Bizarre Facts About The Soviet Union

The Soviet Union was founded on December 30, 1922, as a socialist community that quickly became governed by the Communist Party. After decades of unrest, the USSR was dissolved 69 years later on December 26, 1991. While the Soviet Union wasn’t the safest place to be, the state did have some unique rules and living conditions. Continue reading to learn some odd facts about the USSR.

They Created Clear Coca-Cola

Soviet veteran Georgy Zhukov was introduced to Coca-Cola during a visit with Dwight D. Eisenhower, but didn’t want to be seen drinking something considered American.

coca-cola clear bottle with clear liquid
LadyEmry/Reddit
LadyEmry/Reddit

He set out to make a clear version that would still taste the same, which he would try to pass off as vodka. It was called White Coke or Coca-Cola Clear and was only available in 1946.

They Had Mixed Feelings About The Grapes Of Wrath

The USSR was very particular about which films were allowed to play in the theaters. At first, they allowed The Grapes of Wrath to be seen because it depicted poor people under capitalistic ruling.

the grapes of wrath still from the movie
Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images
Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

They later withdrew the film from theaters because they couldn’t believe poor people were able to afford a car.

They Made Their Own Version Of The Hobbit

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit was released in 1937 and became popular all over the world. While there have been several American film adaptations, there was also one made by the USSR.

martin freeman in the hobbit
New Line Cinema/MovieStillsDB
New Line Cinema/MovieStillsDB

In 1985 they crafted a film called The Fabulous Journey of Mr. Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit. Many of the actors were from the Leningrad State Ballet and Opera Theatre.

They Almost Went To Space With The USA

During the 1950s and 60s space travel was on the mind across the United States and the Soviet Union. Both were actually planning to do a mission together.

a soviet cosmonaut preparing for her flight
Sovfoto/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Sovfoto/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

When the presidency shifted from Kennedy to Johnson, there was a new lack of trust. The plans eventually fell through and both continued on their separate ways.

There Were Six-Day Work Weeks

As a way for the Soviets to eliminate religion, they created five and six-day work weeks between 1929 and 1940.

A group of young women making hand grenades at a Moscow munitions plant
Alexander Ustinov/Slava Katamidze Collection/Getty Images
Alexander Ustinov/Slava Katamidze Collection/Getty Images

There ended up being over 50 versions of the work calendar. The one with the longest work week had 37 days of continuous work followed by seven days of rest.

This Tattoo Was Common In Prison

It was common for inmates to get tattoos while serving time at a Soviet prison. They made sure to be careful with what they chose.

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Valery SharifulinTASS via Getty Images
Valery SharifulinTASS via Getty Images

Many prisoners would get tattoos of Lenin and Stalin because guards weren’t allowed to shoot at images of national leaders. This gave the inmates a form of protection.

They Sent Animals To Space

The Soviet Union was not only the first state to take people to space, but was also the first to use animals in space travel.

Laika, the Russian space dog, rests comfortably inside the Soviet satellite Sputnik II
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

This photo shows Laika, an abandoned dog, inside the Soviet satellite Sputnik II before her orbit around the earth. The Soviets’ experimentation with Laika led to many more space discoveries.

Lenin’s Brain Lives On

One area of operation opened during the USSR’s rule that is still in use today is the Moscow Brain Institute.

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Fototeca Gilardi/Getty Images
Fototeca Gilardi/Getty Images

This government department was opened as a way for scientists to study Lenin’s brain. They found that his brain was pretty standard, but it remains preserved inside the building to this day.

They Loved Bollywood

The Bollywood craze is thought to be most popular in India with bright colors and epic song and dance numbers.

bollywood performers on stage
Sebastian D’Souza/Getty Images
Sebastian D’Souza/Getty Images

However, Bollywood was actually loved by many people of the USSR. They used it as a form of escapism and were attracted to the dramatic and romantic storylines. Soviets were also sympathetic of Indians’ desire for British independence.

Their Literacy Rates Skyrocketed

At the turn of the 20th century, only about 33 percent of men and 14 percent of women were literate. About 30 years later, those number grew to 66.5 percent for men and 37.2 percent for women.

teacher watching a student writing on a blackboard
David Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
David Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Towards the end of the Soviet Union, 99.7 percent of both men and women were literate.

There Were Tons Of Secret Tunnels

Some may not realize that there are many secret bunkers and tunnels in Moscow, Russia that were built during the early years of the Soviet Union.

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Sovfoto/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Sovfoto/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

These led from the Kremlin to secret train stations in case people needed to flee the area. One bunker in the port town of Samara still remains after being built in 1942 and can hold up to 115 people for five days.

They Held An Internationally Televised Song Contest

Some may not remember that the Soviet Union held an internationally televised song contest called the Sopot International Song Festival in 1961.

a singer and accordion player on a cruise ship
Pix/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Pix/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

It was later replaced as the Intervision Song Contest between 1977 and 1980. Viewers would use an electricity-based voting system because most did not own private telephones. The contest started decreasing in popularity during the early 80s as the nation dissolved.

They Made It To The Digital Age

While the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991, the state was able to barely make it to the digital age. Internet was brand new.

man sitting near a computer in 1989
Wojtek Laski/Getty Images
Wojtek Laski/Getty Images

This meant they briefly had a domain name, which was .su. The domain name only lasted 15 months, but cybercriminals extended its lifespan for online crime.

They Weren’t The First Nation To Acknowledge Chernobyl

Since the Chernobyl disaster happened in the USSR, it would be assumed that they would be the first nation to acknowledge the situation.

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Patrick Landmann/Getty Images
Patrick Landmann/Getty Images

It was actually Sweden that first publicly acknowledged what was going on because it triggered their radiation alarm. The USSR denied the allegations until Sweden threated to file an official alert with the International Atomic Energy Authority.

Gorbachev Released An Album

Mikhail Gorbachev was the last leader of the Soviet Union and he had some surprises up his sleeve.

gorbachev photo close up from 1984
Bryn Colton/Getty Images
Bryn Colton/Getty Images

He released an album called Songs for Raisa, which was in memory of his late wife. It had him covering her favorite songs. The album was sold at an auction for $130,000 with the money donated to a charity in her name.

Why American Spies Got Caught There

Both Americans and Soviets were heavily spying on each other during the Cold War. Americans may not have known that the Soviets had a way of spotting U.S. spies.

russian passports being held
Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images
Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images

Soviet passports were made with low-quality staples that would easily rust. If the Soviets were shown a USSR passport with nice staples, then they knew it was from an American spy.

A Team Of Botanists Risked Their Lives

One of the biggest forces that threatened the Soviet Union during World War II was Germany. Their Siege of Leningrad caused famine throughout most of St. Petersburg.

soviet scientists posing for a photo
Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Getty Images
Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Getty Images

One team of botanists was cultivating the largest collection of seeds at the time. In order to protect the seeds, they locked themselves up with them and wouldn’t even eat them to survive.

They Created Detailed Maps

During the Cold War, the Soviets made detailed maps of the entire world. This included building levels, road widths, and much more.

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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

They did so in order to protect themselves in case any invasion were to happen. These maps ended up being so helpful that the United States still uses them today.

They Drilled A Really Big Hole

After competing with America during the Space Race, the USSR decided to drill something called a Kola Superdeep Borehole.

Mir-mine-43868
Igor Dvurekov
Igor Dvurekov

They kept digging as far into the earth as they could and it ended up being over 40,000-feet deep. The Kola Superdeep Borehole was the deepest manmade hole in the world up until about a decade ago.

Women And Men Were Created As Equals

The Soviet State had a progressive stance when it came to gender equality. Women were given the same rights and privileges as men, including property rights, equal pay and equality in social and political matters,

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Barry Batchelor/PA Images via Getty Images
Barry Batchelor/PA Images via Getty Images

This led to more women holding high executive positions across industries, including acting as director or assistant director of factories and serving on board of directors.

The Owner Of Tetris Didn’t Receive Royalties

Tetris became one of the most popular video games of all-time with users trying to make different puzzles. Alexey Pajitnov, the creator of Tetris, established his game in 1984.

Alexey Pajitnov holding a trophy in 2015
Francois Lo Presti/AFP via Getty Images
Francois Lo Presti/AFP via Getty Images

Pajitnov originally did not receive any royalties for his work because the rights were owned by the USSR. He finally was able to earn the titles in 1996.