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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Controversial Singer Has Had 13 Different Plastic Surgeries by the Age of 25

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Alyona Piskun is considered a victim of plastic surgery. Although she is only 25 years old, the controversial Russian singer and internet celebrity has completely changed her appearance by going through 13 different cosmetic procedures.

Alyona is one of the most controversial artists in Russia. Her music and performances are viewed by many as obscene, and she has recently gotten in trouble with the law after a scandalous photo-shoot at one of the most sacred places in the country, the Mamayev Kurgan monument. But the most shocking thing about the 25-year old is her addiction to plastic surgery. After going through 13 major cosmetic procedures, including four rhinoplasty surgeries, a mentoplasty (chin defining), blepharoplasty and cheek liposuction, the Russian singer has completely changed her appearance. Comparing photos of her from just three years ago with her most recent one, it’s hard to believe we’re talking about the same person. The only things that give her away are the tattoos.

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Crazy Russian Scammers Throw Themselves in Front of Moving Cars

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There are so many Russian dash-cam videos on the internet that you would think 99% of all traffic accidents happen in the Federation or that Russian people are particularly passionate about video blogging every second they spend driving around. But actually, one of the main reasons dash-cams are so popular in Russia  is the high number of people willingly throwing themselves in front of moving vehicles to exploit a weird law that obliges the driver to pay for damages no matter if they are at fault or not.

According to an Al Jazeera report from last year, most people use dash-cams mainly to capture any instances where the corrupt policemen abuse their power for financial gains, and use the footage in court. The other and more bizarre reason is to protect themselves against crazy scammers that will throw themselves in front of cars and hustle the drivers for large sums of money by threatening to call the authorities. Most scammers will jump on to the hoods of slow moving vehicles to ensure they don’t get run over, but as you can see in the video compilation below, accidents have happened. Those who lack the courage to jump in front of cars, simply pretend to get hit by vehicles while holding old laptops or mobile phones and ask for compensation. Drivers trying to convince the judges they were the actual victims without solid evidence usually fail and are forced to pay damages, so dash-cams have become the only sure way of protection.

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Armored Sports – Russia Holds World’s First Ever Tank Biathlon

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Probably bored with the usual sporting event, the Russian Military decided to introduce tanks into the mix as a way of spicing things up. Tank Biathlon is a mechanized sport in which tank crews have to guide their vehicles across an obstacle course and prove their accuracy by shooting various targets, in as little time as possible.

The world’s first ever tank biathlon was held at the Alabino proving ground,Russia, on 2013 August 11–17 and pitted tank crews from several of Russia’s Military Districts against teams from three ex-Soviet countries: Kazakhstan, Armenia and Belarus. All teams competed in T-72Bs tanks, an iconic weapon for all post-Soviet armies, and had to complete three 6,100 meters-long laps across a large racing field while completing different objectives. During the first round, crews had to use the tank’s main gun to hit targets at distances of up to 2,200 meters, which is close to their maximum range, while racing across the field in minimal time. Failure to miss a target cost the teams a 500-meter penalty lap. In the second round, teams had to use the tanks’  7.62mm coaxial machine gun to hit targets imitating anti-tank mortar (RPG) squads and infantry units, placed at distances of between 600 and 700 meters. During the final round, crews had to maneuver their tanks across an obstacle course that included a scarp, ford, minefield, bridge and roadblocks, as fast as possible. Missed or crashed obstacles added a 10-seconds increment to the teams’ final timing. Russia’s team won the competition, followed by Kazakhstan, with Belarus third and Armenia last.

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Russian Powerlifter Has the Face of a Porcelain Doll and the Body of an Amazon

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Yulia Viktorovna Vins, or Julia Vins, as she is known in the online bodybuilding and powerlifting communities, is a 17-year old Russian powerlifter who recently shot to Internet fame after a series of photos showing her doll-like face and impressive physique went viral.

Russia and countries of the former USSR have their share of doll-faced beauties – with Valeria Lukyanova, Anastasia Shpagina and Anzhelika Kenova being the most famous – but none of them have the impressive body of Yulia Vins. The young athlete from Engels, Russia, might have the face of a fragile porcelain doll, but her massive arm and leg muscles are enough to put most men to shame. In a recent interview with a fellow bodybuilding enthusiast, Yulia said she started working out to become stronger and build self-confidence, but had no intention of becoming a professional powerlifter. During the first year, she trained her muscles without following a clear workout program, but eventually decided she needed guidance. She was training at the school gym and the only coach there specialized in powerlifting and weightlifting. Yulia opted for the former, because she wanted her body to develop harmoniously, and in just one year she made extraordinary progress. She is currently preparing for her first official powerlifting competition, in September.

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For Sale: One-of-a-Kind Car COMPLETELY Covered in Canadian Bison Leather

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We’ve featured some outrageous cars on Oddity Central in the past, but this one definitely takes the cake. An automotive enthusiast from Moscow, Russia is selling a unique hot rod that is completely covered in Canadian wood bison leather. And by “completely” I mean interior, exterior and even the engine…

According to the ad posted on Russia’s biggest classifieds website, Avito, the vehicle’s fiberglass body is covered in genuine Canadian bison leather, tanned and artistically etched by a master from the Middle East. The car’s interior, including the dashboard, is also layered with brown bison leather and expensive natural furs. And as if this thing didn’t have way too much leather already, the inside of the hood, as well as the engine and several other parts are also encased in specially treated bison leather than can withstand high temperatures. The seller, known only as “Rustam“, claims the engine and trunk compartment also feature Swarovski crystal inserts.

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