Great story, and it illustrates yet again that height of irony I keep running into about this…
Ron Collins

Well Russians were living in a country that knew very little about freedom back in the 1950s but that image was probably a little outdated when you heard it in the 1970s. I suppose once again it depended a lot on how far from cities you lived. I certainly never felt that I wasn’t at least as free as anyone else in the world.

I am not sure what laws govern hunting in Russia. I know it is illegal to shoot big cats like tigers and leopards which we don’t have in the west anyway. It is also illegal to shoot bears or certain birds of prey. It is open season on ducks and rabbits. I am not sure about deer or pigs but as far as I can see nobody else knows either. The only law I am aware of is that you are not allowed to shoot a gun within two kms of the town and that seems like a pretty sensible rule. The local cops will arrest you and confiscate your gun if they catch you firing it off near town but other than that they don’t seem interested in hunters or what they’re hunting.

I don’t know about gun laws either. Pretty much everybody has one but I am not sure what types are allowed or not. My dad has a Baikal 55 hunting rifle, which just looks like any other rifle to me, and a small hand-gun in case an animal is injured but not dead. A lot of people including my brothers use Tokarev rifles which were apparently designed for snipers back in the 1980s. None of them have licences as far as I know. Granddad used a old Mosin Nagent, which was the rifle issued to soldiers during the war. Pretty much every house in Russia still has one and apparently they make good hunting rifles.

Most people do not carry guns unless they are going hunting. You don’t see people in town with guns on their belts. I also don’t think there are many of those military style rifles that the newspapers tell us are everywhere in America, although you could buy one of those old AK rifles at pretty much any market if you really wanted one.

I have never heard of anyone in the area being shot.

The hunters seem to have certain self imposed rules, like you should not shoot a pregnant animal or you should not shoot any more than you can carry or anything that you are not going to use. Those rules do not apply to wild goats which are considered vermin.

I doubt there are that many laws. Most land is not private anyway. But the communists never seemed to care much about regulating hunting. They tried but failed miserably to disarm the rural population but the country was just flooded with rifles during the war and most people would hand in one to the officials and keep another one or two hidden.

The famine in Ukraine had not troubled Stalin and his friends in terms of the suffering of the people; but it was a huge embarrassment to them that so many people had starved in the socialist paradise. In Russia I suppose the communists figured that it was better for people to get meat by shooting at deer and pigs, otherwise hungry people with guns might have taken to shooting at communists instead. In fact in the early 50s when the party experimented with imposing restrictions on the dachas delegations of communist officials did find themselves being met by angry people with guns, until the communists thought better of it.

When I would see reports from America about some rural family being surrounded by the FBI and a big shootout ensuing, I often wondered what really happened. Of course they were always cast as “religious fundamentalists” and “far-right white supremacists;” just like those little bands of men protecting their dachas in Russia were cast by the newspapers as “counter-revolutionaries” and “enemies of the people.” “Look they had a gun and a copy of the bible; what more do you need?” just sounded like — “look they had a gun and a copy of some anti-communist book so what more do you need?” to me. I just used to think well whatever they were; there probably wouldn’t have been any shooting if the FBI had not turned up and pointed guns at them on their land.

Post communism the governments had a lot more to worry about than whether or not people were hunting. Today, Putin’s government, contrary to all the western hysteria about it in western newspapers, seems to be refreshingly hands-off in terms of meddling in the lives of the little people.

Maybe Putin finally understands what most “progressive” types don’t; if you just leave people alone then maybe they will leave you alone.

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