Russia – when it hits the headlines, as a nation, it's most often for outrageous behavior and political skullduggery. But, can it really be such a crazy place to live? In today's world, everything ends up on camera, and it has to be said that the photographic evidence does make a case for weirdness, danger, and extreme conditions.
It's true that you can't trust everything you see, and on the web, a single incident can often get reposted, repackaged, and republished over and over again, seeming to create a trend that isn't actually happening out there in real life. When it comes to some of the crazy stuff we've all seen about Russia and the Russian people, though, the overwhelming mountain of photographs and videos, and sheer volume of different incidents of the same kind of thing have to paint a portrait of a place where life is more adventurous than it is in North America, to say the least.
Out of the plethora of crazy Russia videos and pics out there, we dug through to make our case: Russia is absurdly dangerous.
15 Russian Subway Dogs
Russia has a problem with feral dogs, it's undeniable. There are about 35,000 stray dogs in Moscow alone. We could blame this on the collapse of the Soviet Union, but the fact of the matter is that the feral dogs of Moscow have been a thing since the 19th century -- in fact Anton Checkhov even wrote a story about it. Some have grown so wild that they avoid human beings and only come out at night, making walking around alone in the evenings a dangerous prospect in some Moscow neighborhoods and suburbs. Authorities figure about 500 feral dogs live in the Moscow Metro system, and about 20 of them have actually learned how to use the subway trains to commute from the suburbs where they sleep to the downtown area during the day to beg for food. The subway dogs seem friendly enough and they've become international celebrities through social media, but the dangers are no joke. Official estimates put the number of feral dog attacks at 20,000 per year.
14 Armed And Looking For Fun
Perhaps it's not fair to judge a nation's inhabitants by looking at their dating website profile photos. Certainly, we're absolutely sure that if we perused the profile pics of plentyoffish.com or any other dating website, that we'd find a lot of questionable material. But having said that, what the actual F is going on with the guy in this picture, which purports to come from a Russian hook-up site? Blossoms or bullets, baby -- you decide! Ya, there are NRA fans in the United States, sure, but we're mentioning this one because the whole gun toting thing seems to be a bit of a Russian craze. Do Russians looking for hook-ups generally go for this kind of appeal? Has Putin spawned a nation of testosterone-addicted alpha males and the women who love them? We may never know for sure, but pics like this make us think so.
13 Weird Drugs And Violence
If the news is to be believed, Russia is in the throes of a serious drug abuse problem, and while some of that comes in the form of old standbys like heroin and cocaine, a designer drug called spice has been wreaking all kinds of havoc. It's cheap, and until 2009, spice was even available legally from retail stores. Even today, it's marketed openly via signs chalked on the streets, and pushed as a safe alternative to other party drugs. Spice – the name comes from the drug in Frank Herbert's seminal sci-fi novels, The Dune series – has been around since 2004. It's banned in the U.S. and throughout the EU. In 2009, the government started banning spice, but since legislation is specific to the formula, the exact chemical composition constantly changes and it's openly advertised for sale. In Russia though, the violence sometimes comes from the anti-drug side, as in this photograph, where what have been described as pro-Kremlin youth groups got together to beat down spice pushers. Gangs of these youth groups would attack the drug dealers with hammers and other household tools.
12 Freezing Cold And Perpetual Night
To be Russian, at least in some well documented cases, seems to involve adapting to harsh conditions that would kill the rest of us ordinary mortals. Sometimes, literally. Norilsk is a town above the Arctic Circle, where temperatures dip below minus 65 Fahrenheit in the winter. The sun sets in late November and doesn't rise again until some time in January, leaving the frigid city in night time darkness for the two coldest months of the year. Add to that a metal smelting plant whose fumes make it one of the most polluted cities in the world and yet, over 177,000 people make it their home. So, other than copious amounts of vodka, what do you do to get through the winter? Outdoor swimming isn't necessarily the first thing that came to mind. Actually, ice swimming by itself is fairly common in Russia, especially Siberia. Many Russians have an almost cult-like belief in the powers of ice water swimming. They're convinced that the sudden shock to your heart and lungs is good for you, and the more of a shock, the better. Even if you go along with the premise, though, when you add the apocalyptic darkness, polluted ground and waters, and the acrid taste of smog in the air, it becomes a family day at the beach like no other.
11 Armed Road Rage
Road rage is another aspect to everyday life in Russia, apparently. Social media and the British tabloids are full of reports of crazy road rage fights, and many of them seem to include guns. A video report from July 2016 features masked men armed with machine guns getting involved in a violent altercation between a driver and a cyclist. In another, a man attacks a car with an ax. In contrast, this pic of a man getting out of his car armed only with a handgun seems almost tame. We'll point out, for the sake of fairness, that there are a lot of videos of crazy Russian driving and road rage incidents just because many Russian drivers have outfitted their cars with dashcams. On the other hand, the reason they have dashcams...is to protect themselves in the case of rampant police corruption, as well as someone else's terrible driving and/or drunkenness. It's not a reassuring scenario, no matter what way you look at it.
10 Crazy Truck Drivers
Dashcams, dashcams everywhere in Russia have captured many of the videos that entertain us in our newsfeeds, including sooo many of crazy Russian truck drivers. What is it that makes them so ballsy? Let's start with icy highways and impossible terrain that includes both mountains and desert regions. It's also no secret that drunk driving is much more of a thing in Russia than in North America or the EU. And, you've got armed a-holes out there driving the streets, waiting for the chance to go off on you over a missed signal light. Maybe it's not so surprising that Russian truck drivers get a little crazy sometimes -- and that they tend to have it all recorded on a dashcam. We dug up some statistics to see if there's anything behind the stereotype. The data for trucks isn't separated out, but in the United States, there are just under 13 road fatalities for every 100,000 motor vehicles. In Russia, that rate jumps up to over 53 fatalities for every 100,000 vehicles – or more than four times the rate.
9 Dangerous Roads
It seems like we can blame at least some of the road rage and suspicious driving behavior that seems to run rampant in Russia on the state of the roads. This one has to be one of the worst, not just in Russia, but in the whole world. About 160 miles to the north east of Moscow, near a place called Yaroslavl, the Olympic Road – as the locals like to call it – was built in 1980 for the Summer Olympic Games. So, it was built for show, in other words, and the legends about Soviet-era incompetence may just be gold if this is any kind of indication. It looks like an earthquake hit it, but apparently the damage was caused by floodwaters a few years ago.
8 Crazy Street Brawl
We think that probably most people in Russia live their lives peacefully like anywhere else, but damn, so many of them do seem to end up on a street brawl video. If they're really so common, it would be useful to have some practical guidelines. Such as, how many blocks can you expect to walk on a Moscow street before running into something like this? As usual, we dug beneath the Youtube videos to try and get some facts on the issue. It turns out that the rate of what is called intentional homicide in Russia is actually nearly three times that of the United States, and the rate of violent crime is about double. Other violent crime rates seem about level with the U.S., but many experts also believe that the Russian police forces doctor their stats to hide murder rates much higher than those reported.
7 Gay Nazis
Somebody didn't get the right memo, we're thinking. Hitler and his Nazi friends didn't limit their hatred to Jews only; they also had it in for, among others, Russians and gays. In fact, it's estimated that the Nazi regime hunted down and arrested about 100,000 gays between 1933 and 1945, and that 10,000 or more died in concentration camps. None of that has prevented the formation of not one, but several gay Nazi organizations in Russia. There is a group called Gay Aryan National-Socialists, and another called GASH (Gay Aryan Skinheads). At the Gay Union of Patriots of Russia, they have an elaborate theory on how it's only gay men who can actually be Russian "patriots". Apparently, the Russian gay Nazi organizations ignore the details and focus on the anti-immigrant, xenophobic message. The hate is what counts, apparently. Overall, they say that Russia has more skinheads – gay or straight – than any other nation.
6 Bears, Just Bears
We've all seen those forest-cam videos of bears in the wild, scratching their backs on trees, but we're not sure about the wisdom of them taking cabs around town. What is it with Russians and their apparent fascination and love for bears? Is it because the big, burly beasts are tough enough to make it through the Russian winters and live to tell the tale, just like the Russian people themselves? Whatever the reason, it's apparently not uncommon at all, and perfectly legal, for people to own bears as pets in Russia. You can even take your bear for a walk down the street in Moscow and let him poop all over somebody's lawn, because the by-laws apply only to dogs. The bear kibble price tag must be fairly high, but hey, a single bear can probably keep a family of four warm during a Siberian night. We just hope they aren't allowed to poop in the taxis too.
5 Ice Baths
It's cold in Siberia, so it's probably best to just get used to it. That's part of the theory behind the very common practice of taking cold, outdoor showers in the winter. It's considered an important enough part of Siberian life that some preschools get the little ones in their bathing suits and outdoors to dump a bucket of ice water over their heads on a daily basis. It's considered very healthy, and said to actually boost the immune system by its enthusiasts. At the very least, it prepares them for a lifetime of being cold literally all the time. The practice isn't limited to kids. Old men sit around playing chess in their shorts in the snow, and as this pic illustrates, everyone gets in on the ice bath craze at least once in a while. Maybe she's trying to jump start the process for junior?
4 Unnecessary Violence
We were as surprised as anyone else to find out that Russia's gun laws are actually more restrictive than those of the United States. Handguns are prohibited for most people. You can buy a gun for hunting, sports, or self-defense only, restricted to specific types of weapons and not including automatic or even semi-automatic guns. So why do so many Russian selfies include a gun of some kind? This one may qualify as a sport, but that looks awfully like a handgun, doesn't it? And what did the poor fish do to earn that evil look of murder on the dude's face? The funny thing is, although there are far fewer – up to ten times fewer – guns in Russia as there are in the U.S., the murder rate is more than double.
3 High Winds In Siberia
In Russia, you can avoid all the wrong people and situations, and still get killed by Mother Nature herself. The coldest inhabited places on earth are located in Siberia. Temperatures of minus 60 Fahrenheit or less are every day, and the coldest ever recorded was close to minus 90. It's not just temperatures you have to deal with. In some places, snowstorms rage for almost a third of the year. High winds are another feature of life in Siberia, and sometimes, it can get dangerous out there. In March of 2016, strong winds ripped off the metal roof of an apartment complex in Dudinka. Temperatures had dipped well below zero and the winds reached hurricane level gusts.
2 Dangerous Hobbies
Because bears and guns aren't enough, Russian teens invented a new way to risk – no, taunt – death: skywalking selfies. Angela Nikolau and her partner are climbers and adventure junkies, and she's garnered worldwide fame with a series of risky selfies taken on top of skyscrapers from Russia to China and back. While Angela is arguably the most famous, she's not the only skywalker in Russia. The skywalking craze is also and pretty obviously not without its risks. In 2015, a Russian teen fell nine stories to his death for the sake of a skywalking selfie. Online, while her Instagram account is undeniably popular, Angela's had as many critics of her risky maneuvers as she has fans. Needless to say, don't try this at home, kids.
1 Subs At The Beach
As a foreigner, you won't be able to visit Severodvinsk, Russia, unless you have legit business there, and that usually means something to do with submarines. Located on the Northern Dvina River on the White Sea, it's not that uncommon to spend your day on the beach at Severodvinsk -- that's when it's actually warm enough to go to the beach in this far northern city -- with your view of the seas enhanced by the smooth slip of a submarine. The Sevmash shipyards in Severodvinsk handle both making and repairing nuclear attack submarines, the most advanced in the country. Now, normally, during peacetime the sight alone of a sub wouldn't necessarily be anything to freak out about, but nowadays, it's not such a relaxing sight.
Sources: Daily Mail; Al Jazeera; The Siberian Times; National Geographic; Huffington Post.