Why are the streets so muddy in Russia?

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One of the eternal question that everyone asks in Russia is “why are streets and roads in Russia so muddy?”

If there is one Russian word a visitor to the country should know, it is slyakot, a wonderfully onomatopoeic term that translates, simultaneously, as “slush” and “mud”… . Russia’s streets and roads disappear, only to be replaced by vast torrents of thick, brown mud, peppered with the occasional ice drift. It’s not just in the countryside, which remains largely undeveloped, but very center of Moscow too. Walking becomes an exercise in dodging mud puddles. Foot traffic slows to a crawl as pedestrians attempt to navigate the city’s pavements – they are horribly uneven and potholed at the best of times. As winter’s snow turns to rain and gathers in their impossibly large crevasses, they turn into veritable dirt pools. Towering piles of snow, crusted in black soot from months of absorbing car exhaust, line these mud-puddled streets, giving the scene that extra touch of beauty.

Russian prominent blogger Tema Lebedev tried to point out the source of the the mud on Russia’s streets.

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In the European part of Russia, mud appears on the streets mainly because of precipitation (melting snow, rain). Mud literally flows in streams from the hills. Here is a typical source of dirt.

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Do you see the tire tracks? This is how the mud is getting transferred to the roads of St. Petersburg.

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A backyard in Sergiyev Posad.

The thin layer of snow covers the road mud briefly, but melts quickly. Saratov.

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All vehicles are literally covered in mud.

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Some Moscow drivers deliberately avoid washing their vehicles and license plates. This way, they avoid paying parking tickets.

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The problem, however, isn’t only the weather.

It’s the infrastructure – Moscow, a sprawling metropolis that is home to 11.5 million people officially, and up to 17 million unofficially, has almost no drains on its roads, leaving melting snow and mud puddles to stagnate with nowhere to go. The roads, battered yearly by winter, look more like concrete Swiss cheese slices, riddled with holes and uneven paving. It’s not for nothing that a favorite Russian saying goes: the country has two eternal problems – roads and idiots.

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Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Photo: AFP/Getty Images

“The skill of the removal the surface drainage, mastered by the ancient Romans, is still unknown in our country.” – sums up the problem Tema Lebedev.

There is a term in Russian language that defines this occurrence and its called rasputitsa. It can be best translated as “lack of roads” or “when roads stop existing”. It refers to a biannual phenomenon that appears in spring, because of melting snow and in the autumn, because of rain. On another hand, it has not always been a bad thing. Some historians have credited the season for the defensive advantage in wartime. After all, the bad roads played their role in stopping advancing armies of Napoleon and the Nazis.

Sources: The Guardian, Tema.Livejournal.

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