Friday, 11 May 2012 19:34 | By Tom Phillips

Ten things you never knew about Russia

Russia (© Action Images)

1) Russia is the largest country in the world - around one eighth of the world's entire inhabited landmass is made up of Russia, and the country crosses over nine different timezones.

2) Russia has a coastline on no fewer than twelve different seas - the only country to do so.

3) Russia holds the record for digging the deepest hole ever - the Kola Superdeep Borehole in northern Russia, a hole that extends over 7.6 miles below the surface. Created during the time of the Soviet Union to investigate the continental crust, drilling only stopped after 24 years because it was getting too hot.

4) Tzar Paul I of Russia had an inexplicable hatred of "English-style hats", and banned such "round hats" during his reign - a law which was aggressively enforced by the police. Tsar Paul I was assassinated on March 23 1801 by being stabbed, strangled and trampled to death.

5) The tradition of restaurants bringing courses to your table at different times comes from Russia - the "service à la russe" style was introduced to Paris by the Russian ambassador Alexander Kurakin in the early 1800s, and from there spread to the rest of the west. Before that, every course was brought to the table at once, resulting in a rather impractical mess.

6) Catherine the Great ruled as the Empress of Russia for over thirty years, during which time Russia was revitalised and grew in power. Unfortunately for her, she's best known today for the rumour that she died due to a sexual incident involving a horse - which is a complete myth (she actually died at home of a stroke).

7) Russian biologist Ilya Ivanov spent most of the 1920s trying to breed a human-ape hybrid. Unsurprisingly, he wasn't successful (and was eventually arrested after he fell out of favour under Stalin's rule).

8) In 1941, the Russian navy gave an unusual gift to the crew of the British submarine HMS Trident - a fully grown reindeer called Pollyanna. The reindeer was brought onto the sub through a torpedo tube, and lived on the submarine for six weeks, sleeping in the captain's bed.

9) Official data showed in 2009 that the average Russian drinks 38 pints of pure alcohol every year. Then-President Dmitry Medvedev called the figure "simply mind-boggling."

10) Inventions of Russian origin include space flight (including the first orbital space rocket, the first satellite, the space suit and the first manned space flight), the mobile phone, the light-emitting diode, the drum machine, the theremin, the radiator, the monorail, the foam fire extinguisher, the backpack parachute, the 3D hologram, the AK-47 and Tetris.