Despite its power and success, Russia remains a mystery to much of the Western world—undoubtedly because of its time spent as the Soviet Union in the Cold War. In light of this, however, Russia has emerged as one of the world’s dominant powers since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. A look at Russia’s history shows one of the world’s most remarkable legacies and a plethora of interesting facts.
We’ve compiled ten of the most interesting fun facts about Russia in our list below!
1. Russia Was the First to Put a Man in Space
While America’s claim of having the first man on the moon is often the most talked about, it’s worth noting that the Soviet Union was the first country to actually put a man in space. Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space in 1961, beating America by less than one month.
2. Much of Russia is Uninhabitable
This fun fact about Russia for kids is quite educational—and it comes as a surprise on multiple levels. By surface area, Russia is the largest country in the world. So large, in fact, that both China and the United States combined are just barely bigger than Russia. The second element to this comes, however, when you realize that over 70% of Russia is comprised of Siberia—a bitterly-cold area that allows for little human life. In fact, some of the lowest temperatures in the world (-71°C or -96°F) have been recorded in Siberia.
3. Russia Stretches Across Nine Different Time Zones
Traveling through Russia can get complicated, as the country spans over nine different time zones. This makes regulating e-commerce difficult. For anyone looking to travel through Russia, be careful of the time as you go along your journey.
4. It Wasn’t Until 2013 That Russia Declared Beer as Alcoholic
Russians are known for loving their alcohol. In fact, some recent studies have shown that the average life expectancy for Russian men is only 65 years old—largely due to the over consumption of alcohol. What’s surprising in regard to this fun fact about Russia, though, is that beer wasn’t even classified as an alcoholic beverage until New Years Day in 2013. Before then, it was just considered a food consumption item.
5. Russia and America Are Closer Than You Think
Though we typically think of Russia and America as being cross-world enemies and allies, the two powers are closer than you think. At their closest points, they’re only 2.4 miles apart!
6. Russia Is Almost the Size of Pluto
It was believed at one point that Russia actually was bigger than Pluto, but a 2015 space mission showed that Pluto just barely edged out Russia in terms of surface area. The surface area of Pluto is currently estimated at 17,646,012 square kilometers, compared to 17,075,200 for Russia.
7. Russia Once Taxed Citizens for Having a Beard
As difficult as this kid-friendly fun fact about Russia may sound, it’s true. In 1698, a beard tax was imposed by Emperor Peter I in an attempt to convince Russian men to shave their beards. Peter I had just returned from a trip to Europe, where he noticed that beards were not favored. In an attempt to emulate other Europeans, Peter I initially tried to ban beards, but ultimately loosened regulations to just a tax.
8. Russian Wedding Rings
Unlike many countries where wedding rings are worn on the left hand, Russians actually wear their weddings rings on their right hands. How’s that for a twist?
9. Alaska: A Botched Sale?
When America purchased Alaska from Russia for $7,200,000 in 1867, many called it a waste and a useless icebox. Now, however, the value of Alaska is estimated at over $2.5 trillion. Can you spell regret? And Alaska ranks amongst our best vacation spots in the US.
10. The World’s Largest Freshwater Lake
Another kid-friendly fun fact about Russia is that it’s home to the world’s largest freshwater lake by volume. With over 20% of the world’s non-frozen freshwater, Lake Baikal eclipses other lakes in terms of sheer volume.