25 Perplexing Things You Probably Didn’t Know About The USSR

Many of us learned about the Soviet Union through heavily propagandistic Hollywood films (a la Rambo III and Rocky IV), where the Soviets were portrayed as evil, mechanical robots with no human feelings whatsoever. However, the truth about America’s greatest rivalry was vastly different. Being one of the world’s two superpowers for most of the second half of the twentieth century, the USSR went head-to-head with the United States in a series of fields from technology to science, military power to sports, and politics to culture. By the mid-1950s, the Cold War had worked its way into the fabric of everyday life in both countries, fueled by the arms race and the growing threat of nuclear war, wide-ranging espionage, the Space Race, the Korean War, and the clash between two different governing and socioeconomic systems. The Soviet Union became the first country to send a satellite (Sputnik), an animal (Laika), a man (Yuri Gagarin), and a woman (Valentina Tereshkova) into space, taking an early lead in the Space Race, but the United States finished stronger by putting a man on the moon (Neil Armstrong). These are 25 Perplexing Things You Probably Didn’t Know About The USSR.

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During Mikhail Gorbachev’s visit to England (December 1984), his wife, Raisa, told British agriculture minister Michael Jopling that there were more than three hundred ways to cook potatoes in the USSR. When he expressed his doubts, she promised to send him a cookbook, which she did a few months later noting: “My apologies for being somewhat inaccurate: in fact, there are five hundred, rather than three hundred, recipes to cook potatoes.”

Raisa GorbachevaSource: telegraph.co.uk , Image: commons.wikimedia.org

Cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev was in space when the Soviet Union was dissolved on December 26, 1991. He went up as a Soviet citizen and returned a Russian citizen.

Sergei KrikalevSource: theguardian.com, Image: Wikipedia

One of the most famous guns in the world, the Kalashnikov, was originally created in the Soviet Union in 1947, and has been in use ever since. In fact, there are more copies made of this rifle than of all other assault rifles combined!

KalashnikovSource: Wikipedia, Image: Wikipedia

Ostankino Tower is the highest TV tower in Europe to this day and was the world’s tallest self-supporting structure from 1967 to 1976. It surpassed the Empire State Building, was a masterpiece of Soviet engineering at the time it was built, and became the tallest freestanding structure in the world. It held this record for nine years until the CN Tower was completed in Toronto, Canada, in 1976.

Ostankino TowerSource: great-towers.com, Image: Wikipedia

The first spacecraft to land on another planet and transmit data back to Earth was the Soviet Venera 7. The probe was launched on August 17, 1970, and entered Venus’s atmosphere on December 15. After landing on Venus, the craft sent back only twenty-three minutes of weak data, presumably because it landed on its side.

Venera 7Source: russianspaceweb.com, Image: Wikipedia

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