The Russian Oligarch Who Gave It All Up to Live as a Modest Peasant

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At an age when most people begin their business careers, German Sterligov was already a millionaire. He was only 24 years old when he founded the company that would make him one of the richest men in Russia. The financial empire he built – with offices in London and New York – ensured a lifetime of comfort for the young man. But his life today is the opposite of everything you’d imagine – after 15 years of fame and riches, he gave it all up in for the quiet life of a peasant living in the woods.

Sterligov’s life story is as interesting as it is unusual. Inspite of having been a very rich and powerful man, the 47-year-old feels that he is now far better placed to withstand the global economic crisis than most of the other Russian oligarchs. “I’m in clover compared to them,” he said in an interview, a few years ago. “I’m free here. I don’t depend on anyone and we’re totally self sufficient. Most of my friends thought I had taken leave of my senses but I think I have been proved right.”

In the early 1990s, as the Communist era was fading, Sterligov set up Russia’s first commodities exchange. The business grew quickly, and he soon became Russia’s first legal millionaire since the 1917 Revolution. At one point, he had over 2,500 employees and was getting along quite well with the Americans as a ‘new type’ of Russian. In the mid-2000s, at the helm of his success, he stunned the world by announcing his intention to run for the Russian presidency.

German-Sterligov

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Russian Motor-Head Creates Perfect Life-Size Replica of Soviet Motorcycle Out of Wood

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Yuri Hvtisishvili, a carpenter from Russia, has created an astoundingly perfect wooden replica of the legendary IL-49 Soviet motorcycle. The life-size model is so realistic that you’d expect him to mount it and take off at any moment.

The idea for the project came to Yuri earlier this year, when business was slow at the carpentry shop where he works. He wanted to attempt something new and different, and that’s when he remembered something he saw on the internet – a master carpenter who had made full-scale models of motorcycles from wood. The idea inspired him, so he decided to replicate his favorite Russian motorcycle, the IL-49.

wooden motorcycle

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Gold Nugget Dubbed “Devil’s Ear” Weighs 6664 Grams, Was Discovered on Friday the 13th, on a Full Moon Night

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Miners in Russia’s Irkutsk region found an oddly shaped nugget of gold on Friday the 13th, this month. The discovery scared them quite badly – especially because it happened on what superstition says is the unluckiest day of the year. It was also a full moon night, and to make matters worse, they say that the rock bore an uncanny resemblance to the devil’s ear.

According to the Bodaybo town municipal administration, the gold miners (who work for the metal mining company Ugakhan) didn’t immediately realise that the rock was made of gold. The sifting machine mistook it for a regular rock and discarded it. But one worker had the good sense to take a closer look, and he realized that it was in fact a large gold nugget.

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The ‘Avatar Fare’ – Russian Taxi Drivers Are Punishing Clients Who Refuse to Pay by Painting Them Blue

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Taxi drivers in the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod have taken it upon themselves to punish misbehaving clients. These drivers simply pour blue paint all over passengers who complain about the taxi fare or flat out refuse to pay. Their idea is to make the customers resemble Avatar characters, with a sign on the back that says: “Avatar Fare”.

Cabbies all over Nizhny have been struggling for quite some time now with non-paying customers. “We have repeatedly brought them to the police station, they were released there,” one driver said. So the drivers decided to dole out some ‘harmless’ punishment themselves. They force bad customers to strip, douse them with blue paint, stick a sign on their backs, and release them on to the street.

Avatar-fare-Russia

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Russian School Groundskeeper Creates Amazing Snow Art with His Shovel

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A small school in Izhevsk, the capital city of Russia’s Udmurtia region, probably has the best groundskeeper in the world. Not only is he great at his job and popular with the students, he’s also super-creative. On snowy winter days, he regularly delights the school staff and students with large artworks drawn in the schoolyard with his snow shovel.

51-year-old Seymon Bukharin uses the snow as his canvas and a shovel for a paintbrush. With the shovel, he sweeps the snow to create fantastic designs, like a ship sailing on the high seas, animals and birds, or traditional Russian scenes. The students love nothing more than to admire his masterpieces from their classroom windows, and only wish they had more time to lend a hand with the artistic process.

snow-art

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Siberia’s Real-Life Swan Lake Teeming with Life in the Dead of Winter

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Svetloe Lake, located near Urozhainoe village in Siberia, is better known to locals as the Swan Lake. Come February, the lake is usually teeming with activity – beautiful swans arrive in hundreds and make this place their winter home, which is surprising because swans generally prefer to fly further south where the climate isn’t so harsh.

What makes Svetloe Lake so special that swans willingly flock at it in the dead of winter? Well, for starters, it is fed by many warm springs so the temperature of the water is always above zero – even when the surrounding air drops to minus 40C. The lake’s waters are warm in comparison, at 5C to 6C, making it the perfect hang-out place for the beautiful birds. The swans began to appear at the lake way back in 1967. Only about 15 birds would make an appearance then, but the numbers have steadily increased to over 350 today and still continue to rise.

Swan-Lake-Russia8

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The Baikal Ice Marathon – The Ultimate Winter Endurance Race

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The Baikal Ice Marathon is one of the world’s toughest endurance challenges. Over the years, the one-of-a-kind event has seen participants from over 50 countries. These are athletes with a heart of steel – they race across a 42 kilometer course across the completely frozen surface of Baikal, the oldest and deepest freshwater lake on Earth. Every year, the Baikal Ice Marathon is held for a noble cause – the Preservation of Clean Water. This year its 10th edition took place on March 1.

Although the terrain for the marathon is predominantly flat, it is still considered to be one of the world’s 10 most challenging competitions because of the freezing Siberian weather. The cold northern winds and harsh, unpredictable climate is, in fact, the biggest challenge faced by runners. In past marathons conditions have varied in severity – from high winds and biting cold, to a sunny sky with almost no chills. The lake’s surface is another problem; at times it can be hard and uneven, covered in small hills of ice rubble. Geometric springs and seismic activity beneath the ice may weaken it to form holes.

Baikal-Ice-Marathon

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The Eerie Melted Bricks of Fort Zverev, in Russia

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Fort Zverev, built in the 1870s by Russian engineer Konstantin Zverev, lies in complete ruins today. Nonetheless, it is as much of an attraction now as it was in its heyday. Located on an artificial island in the Baltic Sea, just north of Kronstadt, the fort is a derelict structure that can well be described as ‘hell on earth’. The rusting bunker hatches, water tubes and machine gun mounts scattered on the surface are hardly an indicator of what lies within.

Back when the fort was still in use, the Russians stored a type of fuel similar to napalm in the basement. Unfortunately, in 1970, an unexpected fire that started in the fort spread to the basement as well, causing an uncontrollable inferno. The incident was simply horrific – the burning fuel reached temperatures over 2000 degrees Celsius. It got so hot that the brick walls and ceiling literally melted and ran down like icicles.

Fort-Zverev

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Just Another Russian Daredevil Hanging Off Vertigo-Inducing Ledges

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Kirill Oreshkin, from Moscow, is a photographer with a strange passion. He’s crazy about ‘rooftopping’ – a sport that involves hanging on for his dear life from all kinds of precarious ledges.

In all the photographs, you can see him smiling nonchalantly at the camera. Going by his expression, you’d think he was hanging around the corner of a sidewalk. But he’s actually perched hundreds of meters above the ground, in an extremely precarious position. One wrong move and there’s no escaping death.

Kirill-Oreshkin

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Young Russian Spends Eight Months Living Alone Like in the Early Middle Ages

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24-year-old Pavel Sapozhnikov is putting himself through one of the most epic socio-psychological experiments in history. He is trying to replicate the lifestyle of his Russian ancestors from around the year 1100, and practicing an ascetic lifestyle with very little human contact for the entire duration of the experiment.

The project began in September 2013 and should run on until May this year. The essence, according to Pavel, is to live on the replica of an ancient farm, devoid of any modern conveniences or communication. “I live alone in the past,” he wrote.

‘Project Hero’ is the brainchild of Alexei Ovcharenko, from the event management agency ‘Ratobor’, which translates as ‘A Mighty Man’. Ratobor, founded in 2006, has conducted several projects and events exclusively based on historic experiences. They proudly declare on their website: “We often do not agree with the vision of the customer and dictate what the event should be. But in our history, we haven’t received any negative reviews about the quality of our corporate programs.”

Pavel Sapozhnikov

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Stroganina – Raw Frozen Fish Served as a Delicacy in Northern Russia

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Stroganina is a raw frozen fish delicacy from Yakutia, in northern Russia. It is a winter dish, consisting of long, thin slices of frozen Arctic river fish such as whitefishes, white salmons, cisco or sturgeon.

The dish is served with a dip made of equal parts salt and black pepper powder. It is sometimes decorated with wild red whortleberries and greens. Some of the best stroganina is made of freshly caught fish, frozen once. The taste, according to Yakutians, is soft, fresh and frosty.

I find the concept of stroganina very similar to Japanese sashimi, except that the latter isn’t served frozen. This technique of food preparation is very unique to Russia, where the frozen ground doesn’t allow for much fresh produce. The method evolved out of necessity, because the Russians had to store their meat somewhere, so they stored it in ice and consumed it raw.

Stroganina

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Ever Seen an Urban Road ERUPT Before? Well, You Have Now

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Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth-largest city, is in the news for a very unusual reason – its roads are exploding!

A dashboard camera captured this video on the 21st of November. You can clearly see the road erupt into three large pieces, just as an SUV speeds up to a red light. The car with the camera slows down to stop and the SUV driver overtakes on the outside, only to be abruptly stopped by the road.

The video has been viewed over 40,000 times online. It has become a bit of a joke, considering how the SUV driver was deftly prevented from jumping the signal. One user on Live Leak commented: “In Russia cops don’t stop you for running a light, the road does.” Another said: “Car driver wanted to run the red light, red light did stop him immediately.”

Some viewers are having trouble believing the video: “Is this a new movie of Godzilla?” I do agree with that comment. The footage looks surreal, like it’s straight out of the next ‘end-of-the-world’ type disaster movie.

road-eruption

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Ordinary Miracle – Russia’s Fairy-Tale School

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The Secondary School no.5, in Yoshkar-Ola, Russia, may be called “Ordinary Miracle”, but there is certainly nothing ordinary about the way it looks. Unlike most bland communist era schools around the country, this particular learning institution looks like something out of a children’s fairy-tale. And that’s exactly what makes it so popular.

Ordinary Miracle was built 12 years ago, by Sergey Mamaev, one of Russia’s most successful businessmen, who wanted to fulfill his wife Tatiana’s dream of teaching in a school where children actually wanted to go. She just didn’t find all the official-looking buildings used as schools throughout Russia suitable for molding young minds, so she came up with a more appealing design inspired by fairy-tale castles. Construction began in 1998, and in just three years time, the entire complex was completed and opened for business. Parents have to pay a tuition of 2,000 rubles ($61) per month, to have their children educated in this unique setting featuring a state of the art kindergarten, elementary and middle schools, cafeteria, swimming pool, gym and more. Mamaev’s investment in Ordinary Miracle is being praised on Russian sites as an example for other wealthy businessmen.

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Russian Daredevil Is Taking the World by Storm with His Extreme Stunts

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Climbing on high walls, jumping between rooftops, doing handstands on the edge of skyscrapers and bridges, nothing seems too dangerous for Russian parkour enthusiasts Alexander Rusinov. After posting videos of his extreme stunts online, the 19-year-old has become an internet star in Russia and now has his sights set on the rest of Europe.

Hailing from the Russian city of Saratov, Alexander Rusinov started practicing parkour stunts after watching films like Yamakasi and seeing videos of other daredevils on the internet. He started training at children’s playgrounds and in the school gym until about a year ago when he decided to up his game by taking advantage of Saratov’s impressive architecture. He began doing handstands on bridges over the Volga River, hanging from the tall remains of Soviet industrial buildings, jumping between rooftops and climbing walls. He and his friends posted his most amazing feats online, and the world soon took notice. Rusinov quickly developed an impressive following of fellow parkour fans and even did interviews with the media. His fame spread throughout Russia and has recently crossed national borders, with some of his YouTube videos going viral in other European countries.

Alexander-Rusinov

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Seeing Double – Russian Restaurant Only Hires Sets of Identical Twins as Staff

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A restaurant owner in Moscow promises you will have such a great time in his establishment that you are going to see double, not because of the strong vodka, but because the staff is made up exclusively of identical twin brothers and sisters.

Aptly called Twin Stars, the Russian restaurant employs only twin bartenders and wait staff as a gimmick to attract more customers and prides itself on being the only such restaurant in the world. Alexei Khodorovsky, the owner of Twin Stars, says he was inspired by a 1960s movie where a girl finds herself in a parallel universe and discovers there’s another version of her – her twin. The idea seems fun and both the customers and the twin staff say they’ve enjoyed the experience thus far. “We worked as barmen before this summer in a different establishment. It was an internship for us,” Artyem, who works with his identical brother Roman at the bar, says. We really liked that internship. That’s why we decided this profession suits us and we came here to work.” Finding people like Artyem and Roman was a true challenge. Identical pairs with experience working in a restaurant were very hard to track down, but the effort was worthwhile because as Nika, another member of the unique staff, says “One pair (of twins) is already fun – when there are two, it’s even more fun.”

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