The Russians have a motorcycle club rumored to number over 5,000, and they call themselves the Night Wolves. They’re in the news. They didn’t used to be, because they started as a subversive bunch in 1989 that thumbed their noses at Soviet authority and pretty much contented themselves with a shared appreciation for motorcycles and promoting illegal rock concerts. That was then, and the only reason I even know that much about the club is because our own Bill Hayes referenced them in his excellent reference work, The One Percenter Encyclopedia.
And then 2010 came along and a psychopath named Vladimir Putin, who was the country’s prime minister at the time, staged a big photo op showing himself at the head of a pack of Wolves—riding a Lehman trike—and continuing his personal crusade to portray himself as a tough, macho and oh-so-virile leader. He also liked having his picture taken shirtless on horseback—how studly can you get? (On a side note, if Russian dudes are so studly and virile, how come I keep getting these e-mails from Russian girls lonely for American companionship? I’ll ask Olga when she gets here.)
By then the once-subversive group had morphed into an ultra-nationalistic band of para-militia defenders of Mother Russia—who idolize Stalin.
The leader of the gang, a man who goes by the handle of “The Surgeon,” began appearing at functions with the now-president Putin, sitting beside him dressed in what I can only imagine is his idea of what a bad biker looks like—scads of leather and buckles and straps and jewelry and exoskeletal body armor. He didn’t look like a bad biker so much as a cross between one of those evil freaks in Road Warrior and a BDSM fetishist. The pair became BFFs and The Surgeon was awarded the prestigious Order of Honor by Putin for his work in stoking the patriotic fervor of Russian youth culture.
Any doubt that the organization had become a thoroughly-politicized tool of the State had pretty much evaporated by that point, and it was the Night Wolves who mounted a protective cordon around a Russian Orthodox church where, the day before, the truly subversive girl-band, Pussy Riot, had gotten into trouble with the law for performing a “Punk Prayer”—just the type of subversive music that the Wolves had originally been associated with, and the only reason I bring that up here is that it gives me the opportunity to say “Pussy Riot.” It’s fun. Try it. “Pussy Riot.” Sounds like a YouTube clip of a litter of playful kittens.
It got worse from there, with the Wolves taking an active role in supporting and celebrating and offering what menace they could to the illegal annexation of Crimea, including manning street blockades. The Surgeon was quoted as saying, “We consider ourselves as part of the army of Russia.”
And still it got worse. Over in Chechnya, where Putin had resolved the troublesome religio-politics and determined insurgency of the region by putting a bona fide psycho thug—and a Muslim, naturally—in charge of the whole country. His thug quickly amassed his own private army of 20,000 ruthless bastards to run the show; an army so evil and lawless that even the security apparatus in Moscow shook their heads in disbelief.
But now he’s a Night Wolf, too—when he’s not too busy hanging out with his posse at mixed martial arts cage fights, or having the police pat down a thousand party attendees when he lost his cell phone. (Seriously. He found it later—probably up his own ass.) He swears he’ll lay down his life for Putin. Let’s hope he gets that chance.
Oh, and Putin also awarded him the Order of Honor, though at this point you have to wonder just how prestigious that deal really is.
And now things are getting not just worse, but perilously provocative. As part of Putin’s crusade to restore the USSR, starting with Crimea and eastern Ukraine, flying warplanes through NATO airspace, putting the atomic bomb threat option into play wherever he’s not getting what he wants, selling missiles to Iran and tweeting nude selfies to himself (we don’t have proof of that… yet), plans are afoot for a big biker ride to Berlin to celebrate their triumph over the Nazis in World War II. It’s scheduled to kick off just after this publication goes to print, and arrive in Berlin on May 9. Problem is, they want to ride there and back through countries that suffered terribly under Russian rule after the war—and before it. It doesn’t improve matters that the Wolves’ motto is, “Wherever we are, that is Russia.” Let’s not forget that Stalin was for Hitler before he was against him, and part of the deal they cut was the dividing up of Poland. Neither half of that proud nation fared well in those years, and it’s a toss-up which of those states tormented the Poles worse. Internment, enslavement, slaughter were the strategies of both powers, and so it’s little wonder that the Poles are enraged at the very notion of a fanatical Russian bike gang riding through their territory—and the same goes for the Baltic Republics, and the Czech Republic and even east Germany.
Anyway, the Poles are having none of it. They’ve suffered generations of oppression at the hands of the Russians and are throwing up roadblocks. Some will be official—visa denials and the like—but more impressive is that Poland has their own motorcycle clubs, and they’re warning the Wolves that if they enter their backyard, there will be hell to pay.
In the offing is the possibility of an honest-to-gosh B-movie biker war, but one with heavy historical and political undertones; one that could ultimately lead to a more widespread Cold War-style confrontation. And considering Mad Vlad Putin’s unbalanced mental state, that could get ugly.
It’s all right here in the diaries…