How A Nation Of Crazy Cat Ladies Declared War Upon Dogs
If you were under the impression that humans were the only ones who fared terribly under Joseph Stalin's watch, think again. Centuries of Russian history shows the nation has long had it out for man's best friend, to the point of issuing doggie death orders for them in preparation for the 2014 Olympics and the 2018 World Cup.
You're probably familiar with Ivan Pavlov, the Nobel-Prize-winning physiologist who experimented upon canine subjects, unlocking the secrets of conditioning by mopping up dog drool. While other scientists were using mice, the Russians fixated on dogs. The Soviet interest in canine test subjects veered wildly into Doctor Frankenstein territory, decapitating dogs to reattach their heads to other dogs' bodies, who all died shortly after. Laika, the cute pooch adorning postage stamps and commemorative statues, met no less grisly a fate. Perhaps a savvy choice of test subjects as hairy, four-legged cosmonauts cannot curse out their superiors over the radio for all the world to hear.
During the Second World War, Soviet strategists came up with a more pressing purpose for dogs than guinea pigs in scientific experiments, strapping bombs to them. In the panicked, kamikaze stage in the conflict, pups were infamously conscripted as mobile explosive-delivery platforms, trained to run under Nazi tanks. We say infamously as most of the scared dogs ran back to their handlers. It didn't end well. From that point, it only got considerably worse for dogs.
The explanation for their fear of dogs is wound up in the intricacies of Russian history. Mother Russia is a cat person. Cats are adored. Hordes of stray cats have free run of the Russian Hermitage Museum, fed, pampered, and romanticized for hundreds of years. A princely sum spent on laser pointers and Febreze to clean out the urine stench. Allergic? Too bad. No culture for you, comrade.
"You don't like kitties, eh? I know a great vacation spot in the Siberian wilderness you'll love."
Cats take on a similar status in Russia as they do in Japan and are greatly preferred to all other animals. Based on surveys, Russian are the biggest suckers for cute felines in the world. Their Slavic cousins in Ukraine a close second. Doggies? Not so much. Constant wolf attacks will do that. Russia's distrust of Fido isn't entirely unreasonable. It's seeped into their consciousness, as depicted in this painting of a speeding sleigh crushing a pack of wolves:
Dogs and Russians are like oil and water. By one estimate, you are more likely to be attacked by a mutt than a criminal in Moscow. Based on ancient folklore, Slavs were constantly terrified of werewolves. Guinness World Records lists the 2010 Verkhoyansk "super pack" as the largest concentration of Canis lupus in reported history. A similar tale recounts a bridal party devoured by wolves in 1911. Legend has it that the wolves on the Eastern Front of WWI were so bloodthirsty that the two warring sides ceased hostilities to destroy a hungry wolfpack, as allegedly depicted in this totally-accurate periodical:
Evidence for these horror stories remains sketchy, inspired by novels, dramatic paintings, and folk tales more than fact, tabloids to this day exoticizing "gigantic" killer wolves to get clicks. If that German-Russkie wolf-hunting truce reads like a bath-salt-infused tweet from Dan Bilzerian, you're not wrong, the scare stories also probably hyperbolic bullshit dreamt up to get attention. Unfortunately, the damage is already done.
The species' chances of repairing their reputation remain bleak. But they have a wildcard up their sleeve. Their last hope is an ex-KGB officer who knows how to cut red tape, and presumably the only guy east of the Baltic Sea who knows how to properly hold a puppy:
Top Image: Andrey/Wiki Commons