Russian engineers have always thought outside the box. Remarkable.
You are correct, the Russians were never bound by convention. Think of the Tu-144, a concorde copy, except they had the engines side by side and faired into the fuse, as opposed to under each wing as the SST had. Obviously this led to seriously stability and vibration issues culminating in a crash at the Paris Air Show in ‘73?’74?
It was used prinarily for the Moscow-Alma Aty run, which was done in just over three teeth rattling hours. Strange, but they were strange, but nothing was as it seemed in the Soviet Union..