First part published in #98. Full article you can read in https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/russia/articles/facts-about-russia/
…36. In the White Dining Room in the Hermitage Palace there’s a clock on the mantelpiece. It was stopped at 2.10am on the night of October 25,1917, when Kerensky’s provisional government, which had held power since the February revolution, was arrested by the Bolsheviks – it is the moment Russia slipped into to communism.
- Mikhail Gorbachev recorded an album of romantic ballads. Putin has a judo DVD.
- For a brief period in the Nineties, PepsiCo had one of the largest submarine fleets in the world courtesy of a deal with Russia.
- You can visit without applying for a visa by taking a ferry/short cruise from Helsinki (to St Petersburg).
- It has one of the world’s most terrifying walkways: the 439-metre SkyBridge.
- St Peterburg has its own beach beside the Peter and Paul Fortress. The city’s so-called “walruses” – believers in the therapeutic effects of freezing water – gather here to bathe in winter.
- Vasilevskiy Island in St Petersburg offers a bizarre selection of attractions, including a pair of 15th-century sphinxes from Egypt on the river side and a museum of biological oddities where you can see the skeleton and heart of Peter the Great’s gigantic personal servant.
- 1,800 skiers and snowboarders once hit the slopes of Sheregeshwearing bikinis in a bid to break a Guinness World Record.
- The country had plans to build an ambitious 12,400-mile superhighway linking the Atlantic and the Pacific.
- It is home to Europe’s longest river, the Volga, at 3,690km (2,293 miles). It has more than 200 tributaries that, if counted with the main river, would add up to 357,000km (221,800 miles).
…47. Around 10,000 British tourists visit the country each year, and over 90 per cent of them go only to Moscow and/or St Petersburg.
- In Uglich, some 125 miles north of Moscow, a red and white churchoverlooking the River Volga marks the spot where, in 1591, the eight-year-old Tsarevich Dmitry, the youngest son of Ivan the Terrible and the last of the Rurik dynasty, was murdered, allegedly on the orders of Boris Godunov. To quell the ensuing uproar, Moscow despatched investigators, who concluded that the young boy fell, accidentally stabbing himself (“Seven times!” add locals, wryly) in the process.
- It is home to the coldest inhabited place on the planet – Oymyakon. On February 6, 1933, a temperature of −67.7 °C was recorded at its weather station
…51. In 1908 the Russian Olympic team arrived in London 12 days late because it was still using the Julian calendar.
- The Ter Sami language of the Kola Peninsula is on the verge of extinction – just two people speak it.
…54. According to a biography by Henri Troyat, Peter the Great loved his toy soldiers so much that he executed a rat (by hanging) which had the temerity to chew the head off of one. He also imposed a tax on beards.
…57. A museum in St. Petersburg has on display what it claims is Rasputin’s severed penis in a glass jar. Experts doubt it is the real thing, however.
Contributions from Nick Trend, Adrian Bridge, Marc Bennetts, Sara Wheeler, Lisa Grainger, Teresa Levonian Cole, Oliver Smith, Hugh Morris, Teresa Machan, Lizzie Porter and Caroline Shearing.