By Mark J. Stoddard, Co-Founder, Heart of Russia Cruises
Bits and Bizarre Pieces of Russian History, Culture & Geography
PART I of 4
1. According to legend, the large dish in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral off Red Square was used for:
a. Mass baptisms b. Mass executions c. Both.
According to various guides contradicting each other, the answer is Both. Welcome to legends of the tsars.
2. In 1991, when the USSR finally collapsed under its own weight, injection needles were cleaned with an autoclave; disposable needles were unknown.
3. Also, in 1991, President Boris Yeltsin’s office in the Russian White House, had a 3’x3’ table to the left of his desk. On it were 18 rotary dial phones, each a different color. That was his switchboard. (I saw it.)
4. When Boris Gudonov’s plan to execute Prince Dmitry, son of Ivan the Terrible, was carried out…although by Boris’s account the young man slit his own throat while having an epileptic seizure…the cleric in Uglich rang the large bell to warn everyone. In retaliation, Gudonov cut off the “ears” of the bell. (The “ears” hold the bell to the pulley system that makes it go back and forth.)
5. At the wedding of Nicolas and Alexandra, many people died trying to get to the buffet table.
6. Catherine the Great, born and raised in Germany, rarely, if ever, spoke Russian because her Russian had a deep German accent. French was the language of the court.
7. When Lenin’s communist party took over the government, one of their first acts was to “nationalize” all of the churches, then burn all of the Bibles they could find, melt the bells to make cannons, and use many churches as grain storage facilities.
8. When Nicolas and Alexandra and their 7 children were rounded up in the basement and shot, many bullets were deflected upon hitting the jewels they had secreted below their clothing. At least one version of their execution. But...did Anastasia really die?
9. The song, “Lara’s Song” made famous by the movie Dr. Zhivago, is NOT a popular folk song in Russia. It was written for the movie yet is very popular for balalaika performers today.
10. The virgin forests of Russia would cover the United States of America at least once.
11. During the Soviet era, Russia had a severe paper shortage.