Top 10 Secrets Russia Doesn't Want You to Know About
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
WRITTEN BY: George Pacheco
These secrets will shock you! For this list, we'll be looking at little known dark facts about Russia's past and present. Our countdown includes The OTHER Chernobyl, Vaccine Controversy, Assassinations, and more!
Top 10 Secrets Russia Doesn’t Want You to Know
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Secrets Russia Doesn’t Want You to Know.
For this list, we’ll be looking at little known dark facts about Russia’s past and present.
Were you aware of any of these? Let us know in the comments!
#10: The OTHER Chernobyl
The Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster of 1986 remains the worst incident of its kind, but did you know that this wasn’t the only instance where Russia permanently contaminated their environment with nuclear waste? Lake Karachay is located in Central Russia, near the Mayak Production Association, a nuclear reprocessing and storage facility. The lake was used by Russia as a dumping site for nuclear waste from Mayak for years, until the Kyshtym Disaster in 1957, when subterranean storage vats exploded and contaminated over twenty-thousand square miles. Today, the actual interior of Lake Karachev has been filled with hollow concrete blocks, yet it still remains one of the most polluted and radioactive areas in the world.
#9: Ambulance Taxis
Russia’s capital city Moscow can be a beautiful place to visit … but you wouldn’t want to get stuck in traffic there. The city ranks among the worst in the world for road congestion. However, its wealthier residents have hit upon a scheme to avoid traffic jams. So-called “Ambulance Taxis” can be hired out at rates equivalent to $200 an hour, moving through stalled traffic with the greatest of ease. The interiors of these Ambulance Taxis are often tricked out to resemble a posh limousine, providing comfort and style, alongside the knowledge that you’re doing something profoundly crappy to your fellow commuters.
#8: Abandoned Landmines
The Chechen-Russian Conflict is centuries-long, and we can’t cover it all in one entry. But one issue that deserves spotlighting is the widespread use of landmines by both Russian and Chechnyan forces. Chechnya is littered with abandoned and undetonated cluster munitions that have maimed or killed thousands of people, many of them children. Mine clearance crews, such as the non-profit organization HALO Trust, have worked in the past to remove some of these landmines. But it’s estimated that some half a million landmines were placed in the region, and finding them all will take a long time.
#7: Vaccine Controversy
The race to create a vaccine for Covid-19 saw many companies competing to be first. However, their vaccines still had to go through the standard clinical trials before being approved. Not so Russia’s Sputnik-V, which drew criticism when it was greenlit for use in Russia and nearly 60 other countries, prior to Phase III trials. This wasn’t the only controversy behind the rollout of Sputnik-V. It was later revealed that Russia had struck a troubling deal with Abu Dhabi-based group Aurugulf Health Investments. The deal saw a minor Dubai royal acting as middleman, reselling Sputnik-V to desperate countries in need at a massive markup.
#6: The Moscow Theater Hostage Crisis
On October 23rd, 2002, Chechen rebels stormed the Dubrovka Theater in Moscow, taking hostage 850 people who were there for a performance of the musical “Nord-Ost”. The terrorists deployed explosives and demanded that Russia withdraw from Chechnya within one week. A few days later, on October 26th, Russian security operatives pumped a narcotic gas into the building and stormed the theater. By the end of the siege, at least 130 hostages were dead. While Russian President Vladimir Putin praised security forces, the bloody results also drew some criticism. In the wake of the attack, the Russian government cracked down even harder on Chechnya, and introduced legislation restricting media coverage.
#5: Police Corruption
The issue of police corruption in Russia is an enduring one, despite the fact that former President Dmitry Medvedev initiated sweeping reforms back in 2011. These policies were intended to combat growing public perception of police corruption throughout the nation. Russian police receive relatively low pay. A 2005 study by the Levada-Center research organization found that 60% of Russian police officers worked other jobs, 20% of them while on the clock. New scandals continue to emerge; in the summer of 2021, it was revealed that Russian traffic police were operating a bribery ring on the side.
The Moscow Metro system is certainly a marvel to behold, a beautifully-constructed underground railway that’s among the most impressive in the world. Rumors persist, however, of a “Metro 2,” a Stalinist shadow system to the Moscow Metro that reportedly connects the Kremlin to every conceivable point of security and escape. Russian officials have neither confirmed nor denied its existence. But that doesn’t mean it’s safe to delve too deeply. On August 6th, 2020, YouTuber Andrei Pyzh was arrested for sharing state secrets relating to the Moscow Metro and Metro-2. He was sentenced to a five-year prison sentence in October of 2021.
There have been several high-profile reports over the years of assassination attempts against those critical of the Russian government. One of the most infamous was the poisoning of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in 2006. Another was the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in 2018. Sergei was a former Russian intelligence officer who had worked with the UK as a double agent. More recently, anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny was poisoned in August 2020 as Putin cracked down on opposition within Russia. Like the Skripals, he survived. But he was subsequently thrown behind bars, where he remains as of writing.
#2: Chemical Weapons
Although the story of Sergei Skripal is certainly troubling, it’s only a footnote within Russia’s history of using chemical weapons. The Geneva Gas Protocol of 1925 and the Biological Weapons Convention in 1972 brought countries together to prohibit and ban the production and use of chemical or biological weapons. Still, history has seen some countries break from these treaties. The former Soviet Union actually possessed a massive biowarfare program that endured from around the time of the Geneva Accords in the 50s right on through 1992. The current extent of Russia’s chemical weapons development isn’t publicly known.
#1: Voting Fraud
The subject of voting fraud in Russia is, like many other topics on this list, complex and difficult to discuss in such a short time. The 2011 legislative election was infamous for irregularities; one region even reportedly listed a 146% voter turnout. It was eventually labeled by the European Court of Human Rights as “unfair” and “compromised” in 2017, but this did little to change the final outcome. The legislative election of 2021 also provoked controversy for alleged illegal behavior, like ballot stuffing, while opposition leaders like Alexei Navalny were simply arrested, fined and imprisoned.