Sunday, November 18, 2007

Russian Roulette

I decided to embark on a quest to find out the history behind Russian Roulette, and if it was indeed a Russian invention. Thankfully, google is awesome, and I found some answers.

The origin of Russian roulette is depicted in several legends, most concerning Russian soldiers or prisoners of war. However, there is no real evidence, and some say that it may have been a literary creation.

The first account of Russian roulette is in "Russian Roulette," a short story from 1937 by Georges Surdez. The following is a passage from that story:

"'Feldheim . . . did you ever hear of Russian Roulette?' When I said I had not, he told me all about it. When he was with the Russian army in Rumania, around 1917, and things were cracking up, so that their officers felt that they were not only losing prestige, money, family, and country, but were being also dishonored before their colleagues of the Allied armies, some officer would suddenly pull out his revolver, anywhere, at the table, in a cafe, at a gathering of friends, remove a cartridge from the cylinder, spin the cylinder, snap it back in place, put it to his head, and pull the trigger. There were five chances to one that the hammer would set off a live cartridge and blow his brains all over the place. Sometimes it happened, sometimes not."

The interesting part about this story is that Russian roulette is depicted as less of a game, and instead as merely suicide with an element of chance thrown in.

According to one article, "The closest thing to Russian roulette, that we know did happen on occasion, was a game called ‘’cuckoo’’. One Russian officer would stand on a table or chair in a dark room. Other officers would hide around the room and call out, ‘’cuckoo’’. The officer with the gun would fire randomly at the sound." Another carefree game to play with your friends, but no Russian roulette.


Bimini said...

How interesting.... I was always under the impression that in Russian Roulette there was only one cartridge in the cylinder, not 5...Maybe I just have it confused with a scene from Lethal Weapon...

Dr. Michael A. Denner said...

i say, next class, instead of "conjugate this verb" we play "cuckoo"... only, I get to be the guy with the gun.

fascinating. i did not know any of this.

one thing to add: i always thought it was russian roulette because russians were well-known in europe as gamblers who liked high risk/high reward games. dostoevsky wrote a pretty good novel, the gambler (игрок) about a man addicted to gambling whose favorite game was... roulette (рулетка).