Sunday, February 11, 2018

A Survivalist Underground Emerges in Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 11 – Survivalists, who actively prepare for wars and other disasters often by withdrawing from the broader society, emerged first in the United States in the 1970s. They had no counterparts in the Soviet Union; but now ever more Russians are adopting survivalist strategies and can even be said to form a loosely organized underground movement.

            They have their own webpages, stores, and meeting places and are, as Moscow journalist Ekaterina Klimushkina reports for the Lenta news agency believe they are ahead of the game – “it wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark” – and do not fear either nuclear bombs or the apocalypse (

                “These people,” she writes, “believe in the end of the world but aren’t sectarians … they shoot with their own guns but aren’t hunters;” and they expect that “at any moment some kind of cataclysm may occur for which one must be ready.”  There were no such people in Soviet times: it would have been unpatriotic and anti-state. But now there are many.

            The end of the Soviet Union gave impetus to the movement. On the one hand, many viewed it as a disaster and were uncertain what the future would be, key experiences for survivalists.  And on the other, Russians were encouraged to take responsibility for themselves and their families rather than rely on the state or anyone else.

            Russian survivalists, Roman Kuzminov, one of their number says, are very different than their American counterparts in that Americans build bunkers but the Russians rely on the country’s enormous vacant spaces and thus plan to live more nomadically in rural areas in the event of a war, accident or other disaster.

            According to Klimushkina, there are a number of subgroups of Russian survivalists: those who simply prepare to help others in the event of disaster, those who train to live off the land alone, and those who plan to become partisans to fight off the authorities or invaders of one kind of another.

            According to Kuzminov, the term “survivalist” isn’t all that popular since many of those who fall under that category are “paranoid” not just about the broader society but about other survivalists.  At the same time, it is often easy to identify them: they carry rucksacks with supplies, have watches with build-in compasses, and practice with guns but don’t hunt.

                Klimushkina says that “the majority of survivalists” favor the legalization of weapons and almost all of them have hunting rifles. Those who don’t have guns carry knives or clubs. Some don’t actively do anything but rather engage in theoretical discussions including whether cannibalism is an appropriate survival strategy – and against whom it should be directed.

            According to the Lenta journalist, it is likely the case that most Russian survivalists treat their involvement in this kind of activity more as a hobby than as a life calling. But some, especially those who live near the war zone in Ukraine, are inclined to take it more seriously. They dominate many of the survivalist websites on the Russian net.

            Many Russian survivalists watch American films and clips about survivalists in the US, Klimushkina says; but they don’t necessarily accept what the Americans do. If I had to choose between what US survivalists do and what my grandmother knows, one said, “I would choose the second” every time.

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