What is a Gopnik

For many years, few people outside post-Soviet countries knew of the goings-on inside the newly independent countries of the former USSR. The collapse of communism meant life was pretty grim and defined by lawlessness, gangsterism and depression. These days, whilst life has certainly improved, there are still a few aspects of the old days remaining. One of them would go on to gain internet notoriety amongst the world of memes. The hardy Gopnik is otherwise known as the Russian Chav.

The Gopnik exists throughout most former Soviet countries. They can loosely be defined as men, or women known as Gopnitsa, from the lowest class of people often residing in the suburban outskirts of cities, from families with next to no education and often riddled with addiction. Their life expectancy is often depressingly low.

The word Gopnik derives from the acronym for the Gorodskoye Obshchestvo Prizreniya (GOP), these were the poorhouses built by the Bolshevik government after the October Revolution in 1917 and regarded as one of the birthplaces of the Gopnik subculture. When you are stopped and robbed in the street by a Gopnik, usually beginning with them asking for a cigarrette or to borrow your phone before escalating the situation, this is known is Russian as a Gop-Stop.

Recently, I was in the Ukrainian city of Odessa, known as the mother city of the Russian Mafia. Whilst walking around the lesser-visited parts of town, a voice behind me demanded a cigarette. Upon turning around, I was greeted by a stereotypical Gopnik clad in an Adidas tracksuit, dress shoes and a leather jacket. His face resembled something from the Walking Dead, full of what looked like open rotting sores, likely stemming from abuse of the infamous, flesh-eating Krokodil drug. After demanding cigarettes, he then demanded money, and my shoes, this was a Gop-Stop. After politely telling him to go fuck himself, only through the threat of violence did he back off.

The natural environment of a Gopnik is usually outside a block of flats, supermarkets or train and bus stations. They will often be found characteristically squatting with their heels on the ground, an attribute learned from the overcrowded Russian prison system where it is better to squat than to sit on the cold, hard and filthy ground. They’re generally loud, aggressive and rude and will wait for someone to make eye contact so they can initiate a robbery. Their stereotypical dress is often an Adidas or Puma tracksuit and a flat cap. Their choice of nutrition is often sunflower seeds combined with cheap vodka or alcoholic energy drinks banned in the EU.

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