Weird History
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10 Brutal Facts About The Harsh Russian Winter That Stops All Military Invasions

Updated September 23, 2021 1.5k votes 237 voters 40.3k views10 items

List RulesVote up the facts about Russian winters that make you shiver.

The brutal Russian Winter (sometimes called "General Winter" or "General Frost") shaped history as we know it. The sub-zero temperatures of the country have led to a unique infrastructure, shaped Russian culture, and even toppled foreign empires.

The Russian people have found a way to not only survive these terrible winters, but also use them to their advantage. No invasion of the country has ever succeeded, and attempts have led to the downfall of more than one superpower.

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    Napoleon's Soldiers Crawled Inside Their Dead Horses For Warmth

    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    When Napoleon's invasion of Russia took a turn for the worse, thousands of soldiers and horses were dying every day. Those who wanted to survive cut their animals open and stayed inside their bodies for shelter against the freezing temperatures surrounding them. 

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    Your Skin Will Freeze In About 10 Minutes

    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    If you were curious what the average temperature is for Russian Winter, it's between about -30 and -50 degrees Celsius, or -22 and -58 degrees Fahrenheit. To put this in perspective, you can get frostbite in 30 minutes at just -19 degrees Fahrenheit. At -60, exposed skin can freeze in as little as 10 minutes.

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    Napoleon's Invasion Force Got So Cold They Used Corpses For Insulation

    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    Having an army in below-freezing temperatures means many soldiers will die from exposure; however, those bodies will freeze solid and won't become disease-ridden any time soon. As a result, many French soldiers in Napoleon's invading force used the bodies of their fallen comrades as insulation to keep them warm. They would pile them up over the windows of their dwellings to help keep the cold away. 

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    Russian Winter Led To The Fall Of Sweden As A Superpower

    Sweden was once a force to be reckoned with, an empire with superior military capabilities under the leadership of King Gustavus Adolphus. A big part of that was his foresight in adopting gunpowder tools and mobile artillery. From 1618 to 1648, they expanded so far south they almost took Prague and Vienna. Sweden continued to conquer, until King Charles XII of Sweden decided to invade Russia, and then winter set in. The Russians knew how to fight in the cold and during harsh blizzards while the Swedes did not.

    In 1709, Europe had the coldest winter in 500 years. It was so cold more than 2,000 Swedish soldiers died in a single night. The losses reduced the country from a superpower to just another European territory.

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