Russia is a weird place. It comes off as the type of country whose government is extremely restrictive but only so long as you don’t say mean stuff about said government. You don’t do that and you’re free to do pretty much whatever you want. Hunt bears with AK-47s. Blow up refrigerators with homemade explosives. Drink vodka until it replaces your blood.
The Russians take full advantage of this. As far as people they seem somewhat fatalistic and it’s hard to blame them. They’ve been invaded by Ghengis Kahn, Napoleon, and Hitler. Ruled brutally by Joseph Stalin and dozens of Czars. Their winters are grim. When life is pain, pain means nothing.
So why not have savage face slapping competitions? And really, these things look violent as hell. It’s a miracle someone’s eyeball didn’t explode out into the crowd.
This is not for the faint of face. This competition will turn your cheek and orbital bones into dust. It will rob you of every tooth you have. All for a chance at glory and 30,000 rubles (which equates to a little under $500). Worth it? In Russia, it is, hell yeah. What do you have to lose if some hulking, vodka-soaked, Zangief-looking dude slaps you into a coma? Just another horrible winter, really.
One can only imagine what their other seemingly pedestrian physical competitions are like. Thumb wrestling tournaments end with bags of severed thumbs being tossed into dumpsters. Arm wrestling matches end in the deaths of entire families. Actual wrestling matches end in villages being pillaged and burned to the ground.
I don’t think I’d be able to watch a Russian headbutting competition without puking. Basically ever loser walks away looking like Oberyn Martell after his duel with The Mountain. Brains and blood everywhere. Russians fear nothing.
This story was originally published March 21, 2019.