Embarrassing Chapters in Russian History

Guess these people, places, and things in Russian history that they would probably rather forget.
Don't freak out, but for the purposes of this quiz, we consider Russia and the Soviet Union to be the same.
Easily offended? Here are some more chapters to get mad about.
Quiz by Quizmaster
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Last updated: September 10, 2018
First submittedMay 6, 2018
Times taken14,820
Rating3.81
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Answer
This leader is found drunk, in his underwear, trying to hail a cab, and
wanting pizza during a 1995 visit to Washington D.C.
Boris Yeltsin
Russia cynically makes a non-aggression pact with this country in 1939
Germany
Russia invades this Nordic country in 1939 and is roundly repulsed
despite huge numerical superiority
Finland
Russia is forced to burn Moscow after it is captured by this French conqueror
Napoleon
American Bobby Fischer defeats Boris Spassky at the world championships of this game
Chess
Unlike the United States, the Russians are unable to send a person here. They are forced
to stop trying after several launch failures.
The Moon
The Soviet Union collapses after losing this "war"
Cold War
The 2014 Winter Olympics, held in this city, suffer from cost overruns
and shoddy construction
Sochi
Russia invades this country in 1979 but is forced to withdraw a decade later
with tens of thousands of Russian soldiers dead
Afghanistan
This Russian ballet dancer emigrates to Canada in 1974
Mikhail Baryshnikov
In an event called the Holodomor, Soviet leaders inflict a terrible famine
on this country, killing millions
Ukraine
In a staged publicity stunt, this leader "saves" a camera crew by shooting a
Siberian tiger with a tranquilizer dart
Vladimir Putin
Russia loses nearly its entire Pacific fleet in a disastrous war with this country in 1904–05
Japan
Russia is barred from the 2018 Winter Olympics because of this
State-Sponsored
Doping
Russia sells this territory to the United States for less than $5 per square kilometer
Alaska
In the early 20th century, tens of thousands of people die in "pogroms"
targeting this group of people
Jews
Poor design and disregard for safety cause this 1986 nuclear disaster
Chernobyl
+14
Level 65
May 6, 2018
Ah, the good ol' days. I miss Yeltsin.
+1
Level 48
Apr 11, 2020
Rip.
+4
Level 63
Apr 29, 2021
Would it be possible to accept "Eltsin" as a type-in for Yeltsin? That's how he is translitterated in some languages. I don't know if "Jeltsin" works, but it would be cool to allow that too if it isn't already. Many thanks!
+3
Level 81
May 7, 2018
Tries to invade, not invaded. It wasn't enough of a success to say they invaded as they were stopped on the border or very close to it. And we invaded right back, although in the end we lost some territory.
+1
Level 88
May 7, 2018
sillie is so right. Anyway great quiz.
+12
Level ∞
May 7, 2018
Sure they invaded. I think something like this came up on another quiz, and it might be related to English as a second language. "Invade" means they entered Finnish territory with intent to take it. It does not mean they were successful in taking the territory.
+4
Level 64
Jan 20, 2019
But they were succesful. The USSR got Karelia as their buffer for Leningrad(nowadays St. Petersburg) Rybachi peninsula and Salla, more than they wanted prior to the war. As a result hundreds of thousand of Finns migrated out of Karelia into Finland.

Granted; the Soviet casualties were horrendous. There's a popular saying that "The Soviets won just about enough ground to bury their dead."

+1
Level 60
Mar 14, 2020
The Soviets took a beating but the tide of the war had turned in their favor by the time of the peace treaty. Otherwise Finland would not have lost any territory.
+4
Level 78
Jun 18, 2018
invade =/= occupy
+1
Level 50
Apr 29, 2021
We did invade it, and even took some territory with it (I am not proud of it or anything), although we did suffer immense losses.
+31
Level 66
May 7, 2018
I think, formulations of at least some questions are strongly biased. Some examples:

What is embarrassing for a country, if its chess player is defeated by a better foreign player? I remember this time and, although the propaganda made efforts to sell the match as a fight of the systems, everybody acknowledged Bobby as a brilliant player. Hence, it could be embarrassed for the Communist state, but it was not embarrassing for people.

If USSR was cynical in entering a treaty with Nazi, are you ready to go so far, to assess the appeasement politics of UK and France cynical as well? Were US and European companies cynical while supplying Nazi with strategic goods and their governments while permitting these exports?

Taking into account that the final outcome of Napoleon invasion was his ultimate defeat – is it honest to point out to the interim result of the war implicating, the war was disastrous embarrassment for Russians? All the more, if considering that Napoleon had to lea

+22
Level 45
Oct 5, 2018
This quiz was obviously put together by an American; "Unlike the United States, the Russians are unable to send a person [to the moon]" is such a salty thing to write
+19
Level 66
Oct 5, 2018
Are you kidding? The Space Race was a well-publicized touchstone of the Cold War. The US and USSR were both frantically trying to be the first to the moon, as a symbol of each country's superiority. The Soviets got the first satellite into space; they sent the first man into the space; and then they fell apart when they were trying to reach the big prize, and the US passed them and got to plant its flag on the moon. That is not biased American jingoism. That is what happened. And the Soviets were very embarrassed by it. Not because they didn't get to the moon, but because the Americans beat them there.
+11
Level 63
Apr 29, 2021
I think the idea that going to the moon is a "bigger prize" than reaching space or putting a man in orbit is the problem here. They are all amazing achievements, and gigantic milestones - valuing one above the others is such a ridiculous Cold-War-y thing.
+5
Level 70
Apr 29, 2021
Bingo. Furthermore, the russians beat the US in just about every other milestone, and kept going to space, even building stations, way after the moon landing.
+3
Level 56
Apr 29, 2021
Isn't the point of the quiz to be "salty"? I imagine that the U.S. version would have a similar question about the USSR beating it in getting the first man and the first woman in space
+2
Level 66
Apr 29, 2021
Whether getting to the moon is a bigger accomplishment than getting the first man in space is irrelevant. The issue is whether the Soviets were embarrassed by the Americans beating them to the moon. They were. They made it a huge priority, and they lost to the Americans. Yes, what the Soviet space program accomplished is objectively impressive, but they made it a point in the throes of the Cold War to beat the Americans to the moon. They poured a ton of resources into it, and they never got there.
+2
Level 63
Apr 30, 2021
I have no issue with the question, which is fine. It's just your characterisation of the Moon landing as "The Big Prize" that seems weird. It was *a* big prize - one that the Soviets certainly wanted and didn't get. Whether they are embarrassed by that is up to them.
+12
Level 74
Oct 5, 2018
To be fair, Bobby Fischer could be placed on the "Embarrassing Chapters in US History" quiz, too.
+2
Level 66
Oct 5, 2018
Hahaha. Very true.
+2
Level 83
Sep 29, 2019
I'm British, and find Chamberlain's appeasement shameful. But this quiz isn't about the UK - I believe you'll find that one elsewhere.
+5
Level ∞
Feb 9, 2020
This quiz is embarrassing chapters in Russian history. It's not going to be flattering. There are versions of this quiz for the UK, France, China, and of course the United States as well.
+1
Level ∞
Apr 16, 2020
And now Germany too! (Italy coming soon).
+3
Level 63
Apr 29, 2021
Good luck finding any embarrassing chapters in *Italian* history! I mean, come on!
+2
Level 52
Apr 29, 2021
Mussolini, Gentili, Berlusconi, Bonanno, Luciano, Vizzini?

Ethiopia 1935/36, invading Greece in 1940, Libya in 1940, losing battleships in Tarent in November 1940?

Shall I continue?

+1
Level 55
Apr 29, 2021
Failing to Invade Greece, Politicians getting bribed by the Mafia etc, and lets not even start about the roman empire. If that counts as italy.
+1
Level 66
Apr 29, 2021
Such quiz could also be done for Japan, Spain, Turkey or Portugal.
+1
Level 55
Apr 29, 2021
And Belgium, which QM should easily finish!
+3
Level 63
Apr 30, 2021
I couldn't have been more obviously joking about Italy!

Every country has embarrassing chapters in their history, but many of the Italian ones are especially hilarious!

+1
Level 62
Apr 24, 2021
all quizzes from this series (Embarassing Chapters) are biased
+2
Level 67
May 7, 2018
Spent most of this time trying to think of another word for 'drugs'. Tried drugs, drug violation, etc - took ages before I thought of doping.
+1
Level 82
May 7, 2018
If you had watched NBC's coverage of the games, you would have heard the phrase "state-sponsored doping program" about a million times.
+7
Level 76
May 7, 2018
Don't have access to NBC and suspect I wouldn't watch it if I did.
+2
Level 61
May 7, 2018
I don't think Russia had much of a "Pacific fleet" in 1904-5. As far as I'm aware most of the ships came from Europe. In fact part of the problem was that they had too little support infrastructure to operate efficiently in East Asia.
+2
Level 75
Aug 17, 2018
They sent it from Europe indeed. The drunken captains ordered to shoot British fishing boats on the way because they thought they were already there, for one.
+5
Level 84
May 7, 2018
Technically, Ukraine was not a "country" at the time of the famine. It was a Soviet republic.
+2
Level 71
May 7, 2018
No, although I get the intent of the question. That same intent doesn't work, however, on the Chernobyl question, given that Chernobyl is (today) in Ukraine and near the Belarus border (i.e. nowhere near Russia).
+2
Level 73
Sep 30, 2018
Maybe the quiz should be more accurately called "Embarrassing Chapters in Russian/Soviet History".
+1
Level 37
Oct 5, 2018
In 1986 when Chernobyl happened, Ukraine was part of Russia.

Therefore, it is an embarrassing chapter in RUSSIAN history.

+4
Level 75
Oct 6, 2018
divantilya - in 1986, Ukraine and Russia were both part of the Soviet Union.
+3
Level 77
May 22, 2020
camus - the Soviet Union was universally recognized by Russia, international powers, and Ukraine itself as the successor of the Russian Empire, which included Ukraine. The seats of power of the USSR were in Russia and dominated by Russians (ethnically or culturally). It is ridiculous to suggest that Chernobyl was anyone else's fault, the only reason it wouldn't be is if the Ukrainian ASSR government independently developed Chernobyl all by themselves, which they didn't.
+2
Level 75
Jul 17, 2020
Russia dominating the Soviet Union doesn't make all of its parts Russian. I don't know about the ethnicities of the people responsible for Chernobyl but that's beside the point.
+1
Level 62
Apr 30, 2021
But the Russian domination of the USSR certainly would make most of the USSR's history relevant to a Russian history quiz.
+2
Level 37
Sep 29, 2018
Not all countries are sovereign nations.
+2
Level 63
Apr 29, 2021
Very true - just look at Country Kitchen Buffet!
+2
Level 62
Apr 30, 2021
You're amazing, gandalf.
+3
Level 81
May 7, 2018
Moscow wasn't the capital of Russia in Napoleon's time.
+1
Level ∞
May 7, 2018
Fixed
+8
Level 72
May 7, 2018
Burning Moscow was done deliberately to deny resources to the invaders. It was followed by the disastrous retreat from Russia and the abdication of a certain Corsican gentleman. It led directly to Russian victory so can hardly be called an embarrasement.
+3
Level 71
May 7, 2018
Tolstoy was proud of the tactic, for what it's worth.
+9
Level 65
May 7, 2018
It was an effective tactic, but it was embarrassingly desperate.
+2
Level 37
Sep 29, 2018
When you give up your biggest city to the enemy, this is because you lost all hope to successfully defend it, not because you wanted to in the first place.
+2
Level 60
May 7, 2018
could you accept Czernobyl too ?
+1
Level 53
May 7, 2018
I kept trying things like Borishnikov. Didn't get close enough.
+1
Level 67
Apr 29, 2021
I got it first time and was genuinely astounded. I got the spelling slightly wrong, but it was accepted and I 100% didn't expect it to be.
+1
Level 65
May 9, 2018
Chernobyl had nothing of bad design. It was the state of the art of the 80's and better than many others. and a french design I think. However the safety procedures were embarrasingly set aside that's for sure, and more embarrasing cover-up attempts and late reaction to the blunder were the worst part of it.
+7
Level ∞
May 10, 2018
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_disaster

Reading the article it sounds like the design had major problems. In my opinion, a nuclear reactor should be idiot proof.

+1
Level 78
Jun 18, 2018
There certainly was bad design involved, a similar event simply cannot happen in many other types of reactors that just stop when temperature is too high.
+2
Level 82
Sep 27, 2018
I would agree that the Soviet response to the disaster was far more embarrassing than the disaster itself. At least from my understanding from having visited the place. If I don't know what I'm talking about I blame my Ukrainian tour guide.
+2
Level 59
Apr 29, 2021
The design was horrible. Someone pointed that out in the 70's but got silenced for that and the facts were put away.
+1
Level 63
May 15, 2018
I wouldn't have wanted to be one of those guards looking out for Yeltsin that day. Also, how is the defection of Baryshnikov an embarassing chapter of history?
+4
Level 82
May 30, 2018
It says that the country was such a terrible place to live that people were trying to flee. Baryshnikov was far from the only one who made the attempt, but he's one of the more famous one and therefore emblematic of this phenomenon. You never saw large numbers of Americans trying to flee to Cuba or the Soviet Union; just like nobody in West Germany was attempting to flee to East Germany, and nobody in South Korea has ever tried to escape to North Korea. Pretty fair inclusion, IMO.
+4
Level 63
Apr 29, 2021
While it's of course far less common, there absolutely have been instances of people trying to and succeeding in leaving West Germany for East Germany, South Korea for North Korea, and I'm sure the same is true for the US to Cuba, although I'm less familiar with that part of the world so no examples come to mind.
+2
Level 82
Apr 29, 2021
Approximately 25,000 North Koreans defected to the South. 13 defectors went in the opposite direction. It's so lopsided and close enough to 0 that saying that it never happens is a valid observation. Like saying the sky is blue. Then some pedant pipes in with "well actually sometimes it's pink!" or "it only appears blue because of the wavelengths of light that pass through the atmosphere at certain angles when arriving at your retina"...... you know what I mean.
+1
Level 63
Apr 30, 2021
What are you talking about? If you live on Earth, the sky is black about half the time, and some combination of blue, grey and white the rest of the time. Also reddish-yellow at sunrise and sunset.
+1
Level 82
May 2, 2021
and besides I just noticed I specifically said "large numbers." I never said that there were zero.
+2
Level 63
May 2, 2021
You actually said "nobody", both for Germany and for Korea, but I guess that's as close as you'll ever come to admitting a mistake, so I'll accept it. Oh, and happy birthday to you!
+1
Level 82
May 4, 2021
Hypocritical and inaccurate insult/criticism from you as usual.
+1
Level 63
May 6, 2021
What? Wishing you a happy birthday? Sorry if that offended you, I was trying to be nice!
+1
Level 70
May 16, 2018
Got them all apart from the ballet dancer. My Knowledge of ballet dancers is pretty limited, and it doesn't extend to him.
+1
Level 71
Sep 16, 2018
Baryshnikov is not just a ballet dancer. He also became an actor, a talented one at that. He and Gregory Hines did a fantastic movie together in 1985 called White Nights (also stars Helen Mirren). If you never saw that, I highly recommend it. I haven't seen it since 1985 and it still stands out in my mind as a great movie with some phenomenal dancing by both Hines and Baryschnikov.
+1
Level 67
Oct 5, 2018
And, a recurring role in Sex In The City.
+3
Level 70
Oct 5, 2018
My knowledge of ballet dancers, especially male ballet dancers, is pretty much limited ENTIRELY to Baryshnikov.
+1
Level 66
Oct 5, 2018
Me too. And I only know it from the Simpsons. "I think you move like a young Baryshnikov!" Russian name? Dancer? That's got to be the guy.
+1
Level 52
Oct 7, 2018
I was thinking Rudolf Nureyev, but he asked for asylum in Paris.
+1
Level 82
May 30, 2018
I see you accepted my critique of the previous clue suggesting the Soviets had lost the Space Race; I'm still not sure I agree with the wording of the present clue about failing to get to the moon- it was more like they just decided it wasn't worth it once the Americans already got there- but, much better than the previous clue/answer. Sputnik, Yuri Gagarin, Laika, and I all appreciate the change. ;-)
+4
Level 70
Oct 5, 2018
Honestly, I don't think Laika was a big fan of how things turned out.
+1
Level 82
Oct 5, 2018
Probably not but we can at least remember and honor her sacrifice.
+2
Level 63
Apr 29, 2021
I agree. If anything, the Soviets handily won the Space Race, but lost the Moon Race.
+3
Level 45
Sep 7, 2018
Kept trying Nureyev for the ballet dancer at first. Good quiz, would be fun to see a United States version of this too... Vanguard satellite launch, anyone? ;)
+1
Level 70
Oct 5, 2018
+1
Level 52
Oct 5, 2018
Maybe add something about the gay purge and extermination in Chechnya?
+2
Level 78
Oct 5, 2018
Only one I missed was Sochi. I tried Soji, Sojie, Shojie, Shoji...I must have confused it with the Japanese fiddler in Branson.
+5
Level 62
Oct 5, 2018
I think it's blasphemous to make a quiz about Russian embarrassment without including the "Miracle on Ice."
+6
Level 81
Feb 7, 2020
Forgot about this. A team of professionals who regularly played together for a country that had won the previous 4 Olympic gold medals (and 5 of the last 6) losing to a bunch of college players whom they had soundly trounced, 10-3, just days before. The head coach was so stunned, he forgot to pull the goalie, down by a goal, as the final minute wound down.

Considering the Cold War climate at the time, this one could easily have been one of the first ones on this quiz.

+1
Level 60
Oct 6, 2018
You should do an embarassing moments one for Mexico, Japan, and Turkey too.
+1
Level 48
Oct 13, 2018
I just couldn't manage to write Chernobyl correctly. It's written so differently in my language (Tsernobyl).
+1
Level 67
Nov 20, 2018
Suomi on tunnetumpi kuin kuu. Torilla tavataan.
+1
Level 66
Apr 29, 2021
Teemu Selanne.
+2
Level 37
Feb 18, 2019
Camus: You are correct. My faux pas; I did not forget that it was the Soviet Union back then.
+2
Level 67
Nov 15, 2019
How about a quiz "embarrassing times in US History"?
+3
Level ∞
Nov 15, 2019
https://www.jetpunk.com/user-quizzes/30947/embarrassing-chapters-in-us-history
+2
Level 82
Oct 29, 2020
That was the first one in the series, and I made several sequels to it.
+1
Level 46
Apr 29, 2021
Selling Alaska was not embarrassing, it was a right decision. Russia would have lost this territory anyway, because it was far away and we weren't enough recourses to defend or explore it.
+3
Level 71
Apr 29, 2021
You could also add "Losing your only aircraft carrier to a fire while in dock"
+1
Level 66
Apr 29, 2021
If you like this, please try my Embarrassing Chapters in Spanish History Quiz!
+1
Level 26
Apr 29, 2021
One mistake no one lost or won cold war
+4
Level 74
Apr 29, 2021
2 countries entered the cold war. One still exists. The other collapsed and disbanded after decades of famine, corruption, and the worst sorts of authoritarianism. There is a clear winner and loser of the cold war, no matter how much you'd love to spin it another way
+1
Level 64
Apr 29, 2021
I don't think it is known whether the Russians burnt down Moscow or whether it was burnt down by Napoleon's troops during the looting.
+1
Level 50
Apr 29, 2021
Please accept typos for Yeltsin 😭
+1
Level 55
Apr 29, 2021
Can you simply accept Cheating for Doping?
+1
Level 68
Apr 29, 2021
100%. I only knew Barishnokov thanks to Recess lol.
+1
Level 66
Apr 29, 2021
Lost nearly their entire Pacific fleet? How about they try sending their Baltic fleet instead?
+2
Level 47
Apr 29, 2021
You gotta think the false Dmitrys should be on this list. I'd say that's about as embarrassing as it gets
+1
Level 57
May 1, 2021
Yeah. The False Dmitry was weird.
+3
Level 59
Apr 30, 2021
The United States has more embarrassing moments.
+2
Level 82
May 2, 2021
doubtful. Both because the Russians are every bit as bad if not very probably worse than the Americans, but also because Russia (if you include the Soviet Union, Russian Empire, and various precursor states) has been around longer.

However, if criticism of America is what turns you on or preoccupies you, as it seems to be for so many, I authored a series of six or seven quizzes on embarrassing moments in US history. The original series I made about the US is what inspired this series by Quizmaster.

+2
Level 63
May 2, 2021
It's not a contest, Alexander.

The point is that every country has embarrassing chapters, which we should be aware of. Most countries also have shining achievements, but, weirdly, those tend to be better-known, at least within said countries.

+2
Level 63
May 2, 2021
Also: every country is accountable for its own embarrassing chapters. The fact that others have failed too doesn't excuse anything a particular country has done wrong.