Apropos of nothing, please enjoy this 2007 story on eXiledonline.com about the gopniki, Russia's original gangsters: "tough Russian dudes with bad skin and blank fuck-if-I-care expressions."

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What makes the gopniki so fucking cool to behold is that they exist beyond irony. If the gopniki are anything, they are “authentic.” In an era in which “authenticity” is the most valued and rarest attribute of all (in the minds of middle-class Gen-Y hipsters, at least), the gopniki rank at the top of the White World’s coolness hierarchy.

Proof of their authenticity lies in their incredibly bold tastes: a combination of cheese, menace, and Third World flash so brash that even the avant-est Western hipster couldn’t possibly imagine it, because even if he or she did, it would inevitably come off as kitsch and harmless in their bourgeois hands. Even the fact that gopniki love blasting techno, singing shitty karaoke in cheap cafes with blinking disco lights, or wearing cheap pointy leather shoes to match their '20s Ragtime kepka-tabletka caps, only boosts their cred as the baddest-assed white guys on Planet Earth.

  • Mark Ames

But the story of Russia’s gopniki isn’t a simple celebration of undiscovered authentic-coolness. Rather, it’s a tragedy of literary proportions. Like Faulkner’s Old South, or Tolstoi’s fading landed gentry, the story of Russia’s gopniki is the tragic tale of a dying breed of a once-proud people. Charles Portis wrote that whenever a guidebook refers to a country’s people as being “proud,” it usually means “barely human” in the special lingo of those guidebooks. In the case of the gopniki, they really are barely human, and that’s why they’re so fucking awesome.

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Take the word “gopnik”: rarely does a word so seamlessly match the object that it signifies. The “gop” is brutal, dumb, and funny, but not funny like “I’ll laugh in the gopnik’s face” funny. It’s funny in a very private way, safely inside your car, with the doors locked and the windows up, and the foot on the pedal, and the wife and kids screaming not to stop at the red light.

Read the rest of this brief, entertaining, somewhat tragic (and somewhat goofy) ethnography here.