Poor Russia. While there are surely plenty of sane people living in that frigid place, all we ever seem to recall are the insane ones. You might cut them some slack when considering more than 75 percent of their country is Siberia, the icy expanse of tundra so awful that, for centuries, sending someone there was an adequate substitute for prison. The cold and gloom have taken their toll -- but let's be honest, their particular brand of crazy is something special.
So the next time you're struggling through your day -- unable to find two matching socks or suddenly remembering an impending deadline -- know that meanwhile, in Russia, every day can be batshit insane.
Maybe your daily commute really bums you out...
But in Russia, getting to work safely is a gift from above.
Because this is what driving can look like over there.
Dashboard cameras are commonplace in Russia as a way to prevent insurance fraud by both pedestrians and drivers. But Russian roads are also outrageously dangerous. In 2007 the country averaged 25.2 traffic fatalities per 100,000 people, compared to 13.9 per 100,000 in the U.S., where there are six times more cars.
And maybe it's hard to meet normal single people wherever you live...
But in Russia, it's a lot, lot harder.
Having to wait in traffic definitely tries your patience.
But in Russia, some of the wealthy (and morally bankrupt) hire fake ambulances to help them zip through the fray.
Moscow police are authorized to inspect ambulances after reports surfaced of impostor vehicles offering rides for up to $200 per hour. The "taxis" are said to be outfitted with luxury interiors so customers may lounge comfortably as they impersonate medical personnel for their own (horribly selfish) gain. The Blue Bucket movement was eventually started to curb the abuse of emergency lanes.
Maybe you worry about social issues like underage drinking.
Yet the Russian government only recently started labeling beer as alcohol.
In an attempt to prevent alcoholism -- declared a "national disaster" -- authorities started regulating beer as alcohol at the start of 2013. Previously, anything containing less than 10 percent alcohol was considered a food, as readily available as juice and the perfect alternative to morning coffee.
And while your backyard wildlife might look like this...
In Russia, bears are everywhere.
They might not be any match for the Russian people -- an 80-year-old man recently fought one, fell off a cliff and lived -- but just about half the global brown bear population lives in the country. Their interests include huffing jet fuel and begging for food.
Tanks roam free, also.
In all fairness, with that much snow, tank travel might be the most practical way to get anywhere.
And while you may strive to be polite...
Russians cut right to the chase.
While Russia has fewer guns than the U.S., the country sees a lot more murders every year -- 21,603 total homicides in 2009 -- with a population that's half as large.
If last winter left a few potholes in your street, know that Russian potholes look more like this.
The city of Samara is facing a sinkhole problem thought to be caused by poor road construction and severe weather. Sinkholes also plague the town of Berezniki, where miners have cracked open layers of soluble minerals underground.
And speaking of scary things, some people think Yuri Gagarin wasn't the first man in space, but just the first to survive.
The "lost cosmonaut" conspiracy theory contends that four people perished in attempted space missions before Yuri Gagarin actually made it back. There's not a lot of proof, but the Russians did lose one astronaut, Vladamir Komarov, upon his return to Earth and lied about the first dog in space living through takeoff. The country's space program was a bit disorganized, but claims of radio distress signals from people lost high above the Earth are probably unsubstantiated.
Whereas you might enjoy a smoke at the end of a long day...
In Russia, a disturbing number of people get their jollies from the flesh-eating drug Krokodil.
There's been a lot of NSFL coverage of Krokodil, which lures users with is cheap price point and intense high. Where heroin may cost upwards of $150 for a fix, this unstable drug, often cut with gasoline or acids, costs around $8. While there have been documented cases in the U.S., hopefully we'll avoid a widespread epidemic of the "crocodile" drug, which gets its name from the scaly, oozing sores it leaves behind on users.
Yeah, stay far, far away.
Because even if you think your hometown is a little boring...
This is what fun looks like in Russia.
Death. It looks awfully close to death.
And maybe you have to spend Thanksgiving with your bizarro family, but at least there's this...
Russian families celebrate holidays with meat-filled Jell-o.
If you do find yourself in Moscow, though, you might be lucky enough to meet one of these guys.
Stray dogs are smart enough to navigate the complex train system, which is awesome. They've been observed getting on and off at regular stops, although for what purpose is anyone's guess. Packs in cities will sometimes even send their smaller, cuter members to beg humans for food. They've got us pegged.