When you think of Russia, perhaps you are swept over with a slight sense of fear as you recall its past leaders such as Ivan the Terrible, Stalin, and now Putin. These leaders were known to lead by imposing fear on the people, lightly speaking of wars and destruction, and simply not playing by anybody’s rules. But there’s probably more about Russia that you don’t know and you’ll probably sleep at night a little bit better that way. Some of these troubling facts about Russia might leave you questioning what’s real and what’s not.
Russia has always been known for wanting to outperform in all aspects of technology whether it’s space or science. They have taken extreme measures to try and outsmart their US arch-rival from digging the deepest holes to building the most nuclear warheads. Sometimes, their methods have involved shady and mysterious tactics including building secret underground transits and securing hidden cities from the rest of the world. They certainly are a nation of intimidation among their neighbors and even countries abroad. Perhaps the following fifteen troubling facts about Russia will give you a better understanding as to why the rest of the world is so afraid of them.
15. Intimidation Factor
In 2007, Russian President Vladamir Putin was arranged to meet with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel over a round of tough negotiations at his summer home in Sochi, Russia. Merkel was reportedly fearful of dogs after she had been attacked by one in 1995. During that meeting, Putin brought out his large black Labrador Koni and there were even images of the dog sniffing the uncomfortable Merkel while Putin sat by smirking. Perhaps he was trying to impose intimidation or gain a sort of psychological edge over Merkel. This was a situation that rankled the German press although he later claimed to have no knowledge of Merkel’s history or fear of dogs.
14. The Most Polluted Place on Earth
Russia’s Lake Karachay is a radioactive lake of death that can kill you within one hour when you stand near it. It is considered to be the single most polluted place on earth. Because of its small size, the lake was used as a convenient dumping location for large volumes of radioactive waste that would have been too hot to store in the underground storage areas of Russian facilities. The poor control of waste in the area caused contamination to rapidly spread throughout Russian regions. In the 60s, the lake was reported to have completely dried out. It was then filled with concrete blocks and from recent satellite images, there is no water remaining in it.
13. Doomsday Arsenal
Vladimir Putin once quoted that Russia could destroy the US in “half an hour or less” with its doomsday weaponry. Russia is known to take on immoral tactics and build ‘dirty bombs’ that can turn waters more radioactive than Lake Karachay. In 2000, Russia built and still maintains a doomsday device that can strike anywhere in the US with ten nuclear warheads. When questioning whether Russia’s nuclear weaponry exceeds that of the US, it is said that although they do have newer, more complicated weapons, their quality and design overall doesn’t exceed that of the US’ precise and responsibly maintained triad of nuclear weapons.
12. Secret Cities
Since 1940, Russia has had over fifteen ‘secret’ cities that are unnamed and don’t appear on any maps. The existence of these cities was known to have been hidden from society (particularly the US enemy) because they are the locations of Russia’s military and aerospace developments. These cities host the most advanced of Russia’s industries and scientific research. Outsiders simply can’t visit any one of these cities unless you are government authorized personnel, although it’s estimated that the cities have about 1.2 million residents. These cities are surrounded by barbed-wire security fences and guarded by strict checkpoints, similar to that of a prison. Sounds like shady business.
11. Underground Evacuation City & Metro System
Metro 2 is a secret underground metro system which runs parallel to the public metro system, Moscow Metro. It was built by previous Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin and is rumored to have four lines. It connects four government locations including Kremlin, the Federal Security Service headquarters, a government airport, and a secret underground city in the Ramenki district. The underground city is rumored to have a bunker complex that can support 10,000 people for thirty years in the event that there was ever a nuclear attack on Moscow. The underground city is referred to as “Ramenki 43” and it, along with Metro 2, provides a quick and secure evacuation system.
10. It’s Anti-Gay
In Russia, it’s now illegal to tell children that gay people exist. In 2014, President Putin signed a law that banned any discussion or mention of non-traditional sexual relations around children. The legislation can impose a fine of $156 for individuals and $31,000 for organizations that even slightly violate it, and can also lead to the imprisonment of LGBT individuals. The law applies just as much to foreigners who are seen spreading pro-gay messages. They can be detained and eventually expelled from the country. Later that year, Putin signed another law banning gay couples from adopting Russian-born children. The laws have led it to be viewed as a crime for being gay and LGBT people are often publicly humiliated.
9. Drug Epidemic
In 2011, studies showed that heroin was used more in Russia than anywhere else in the world with a current estimate of over 1.5 million users of the drug throughout the country. That amounts to about 20% of the country’s entire population that are addicted to heroin. And now an even deadlier drug, Krokodil, is making waves as well. The drug is known to eat the flesh from the inside out and turn human skin scaly and crocodile-like. Approximately 70,000 deaths per year are related to drug use and overdose. With the number of drug addictions rising, Russia is now becoming a global leader in the war on drugs.
8. 1/4 Men Die Before 55
Perhaps this explains why the population of women in the country outnumber the number of men. Compared to the US where just 10% of men die before their 55th birthday, Russian men have a 25% chance of not making it that far. And it’s not due to malnutrition or other natural health factors as seen in the other fifty countries with high death rates. It is said that this is due to the overwhelming drug and alcohol consumption that kills Russian men. Vodka is the national drink and also the source of 40% of the government’s revenue. On average, men consume three or more half-liter bottles of vodka per week.
7. National Day of Conception
September 12th is Russia’s “Day of Conception” in which couples are given half a day off of work to try and conceive a baby. If the couple is successful in birthing a baby nine months later, they are rewarded with lavish cash prizes and expensive gifts such as an apartment. The holiday was made popular by the region of Ulyanovsk but is also observed in other areas throughout the country. In 2007, the grand prize went to Irena and Andrei Kartuzov who received a sport utility vehicle called the UAZ-Patriot. Other couples received awards such as televisions, cameras, and washing machines.
6. More Abortions than Births
In 2005, more abortions had taken place than actual live births. According to 2010 UN data, Russia also had the highest ratio of abortions per women than any other country in the world. However, due to Russia’s declining population, the Russian government has now put laws in place to restrict abortions to just the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and this period can be stretched to 22 weeks in the instance of a rape or medical necessity. The law also put regulations in place regarding how long one has to wait before undergoing an abortion procedure and which facilities can practice the procedure.
5. Still at War with Japan
Technically speaking, Russia and Japan still haven’t signed an official peace treaty to end World War II. The islands known as the Southern Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan are the current major issue of dispute as both parties can’t come to a settlement over ownership of the islands. The islands were seized by the Soviet Union in 1945, causing 17,000 Japanese residents to flee to nearby Hokkaido. Despite President Vladimir Putin’s justifications in their December 2016 meeting for needing the islands, the Japanese Prime Minister said that Japan would continue to try to get the islands back regardless of the “difficult path ahead.”
4. No Freedom of Press
Russia is now widely known as a no-press zone for the media. Since President Vladimir Putin rose to power in 2000, an estimated twenty-one journalists have been killed. And in a majority of those cases, there have been no suspects that were convicted or sentenced for those murders. Although it hasn’t been proven that Putin was responsible for any of those murders, experts attribute them to the political climate in Russia which condones journalism. Russia now ranks at 180 out of 199 countries overall in terms of press freedom. To date, there have now been over 300 murders of Russian journalists since 1993. And although 2016 saw a low number of killings, the intimidation has still been fairly high.
3. Mysterious Radio Station
Since 1973, Russia has been reported to have a mysterious radio station known as “The Buzzer” where you hear nothing but short, monotonous buzz tones all day long. On unscheduled, rare occasions, the buzz tones are interrupted by a Russian-accented voice which relays codes. Within a 24-hour time period, the station relays up to 18 different messages. Little information is known about the station, although the call signs have been changed twice since 1973. But the monotonous buzzing sounds interrupted by Russian codes still continue to this day. Many radio enthusiasts have tried to decode the mystery of the radio station without much luck.
2. The Deepest Hole
From 1970 to 1994, the Soviets literally chipped away at creating a world record, the Kola Superdeep Borehole, the name of the deepest hole ever dug underground. The scientific drilling project attempted to drill as deep as possible into the earth’s crust. Although it started with one central hole, several boreholes were drilled branching off of that one hole, with SG-3 being the deepest hole at 40,230 feet long. It is nine inches in diameter and, to this day, is still the deepest artificial hole on Earth. The project was just one leg out of many in the country’s great scientific race against its US arch-rival.
1. 146% Voter Turnout
If the race between Clinton and Trump left you puzzled, wait until you hear how Putin won Russia’s most recent presidential election. In the 2012 parliamentary elections, there was a record setting of 146% voter turnout. There were some claims of ballots being filled with invisible ink, and election officials being filmed while filling out numerous ballots at their desks. Bill Neely commented, “look at Precinct 451 in the capital Grozny, where Putin got 1,482 votes and (former Communist leader Gennady) Zyuganov got one. Terrific vote. Except that only 1,389 people were registered to vote in the precinct. That means the turnout was 107 percent.” No wonder Putin is suspected to have been involved with hacking the US election as well.
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