Friendly Fistfight, Only In Russia

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A few years back, I was enjoying a quiet evening meal in the restaurant wagon of a Russian train, its wheels rhythmically clicking across the darkening plains.

There were two other gentlemen in the same restaurant wagon, sitting shoulder to shoulder and enjoying a bit of drink and deep conversation.  By deep conversation, I mean laughing and slapping each other on the back and then alternatively taking sucker punches at the other’s faces.

At first, I was a bit amused, but then again I had come to the restaurant wagon for a little peace and quiet (after all), so in time a bit of irritation began to develop.  Furthermore, the situation was showing clear signs of steady deterioration.

I knew that a policeman is usually on duty on such trains.  So, I suggested to the restaurant manager, who also sat observing this spectacle with a look of pious boredom, that perhaps this situation warranted the participation of the police.

The manager took the voice of a kindergarten teacher addressing the chief of all simpletons: “And then what will happen?  The police will come.  They will kick them off the train.  Then in the morning, they will feel very sorry about what happened.”

He could not have more precisely described the scenario that I was hoping for.  But to the restaurant manager, this option was simply preposterous.

You see, what I’ve learned while living in Russia is that most fistfights are friendly.

Except for those that are not.

I was reminded of this train restaurant friendly fistfight story today as @EnglishRussia1 tweeted this fantastic video that felt so very Russian to me.


There are so many things I love about this video, including the passion of our champion roadside gladiators, the disinterest of the lady walking by, and how after the scuffle, life continues on as normal.

It’s difficult to say what the Russian culture takeaway from all of this.  I mean, we could discuss the fascinating, amusing, and invigorating Russian tradition of  the “wall battle”, most often observed during “Maslenitsa” and aptly depicted in this scene from “The Siberian Barber”:

But I think what we can learn here is that Russians aren’t as easily indignant as you.  As a matter of fact, Russians often see the huffing exasperation of their Western counterparts at the slightest bump in the road to be a bit comical.  In most cases, Russians just roll with the punches.  And if a friend needs to let off some steam with a bit of playful yet energetic sparring, no sense in fighting him over it, might as well just join in.

Because it’s all in fun… right?

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