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Who knows why he’s winking?!


NIGHTLIFE IN ST. PETERSBURG still shows the scars of seventy-four years of communist oppression when most forms of organized fun not involving marching behind tank divisions while waving banners glorifying Marxism-Leninism were outlawed. As a result, a nightlife scene could not develop, leaving people with little else to do but get together in each other’s apartments and drink heavily. Over the past few years this gap has started fill, though there is still quite a long way to go. Price barriers keep the vast majority of the young and the restless away from hip bars, discos, and clubs, and those places that are cheap and accessible tend to attract teenagers and petty thugs desperately in search of some place to go. Still, more and more socially active people are making and spending money and the current nightlife scene is a far cry from the drab days of yore.

One of the unfortunate realities of modern day St. Petersburg is that a lot of the people who have disposable income are bandits and mafiosi, who, like the rest of us, after a hard day at the office want to loosen their neckties and relax. Though a relaxing bandit may not be as obtrusive as when he’s on the job, groups of drunken goons are rarely a pleasant sight and their concept of relaxing sometimes involves beating up on people they outweigh or outnumber. A common occurrence in the evolution of a night spot is that sooner or later a group (or groups) of thugs choose it as their place to hang out and the atmosphere subsequently goes down the tube. It is impossible to say if today’s hip club is tomorrow’s gangster haven or vice versa. Look for telltale signs (crowds of neanderthals sitting hunched over bottles of vodka coldly eyeing everyone else, bodies strewn about the entrance, and so on) and ask around – word of mouth travels pretty fast on such matters, especially among the foreign community.

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