Russia: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Russia.

  • Russia is the world’s largest country. It covers just over 17 million square km and accounts for almost 10 percent of the inhabited land on earth.
  • It has borders with 14 other countries, and is only 80 km from the United States, across the Bering Strait. Russia spans 9 time zones and has a population of about 143 million.

  • During the 16th and 17th centuries, Russia was ruled by powerful Tsars; it became an empire in 1721.
  • The Russian Revolution of 1917 saw Lenin take power and the world’s first socialist country created.
  • The Trans-Siberian Railway is one of the world’s longest train journeys. It stretches 9,289 km from Moscow to Vladivostok and the entire journey takes just over 6 days.
  • Moscow, Russia’s capital has a population of about 12 million. It is one of the coldest cities in the world, as well as one of the fastest growing tourist destinations.
  • Leningrad is Russia’s second city, designed by Tsar Peter the Great in 1703. It has been named Petrograd and St. Petersburg during its history, and is home to the Hermitage, one of the world’s largest museums.

Flag of Russia

  • The Moscow underground or metro is the 4th largest in the world, and one of the deepest. Its stations are decorated with marble walls, statues, chandeliers and high ceilings.
  • Russia has about 100,000 rivers, including the 3,692 km Volga River, Europe’s longest.
  • Lake Baikal is the deepest freshwater lake in the world, and contains about 20 percent of the world’s unfrozen fresh water.
  • Famous Russian composers include Prokofiev, Mussorgsky and Tchaikovsky.
  • Famous Russian writers include Chekhov, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, whose War and Peace is one of the most well-known books of all-time.
  • Russia is one of the largest oil producers, and has 20 percent of the world’s forests.
  • It was the first country to put a man in to space, Yuri Gagarin, in 1961.

Croatia: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Croatia.

  • Croatia is located in central Europe and is one of the countries created when Yugoslavia split up. It covers about 56,000 square km and is bordered by Hungary, Serbia, Slovenia, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

  • Croatia became a kingdom in the 10th century, and during the 12th century, shared the same monarch with Hungary. After World War I, it became part of Yugoslavia and declared independence in 1991.
  • It has a population of about 4.2 million, most of who live in Zagreb, the capital and largest city.
  • Along the Adriatic coast are over 1,000 islands, of which about 50 are inhabited.Zagreb’s history dates back to Roman times, and it was designated a free Royal town in 1242. It is known for its high standard of living, many museums and historic district.
  • Split is the country’s second city, and the largest on the Croatian coast. It is known for its 1,700 year old Diocletian Palace, built as a home by the Roman emperor Diocletian.
  • Dubrovnik is one of the 10 best preserved medieval cities in the world. Its walls stretch for 2 km around the city and are 6 metres thick in places.

Flag of Croatia

  • Football is the most popular sort in Croatia, and the ongoing rivalry between Zagreb and Split is known as the Eternal Derby.
  • Chess and bridge are also popular in the country.
  • Croatian food is influenced by Turkey, Hungary and Italy. Soup is served with almost every meal and Croatia also has two well-known wine producing regions.
  • Christmas is celebrated in Croatia, although St. Nick leaves gifts in children’s shoes on December 5th. He is also said to protect sailors and fishermen when they are at sea.
  • The circle or kolo dance has been popular in Croatia for centuries. It is known for its lively music and difficult dance steps and is performed on holidays and at weddings.

Belarus: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Belarus.

  • Belarus covers an area of about 208,000 square km and is located in Eastern Europe. The country is bordered by Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.
  • It has been a part of the Russian Empire, part of Lithuania and part of a medieval principality known as the Kingdom of Polotsk. It became a part of the Soviet Union in 1922 and declared independence in 1990.

  • Belarus has two official languages, Russian and Belarusian.
  • The country has no official religion, although most residents are members of the Russian Orthodox Church.
  • Much of Belarus is flat and marshy, and the country’s highest point is just 345 metres.
  • There are as many as 11,000 lakes and ponds in the country.
  • Minsk has a population of just over 2 million and is the country’s capital and largest city. Independence Avenue has changed its name over 12 times and is one of Europe’s longest streets.

Flag of Belarus

  • The name Belarus translates as White Russian. The term may have come from the local Slavic people who used to wear mostly white clothing during the Middle Ages.
  • During the 19th century, Jewish dishes and foods became popular in Belarus, and at one time there were over 300 dishes made with potatoes. Rye bread is more common than wheat bread.
  • The remains of a primeval European forest can be seen in Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park. It is home to herds of European bison, Europe’s largest land animals.
  • One of the oldest buildings in Belarus is St Sophia’s Cathedral in Polotsk, built in the 11th century. It was built by Prince Vseslav who is buried there and is rumored to be a vampire.
  • Two holidays, Victory Day and Independence Day, are celebrated with military displays and fireworks. The country also celebrates the 1917 Russian Revolution, and remembers the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986.

Azerbaijan: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Azerbaijan.

  • Azerbaijan is a country situated between Eastern Europe and western Asia. It covers an area of about 87,000 square km and is bordered by Russia, Georgia, Iran and Armenia.
  • During the 12th century it was occupied by the Turks, and later by an Iranian Royal family.

  • It became part of the Soviet Union in 1920 and declared independence in 1991.
  • The capital, Baku is also the largest city, with a population of about 2 million. It lies almost 30 metres below sea level, making it the lowest lying capital city in the world.
  • Baku was once an important stop on the Silk Road, the ancient trading route from China to Europe. The city has one of the world’s most expensive streets and one of the tallest flagpoles.
  • Azykh cave is one of the oldest caves occupied by man. Early inhabitants of Azerbaijan painted thousands of rock paintings in the Gobustan nature park.
  • One of the world’s first oil wells was drilled near Baku, at the end of the 19th century. In 2006, a 1,768 km long oil pipeline was built across the country to Turkey.

Flag of Azerbaijan

  • About 40 percent of the country is mountainous, with the highest point at 4,466 metres.
  • There are over 8,000 rivers in the country, all of which flow in to the Caspian Sea.
  • Almost half of all the mud volcanoes in the world are in Azerbaijan. In 2001, one of these volcanoes erupted, sending flames 15 metres into the air.
  • Almost all the people in Azerbaijan are Muslims. It was the first Muslim country to allow its citizens to freely attend the opera and the theatre.
  • Black tea is the country’s official drink and is usually drunk in a pear shaped glass. Sugar lumps in tea are popular, dating from a time when rulers would use them to check for poisoned drinks.

France: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about France.

  • Covering about 640,000 square km, France is one of the largest countries in western Europe. It is separated from England by the English Channel and has both Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines.

  • France is bordered by Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Belgium. It is also bordered by two of the world’s smallest independent states, Monaco and Andorra, and has several overseas territories.
  • France is the world’s most visited country, attracting 84 million people each year. Popular destinations include the capital Paris, the Riviera, Brittany, Provence and the Loire Valley.
  • The 324 metre tall Eiffel Tower has become the symbol of France and is one of the world’s most visited monuments. It was the world’s tallest structure when built in 1889.
  • The popular art movement Impressionism had its beginnings in France. Paris is also home to the world’s greatest art museum, the Louvre, with almost 400,000 works of art.
  • France has been producing wine since Roman times, and it has some world famous wine producing areas. France is also known for its food, especially cheese which comes in over 1,000 varieties.
  • One of the most famous French men was the Emperor Napoleon. Apparently, it is illegal in France to name a pig Napoleon.

Flag of France

  • France was actually under British rule for almost 300 years when Eleanor of Aquitaine married Henry II. Today, England and France are linked by the 40 km Channel Tunnel.
  • One of the most important events in French history was the 1789 French Revolution, when the peasants revolted. Over 20,000 people were beheaded by the guillotine, including King Louis XVI.
  • New York’s Statue of Liberty was made in France and then given to the US as a gift. The statue’s face was probably modelled on the wife of the sewing machine maker, Isaac Singer.

Kosovo: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Kosovo.

  • Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008, is an independent state in southeastern Europe.
  • It covers about 11,000 square km and has a population of about 1.9 million.

  • The country’s name when translated means ‘country of blackbirds’.
  • It was ruled by the Ottoman Empire until 1913 when it became part of Serbia and Montenegro.
  • Kosovo has one of the world’s poorest economies, partly because of conflicts during the 1990s, international sanctions and poor economic planning. About 50 percent of people live below poverty level.
  • About 40 percent of the country is forested, and most of it is mountainous, with its highest point at 2,656 metres. The Nerodimka River is the only one in Europe flowing into two different seas.
  • The capital and largest city is Pristina, with almost 200,000 people.
  • A well-known monument in Pristina is the Great Hammam, a 15th century Turkish bath and one of the first buildings built under Ottoman rule.
  • The city’s newborn monument was created on February 17th, 2008, the day that Kosovo declared independence. It is decorated with the flags of the 99 countries that recognized independence.
  • Prizren has been called Kosovo’s most beautiful city, and is known for its many museums. According to legend, you will return to the city if you drink from the ancient water fountain.

Flag of Kosovo

  • Kosovo’s flag was used immediately after it declared independence, and was the winning entry in a United Nations sponsored competition. Its six stars represent Kosovo’s ethnic groups.
  • The old bazaar, or marketplace in Gjakova dates from the 16th century and covers about 35,000 square metres. It was once home to leather makers, bookbinders, gun makers and tailors.
  • Ibrahim Rugova was Kosovo’s first president, from 1992 to 2000 and from 2002 to 2006. He has been called the Father of the Nation and a hero of Kosovo.

Lithuania: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Lithuania.

  • Lithuania is one of the three Baltic states, located in the northeast part of Europe.
  • The country covers about 65,000 square km and is bordered by Latvia, Poland and Belarus.

  • Vilnius, the largest city and the capital, has a population of about 540,000 and was European Capital of Culture in 2009. The light show marking that event could be seen from space.
  • Vilnius is also known for its old town, which is a World Heritage Site. At one time it was known as the Jerusalem of Lithuania because of its large Jewish population.
  • The Kingdom of Lithuania was established in 1253, and during the 14th century it was the largest country in Europe.
  • During World War II, Lithuania was occupied by Russia and Germany.
  • The country was the first one to declare independence from the USSR, in 1990. In 1991 Lithuania joined the United Nations and the European Union in 2004.

Flag of Lithuania

  • Lithuania claims to have the geographical centre of Europe, marked by a tall pillar.
  • The country’s highest point is less than 300 metres, and about 33 percent of it is forested.
  • Salt and bread are important to the Lithuanian people. It is customary to welcome a guest with some salt and a loaf of bread.
  • One of the most popular Lithuanian dishes is Cepelinai, made from meat and potatoes and served in an oval shaped dish. It got its name from the zeppelin – a hot air balloon.
  • Lithuania’s national bird is the stork, and the country is sometimes called the Land of Storks. Many Lithuanian children believe that the stork brought them into the world.
  • There are over 2,500 lakes in Lithuania and over 800 rivers.
  • Lithuania has the shortest coastline of all the countries that have a coastline on the Baltic Sea, just 38 km.

Czech Republic: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about the Czech Republic.

  • The Czech Republic, once part of the former Czechoslovakia, covers about 79,000 square km and has a population of about 10.5 million.
  • It is bordered by Austria, Germany, Poland and Slovakia.

  • Prague is the capital and largest city, with a population of about 2 million. The city is the 5th most visited in Europe, and is considered to be one of Europe’s most beautiful cities.
  • Until the early 20th century, the country was known as Bohemia.
  • It became part of the Austrian Empire in 1806, was under Russian control after World War II, and became independent in 1989.
  • Prague Castle dates from the 9th century and is the world’s largest castle. The country’s president lives there and the Bohemian crown jewels are kept there in a hidden room.

Flag of the Czech Republic

  • The city’s Charles University was founded in 1348 and is one of the world’s oldest.
  • The 15th century Jewish cemetery in Prague is sometimes said to be the meeting place of secret societies.
  • The inhabitants of the Czech Republic drink more beer per person than any other country. The first brewery existed in the 12th century, and many monasteries brewed their own beer.
  • The writer, Franz Kafka is one of the most famous Czechs, and his Prague birthplace is today a museum.
  • Famous composers born in the Czech Republic include Dvorak and Mahler.
  • The Czech Republic leases about 30,000 square metres of water in Hamburg, Germany. This allows cargo to be put on Czech ships. The area will be given back to Germany in 2028.
  • Many Czechs enjoy hunting for mushrooms and truffles, especially on St. Vaclav’s day, at the end of September.
  • The Czech Republic has a long history of making puppets and puppetry performances. Many puppeteers travelled around Europe, putting on shows and telling stories. Puppets are a popular souvenir for visitors of the Czech Republic today.

Moldova: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Moldova.

  • Moldova is a small country in eastern Europe, covering about 34,000 square km.
  • It is bordered by Ukraine and Romania and has a population of about 3.5 million.

  • Chisinau is the country’s largest city and capital. It is twinned with over 12 towns and cities, including Hull, and is the country’s cultural and educational centre.
  • Because of its strategic central location, Moldova has been occupied by the Goths, Huns, Mongols and Tartars.

Flag of Moldova

  • In 1812 Moldova became a part of the Russian Empire, and became independent in 1990.
  • The Criva cave system is one of the largest and longest in the world. The caves are on several levels and there are also 20 underground lakes which are rich in minerals.
  • Moldova has a long history of wine making, and most villagers grow their own grapes and produce their own wine. National Wine Day has been celebrated each year since 1991.
  • The wine cellars at Milestii Mici are the world’s largest. The cellars are over 200 km in length and are estimated to hold almost 2 million bottles of wine.
  • Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Europe. Many Moldovans would like to be part of neighbouring Romania and about 75 percent of residents speak Romanian.
  • Saharna Monastery is one of the largest religious buildings in Moldova. It is known for its altar carved out of the rock, and a footprint in the rock, said to be that of St. Maria.
  • The Gustar music festival takes place every August, featuring music and traditional foods. The Martisor music festival takes place in spring and features musicians from many eastern European countries.
  • Despite its small size, Moldova has 2 smaller regions that consider themselves independent countries. Transnistria declared independence from the rest of the country in 1990, resulting in a 2 year civil war.

Hungary: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Hungary.

  • Hungary is a landlocked country, located in the centre of Europe.
  • It covers about 93,000 square km and is bordered by Slovakia, Romania, Ukraine, Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia and Austria.

  • It has been occupied by the Celts, Romans, Huns and Slavs and has a population of about 9 and a half million.
  • About 3 million live in Budapest, the capital and largest city.
  • Budapest is situated on the River Danube, which divides it into two halves — Buda and Pest. It has the world’s second oldest underground railway, after London.

Flag of Hungary

  • Budapest’s Parliament building is one of the oldest and largest in the world. It contains 10 courtyards, 29 staircases and almost 700 rooms, most of which are never used.
  • There are over 200 cave systems under the city. The Szemlohegyi cave has mineral formations that look like grapes, bunches of flowers and vegetables.
  • The modern safety match was invented by a Hungarian, as was the telephone exchange and the ballpoint pen. One of the most popular toys ever, Rubik’s Cube, was also invented there.
  • Hungary has over 400 public baths, as well as 1500 spas, many of which are designed in Greek, Roman or Turkish style.
  • The country is also home to one of the world’s largest thermal lakes.
  • One of Hungary’s national dishes is goulash, which dates back to the 9th century. The name comes from the word for a herd of cattle, and the dish was first eaten by shepherds.
  • The right hand of Hungary’s King Stephen, who died in 1038, is kept in the Basilica of King Saint Stephen. His feast day is an important holiday and is celebrated on August 16th.
  • Hungary has won gold medals at all Summer Olympics except those in 1920 and 1984, when they did not compete.
  • Hungary has been one of the most successful countries in the sport of water polo.