1. Some Russian bears are so addicted to aviation fuel, they sniff it to get high and then pass out.
These bears sniff the fuel from containers left behind in the Kronotsky Nature Reserve in the far east of Russia. Some of them have become so addicted to the good stuff that they stalk helicopters, waiting to get their paws on either barrels of the fuel, or for any of the fuel to leak out on to the soil. As of yet, there are no known 12 step recovery programs for bears in Russia.
2. In Russia, there are 9 million more women than men.
According to a United Nations report, there are 86.8 men for every 100 women in Russia (across the world, there are 101.8 men for every 100 women). But there’s an interesting side note to this stat: Russian newborn boys outnumber newborn girls and men continue to outnumber women until the age of 31. But from age 32 on, women outnumber men. The leading explanation for this: early mortality among men. According to Russian Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova, the biggest cause of early mortality among Russian men is primarily related to alcohol consumption.
3. There used to be a beard tax in Russia, paid by anyone who had a beard.
The beard tax was created by Tsar Peter the Great, in an attempt to modernize the country’s society. According to the beard tax, all men (except peasants and clergymen) had to pay 100 roubles for a copper or silver “beard token” that had a moustache and a beard engraved on to it - and then carry the token with them as proof of paying the tax. Also engraved on the token: the words ‘the beard is a useless burden.’ No surprise that many hipsters in Russia did not think that Peter the Great was great.
4. Russia used to be home to the largest McDonalds restaurant in the world.
In 1990, a McDonalds opened in Moscow to the delight of 5,000 people who wanted to be there right when it opened. It set a world record that day by serving over 30,000 customers. Interesting fact about this opening: since the U.S. could not partner with Russia at this time due to the Cold War, this was a project with McDonalds’ Canada.
5. There are dozens of “closed cities” in Russia that are closed to the outside world.
Closed cities, in large part, existed to serve the interests of the army or major research institutions in the late 1940s. These cities were not included on Soviet maps and were only designated by post code. They were kept secret for long periods of time. Today, many of them are no longer a secret, but they are likely surrounded by barbed wire and protected by armed guards. Foreigners are strictly prohibited from entering them.
6. In Russia, it is a finable offense to drive a dirty car.
Caveat to this one: there is some debate as to whether or not you will actually get a ticket for having a dirty car. There was a Lonely Planet forum that dug deep in to this and many indicated that a fine would be levied only if the the registration of the vehicle was so dirty that it was illegible. But others made the strong point: you don’t want Russian police pulling you over for anything - so keep your car clean.
7. If you give a gift of flowers, make sure that it is an odd number of flowers.
It is a scientific fact that women love flowers (citation needed). And that goes for women in Russia too. But if you are to give anyone in Russia the gift of flowers, make sure that you give an odd number of flowers. Bouquets with an even number are reserved for funerals.