How did Russian criminals become the elite of Russian society?

17 January, 06:03 PM

Criminal practices are finally legalized, legitimized, and respected throughout the Russian Federation, from the political to the cultural arena. 

Nowadays, admires of the world of cinema are discussing the next winners of the Golden Globe Awards. And in the light of recent events in the Russian army, I remembered a American-British film that was nominated for this award in 1968, but did not receive it, though at that time the film had three Oscar nominations and won one of them - and many other prestigious awards as well.

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We are talking about the Dirty Dozen, a film by Robert Aldrich, which was not widely distributed either in the USSR, or even in independent Ukraine, although nothing prevented from it from Soviet distribution, even at the beginning of the 1970s. The film is about a sabotage operation in the Germany during World War II, and the German nazis are even shown as enemies, which successfully meets standards of the Soviet ideology. There wasn’t any anti-Soviet sentiment in this two-hour long military action film. It could have earned a lot of money, because this is what American cinema was bought for, even in limited quantities.

The barrier to showing this ideologically correct film was a nuance in its plot. The sabotage group, which was sent to the German rear, was recruited from criminals. These are mostly killers and maniacs, and one of them is sexual criminal (he was the one who put the operation in jeopardy at a critical moment). But that will come later. At first, each of the twelve—therefore the Dirty Dozen—was promised an amnesty – but only under the pretext if they survive and return. After that, they are sent to a special base for rapid training.

Literally: as soon as the offender is injured, he automatically cancels his criminal record and becomes a full citizen (before earning a new criminal record.)

Doesn’t that remind you of something? That's right, the practice of the Russian private mercenary company Wagner in the current war against Ukraine. Even earlier - penal battalions created during World War II. A criminal could join the Red Army and wash away his guilt with blood in battle.

Those who survived and returned to a peaceful life after victory didn’t know how to do anything but stealing and killing, and didn’t especially care to learn. So they resumed their business and returned to jail, where thieves-in-law with sharpened homemade shivs and picks were already waiting for them, since those who went to serve broke one of the important laws of the criminal world: not to cooperate with the government. Violators were called traitors, and the real war was waiting for them in the prison yard. It was recorded in history as the bitch’s war, and is described in a separate essay written by prisoner Varlaam Shalamov, the author of the Kolyma stories, which were allowed only in the 1980s.

This is where the fun begins – the so-called bitches, renegades, and traitors won that war. Their victory became possible with the support of the prison administrations - representatives of the Soviet government. Later, criminal cooperation with the authorities in the USSR became closer and more desirable, although it was categorically denied in words, as well as in books and films. However, the Soviet population was scared, but not stupid. The plot of the Dirty Dozen recalled that such cooperation in the USSR was not only possible, but also real. The authorities in their repressive policy are not against relying on convicts, and the more serious the crime that was committed, the greater the benefit. And if this Western film accepted this cooperation, and presented it as a heroic episode, it was better for Russians to keep the story untold, and to hide this film from society.

The current Russian criminals who willingly join the Wagner group are the descendants of those who in the 1940s violated the unwritten criminal laws, cooperated with the government and received the title of “bitches”. However, today they don’t belong formally to the governmental structure. After all, Prigozhin's company is officially called private. Therefore, these criminals are not shameful bitches, but only honest mercenaries. However, it is very much clear that they work for the government, serve it, and die for it. They are not simply injured, like construction workers, for violating safety rules.

And this is what the picture looks like after all this: a criminal in Russia gets faster access to the social elevator than the average law-abiding citizen. Yesterday he stole, raped, and killed - today Prigozhin called him a hero, publicly absolved his sins, almost exonerated his criminal record, and also paid him a good salary. The salary of Russian conscripts is withheld on purpose. The government keeps the soldiers hungry and cold. The Wagnerians are the elite in their eyes.

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Criminal practices are finally legalized, legitimized, and respected throughout the Russian Federation, from the political to the cultural arena. Those who were once considered to be traitors by the criminal element are today creating the agenda themselves – not only in the Russian occupation army, but also in Russian society in general. The worst humans of the worst, representatives of the social bottom, often illiterate and always brutally cruel, have now become a respected stratum of the population, the Russian elite.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov unknowingly started this movement when, as a young man, he came to a meeting with Putin in a tracksuit and sneakers. This case did not cause any pushback and the gopnik style sprouted roots, just like their “honorable manners.” Old regime laws no longer exist, or bans and restrictions. Today, the official Russian authorities breed criminals by the dozens, if not hundreds, giving the occupiers the go-ahead for any crimes in Ukraine and promising: “Nothing will happen to you for this, no one will ever reach you.” You might die, but you just need to be more careful.

Criminality and its weight in the Russian Federation is increasing in geometric progression., and Russian society is fine with it, because every Russian imagines himself as a member of the Dirty Dozen: a person who has nothing to lose.

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