5 Things That Prove You Can't Exaggerate Russia's Insanity
For those of us outside of it, Russia has always seemed like some sort of real-life Bizarro World. The very antithesis of everything American. Where things do you instead of you doing them. But these are modern times. The first Cold War is practically ancient history and the new one's only just getting good. Clearly, our outmoded Russian stereotypes need some updating. Here's some help developing new ones ...
The Russian Version Of The Hells Angels Are Basically A Government Agency
In the United States, outlaw motorcycle clubs like the Hells Angels are, well, outlaws. It's all right there in the name, really. In Russia, outlaw motorcycle clubs like the Hells Angels are the law.
That's a photo of totally democratically elected Russian President Vladimir Putin, proudly riding his trike (that's like a motorcycle for people who pretend to know how to ride motorcycles) alongside a man called the Surgeon. One-time dental surgeon Alexander Zaldostanov is the president of Russia's answer to the aforementioned Hells Angels, the Night Wolves -- often referred to as "Putin's Angels" thanks to their full backing by the Kremlin.
In addition to giving Russia's leather industry a much-needed shot in the arm, the Night Wolves have a platform of eliminating "unnatural" and "Satanic" gay folk and restoring Russia to its full, pre-USSR-collapse glory.
The Surgeon looked like this, by the way.
Toward this end, they hold elaborate, government funded stage shows that look like Iron Maiden joined the cast of Hamilton. Beginning with the Red Army's defeat of the Wehrmacht (Complete with actual tanks!) and ending with our leather-clad heroes' utter trouncing of an evil foreign influence that is totally not (but definitely is) America. These shows have one main goal, to frighten the ever-loving bejeezus out of Russian children.
We legitimately can't tell if those are blanks or live ammo.
But that doesn't mean the Night Wolves are all show. During the largely criticized (by everyone who's not Russian) Crimean Crisis, they served as a full-on paramilitary unit, blockading travel routes and leading attacks against a natural gas facility and the Sevastopol naval headquarters. When asked about their military activities, the Surgeon said, "We are the army of Russia." While the Kremlin responded with sort of a shrug. After all, what are you gonna do about them?
Arm them, of course.
Gold Digging Is So Common You Can Go To School For It
In the U.S. the closest thing we have to a professor on gold digging is Kanye West, and his tenure is shaky at best. Russia, meanwhile, is home to dozens of "academies" where young women cough up a thousand bucks a week to learn the intricate art of landing themselves a rich man.
A grand a week? You need a sugar daddy just to be able to afford sugar daddy school.
Larisa Renar, an MBA and psychology degree holder, as well as founder of the Private Life Academy, puts it best, "Business theory teaches us one important lesson: Always thoroughly research the desires of the consumer. Apply this principle when you search for a rich man. On a first, date there's one key rule: Never talk about yourself. Listen to him. Find him fascinating. Find out his desires. Study his hobbies; then change yourself accordingly."
Other valuable lessons her self-reported 135,000 graduates learned: Show up on a first date in a beat-up car, wearing no jewelry (to make your "sponsor" assume you're desperately poor), tighten your vaginal muscles to make your pupils dilate (Anime Face 101), agree with every single thing he says, and constantly slouch to make him feel taller.
"Don't worry, he can afford your future chiropractic bills."
Once the tiolki (that's Russian for -- no shit -- "cattle") have graduated, they're off to search for a "Forbes" of their very own. And all they have to do is suppress all of their own personality while literally thinking of themselves as less than human. A bargain!
Dash Cams Are A Well Of Pure Insanity
Russian roads are a deadly cocktail, equal parts vodka and Mad Max served up with a generous dash of prayer in a glass that shatters in your face. Every commute comes with the possibility of corrupt police officers looking for a payoff, shady pedestrians looking for scam lawsuits, or a runaway motherfucking tank looking to flatten you.
Tanks always have the right of way.
But Russian citizens have discovered a solution to the problem: dash cams. When every driver's actions are captured on video by every other driver, the net result is not only an unending deluge of YouTube fodder but insurance against most of the roving felonies looking to run into you. Emphasis on "most."
Remember: Always keep your helmet on when wielding your motorcycle ax. Safety first.
Even with every move being recorded, Russian roadways are still madness. In 2015, sales of baseball bats in Russia skyrocketed, with half a million sold. Compare that to the number of baseballs sold that year (precisely one), and add in the fact that said bats are available in auto parts stores -- alongside brake pads, headlight bulbs, and goddamned axes -- and it's clear that sports aren't on the consumers' minds.
In fact, collective dash cam footage is so bizarre that budding filmmaker Dmitry Kalashnikov pieced together a full feature film, aptly titled The Road Movie, and premiered it at Moscow's 2016 Artdocfest documentary festival.
But the true takeaway here -- and it's a tragic one -- is that somewhere in Russia, there is one single, heartbreakingly lonely baseball fan. He pitches a ball to himself. Swings. Misses. Cries.
Russian Youths Have Taken The Selfie To Dizzying Heights
While Australia may claim the invention of the selfie, Russia has arguably taken it to a whole new level.
Selfie-Man, Selfie-Man, does whatever no sane man can
"Roofers" are a subculture based entirely around scaling Russian skyscrapers. At first, just the seven Stalin Sisters (vast buildings erected between 1947 and 1953 ... whose gothic modernist architecture was inspired by Manhattan skyscrapers that Soviet engineers had seen decades earlier) and then other absurd heights in order to take dramatic selfies.
And to laugh in God's face.
Professional roofers Vadim Makhorov and Vitaliy Raskalov have made it to the top of the Shanghai Tower, the Cologne Cathedral, the Great Pyramid of Giza, and South Korea's tallest skyscraper, the Lotte World Tower. Hell, they even trekked to Rio de Janeiro and stood upon the cranium of Christ.
Obviously, roofing is a somewhat less than legal activity. Getting to the top of private buildings often means hiding out in dark, cramped, sometimes dangerous spaces long enough for the building to close up and security to look away. Then it's a mad dash for the roof. For some, even that's not thrilling enough. Ukrainian man "Mustang Wanted" takes it a step further by not merely defying death in his selfies, but spitting right in its eye.
The most unbelievable thing about this photo is him being physically able to fit balls that big into skinny jeans.
Modern Russia May All Be Manipulated By A Genre Author
There's a reason why modern Russia's reality is so much stranger than our fiction. His name is Vladislav Surkov.
He is 30 percent more Russian than the nearest competitor.
Sort of the Littlefinger of Russia, Surkov is called the Kremlin's "grey cardinal" and he operates Russia's political scene like an octopus puppeteer. In part, he oversees Russia's TV stations, where he is the self-proclaimed "author of the new Russian system." Dictating who should be attacked, who should be defended, the precise language that should be used to do so, and (of course) how to portray Putin's pecs in the best possible light. He's also funded and/or created numerous NGOs and organizations, from pro-Western to highly conservative, all with the aim of co-opting resistance to the regime and seeding widespread confusion.
Another of his notable inventions is the Nashi, a movement often compared to the Hitler Youth, who publicly burned "unpatriotic" works on Red Square. Ironically, a novel Surkov has all but admitted to writing might have wound up on that bonfire. Almost Zero, labeled "gangster fiction," was ostensibly written by Nathan Dubovitsky (Surkov's wife's name is Natalya Dubovitskaya), and follows a masterful PR man as he manipulates a crooked regional governor into greater and greater power. Other works by "Dubovitsky" include the short story "Without Sky," set in a dystopic future in which the entire planet is embroiled in World War Five. Less than a week after the story's publication Russia annexed Crimea.
If only they'd scheduled that bonfire a wee bit sooner.
It may all simply be a paranoid conspiracy theory, but the key players in the Crimean Crisis -- the Night Wolves, the Cossacks, and the puppet politicians -- were all pawns pushed into play by Surkov. Perhaps that's why Surkov was one of the few Russian senior officials slapped with sanctions banning them from the United States and the European Union after the conflict.
To which he replied, "It's a big honor for me. The only things that interest me in the U.S. are Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg, and Jackson Pollock."
Wow. Sure, he's a terrifying political puppetmaster potentially responsible for untold human misery, but uh ... it kind of sounds like he could hang.
For more bizarre stuff about Russia, read 5 Unintentionally Hilarious Soviet Versions Of Good Ideas and 5 Shady Things The USSR Did That You Can't Even Exaggerate.
And be sure to check out 9 Types Of Coworkers To Make You Want Your Head To Explode, and let us know about other headsplosion-worthy employees we may have missed.
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These men -- these hallowed leaders of the free world -- want to kick your ass. And only Daniel O'Brien can help, with How to Fight Presidents: Defending Yourself Against the Badasses Who Ran This Country!