear wheel of the transfer bus before liftoff. Female cosmonauts are excused, but some dash a cup of their own urine in solidarity.


22. Rich Russians hire fake ambulances to beat the city traffic. These ambulances don't have any medical equipment, but couches and flat screen televisions.


23. Catherine the Great of Russia once said that she needed a virile young man in the Imperial bed for the sake of her health, and was unable to rule Russia properly when sleeping alone. Eligible young noblemen would be “tested” by her ladies-in-waiting before making appearances in the Empress’ night chamber. “She selected a new favorite, or agreed to the selection recommended by her ‘experts,’ much as she selected a new painting for her collection.”


24. The Mir diamond mine of Siberia, Russia is so large that it creates air currents strong enough to suck a helicopter into it.


25. Russia opened a "Military Disneyland" that will allow guests to shoot military grade weapons and try out various military simulators.

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