The Soviet Union, spy scandals, sex and UFOs: Top 13 stories of 2013

As the year draws to a close, check out these 13 stories that RBTH readers found most interesting, engaging or thought-provoking in 2013.

1) Russia, long known as a country where cash is king, is following the world trend toward paying by plastic. The news that Russia was considering banning cash transactions over $10,000 exploded on our site.

Source: PhotoXPress

2) We used to say in Russia that football is our national sport. But we didn’t mean American football… fact, we only learned that American football was played in Russia in September when a Moscow team asked U.S. quarterback Tim Tebow to play for them. The story of Tebow’s unsuccessful recruitment was our second-most popular article this year.

Source: AP

3) RBTH sees as one of its missions as fighting against the stereotypes that Russia is only about bears, matryoshkas and Putin... But everyone still loves these topics. More than 13,000 readers wanted to know if the Russian president was in good health.

Source: AP

4) What could be more secretive and mysterious than the KGB? The KGB investigating UFOs! All our readers interested in science, spy games and science fiction drove this story to the top of the rankings.


Source: Leonid Savinov / RIA Novosti

5) Our readers who prefer to keep their noses buried in books finally showed us their faces. They read our special infographics…about reading around the world.

Source: Gaia Russo

6) Why yes, there was sex in the Soviet Union. This popular story put to rest the oft-quoted stereotype about the after-hours behavior of the good comrades.

Source: Valery Barykin

7) Although the Cold War ended long ago, our readers always want to know about up-and-coming Russian military technology – especially the kind that rivals that of the United States. These stories about Russia’s answer to the F-22 and the newest in Russian drones were the most popular examples of this genre on our site this year.

Source: AP

8) This year RBTH launched a special online UK edition - - to better serve interests of our British audience. One of the most popular texts on that site – and our main portal as well – was our investigation of 14 Brits with secret Russian roots – like Harry Potter and Helen Mirren.  

Source: AFP/East News

9) Are there things you always wanted to know about Fyodor Dostoevsky but were afraid to ask? Then you would be right in line with many of our readers. This text, in which an expert answered questions about the great writer submitted by our Facebook fans, was one of our most popular stories.

Source: Anna Artemyeva / Novaya Gazeta

10) Some of the RBTH team was less than amused when Edward Snowden arrived in Moscow right in the middle of summer vacations, but the story was great for our site. The ongoing saga about the former American spy was one of the things that increased international interest in Russia in 2013.

Source: Reuters

11) Tolstoy may have lost out in RBTH’s popularity contest to Dostoevsky, but he won a bigger battle for digitalization. All of the great writer’s works are now being compiled into an online archive by an army of volunteers.

Source: Photoshot

12) Have you ever sent a birthday card to your friend in Russia only to learn that it arrived months later? We guess many of you have had this experience – and wanted to know why the Russian post doesn’t deliver.


Source: Lori / Legion Media

13) During the second half of 2013, one story dominated the international press when it came to Russia – the effect of the country’s anti-gay propaganda law. We won't take a position on the issue (other than to say that our editorial team is absolutely accepting of all regardless or religion, race, nationality or sexual preference), but we did want to give our readers some background into Russia’s uneasy relationship with the LGBT community.

Source: Dan Pototsky

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