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‘On v zakone vor?’
Click to listen to on-na-zakone-vor.mp3 (583Kb)
Native speaker
Date: 9/4/2005

Description of what is on the sound file:
This is a short extract from the very popular Soviet Russian movie 'Mesto fstretchi izmenitj nyilza', a cop movie set in post WWII Russia. The main cop is played by the Russian bard Vladimir Vissotsky, a great Russian singer.

I chose this extract because this movie is an important popular cultural reference in Russia and it presents the basic structure of the traditionnal Russian criminal world which you will encounter in novels and action movies.

Although I am not an expert and do not understand fully how it works, it seems that the underworld is divided between regular thiefs 'blatnie' and made thiefs 'vor v zakone', litterally 'thief-in-law'. Regular people, who are not members of the criminal world, are known as 'fraeri'.

In this scene Vladimir Vissotskiy interrogates a pickpocket about the provenance of a bracelet which belonged to a homicide victim. The pickpocket just told him that he got it from 'Fox'. Vissotskiy asks him about this Fox.

Transcript of sound file:
COP: А вот скажки ты мне. Вот Фокс. Он в законе вор? Или так, приблатнёный?

THIEF: Я сам не понимаю. По замашкам вроде бы фраер.

COP: Но не фраер, это точно. Ему человека подрезать, что тебе высморкаться. Он вобше, в авторитете.

THIEF: Я знаю. А может, он окраску сменил? Что он делает, никто ничего не знает.

COP: Ну ладно.

COP: Well tell me. Is Fox a crowned thief? Or just an ordinary one?

THIEF: I don't get it myself. He's got the manners of an ordinary man. But he is not, I am sure. He would kill a man with the same ease you blow your nose. He is an authority.

COP: I know. Could he change his trade?

THIEF: Nobody knows his business.

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