Belarus & Russia: Traffic Police Stories

Global Voices Online
Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Due to certain unprofessionalism and corruption in their ranks, traffic police feature prominently in jokes and contemporary urban folklore of the former Soviet states. Below are three actual stories and reactions to them, posted in LiveJournal this month (translated from Russian).


Minsk, Belarus (April 6, 2006) - This story and one of the many comments to it highlight the mood of the traffic police in the days of the protest against the rigged presidential election. Black ribbons (on car antennas, etc.) as a symbol of mourning were popular around the time of Aleksandr Lukashenko's inauguration; blue balloons (and other things blue) distinguished the supporters of the opposition:

sim_by: Yesterday, I was stopped by traffic cops. They, as usual, asked to see my ID. Checked it. All was okay. Then one of them asked:
- What are these black ribbons?
- Just ribbons, nothing special...
At this point, one of the cops began to touch the ribbons - but he wasn't tearing them down.
- Has someone died or what?
- Actually, no, not yet...
- So what's the matter?
- Well, there are a few things in the country...
- The President, isn't it?
- Well, perhaps the president, yes...
- Do you have your first aid kit?
- Yes!
- A fire extinguisher?
- Yes!
- Show it!
I showed it. The cop spent a long time checking expiration dates, examined the fire extinguisher carefully, the way you examine a $100 bill at the currency exchange booth. But everything was in order. He was in dismay:
- Well, maybe you should still take the ribbons down?
- What for? There's nothing about it in the rules.
The cop was totally upset by then and told me: "Go!" :)


urban_nite: On March 25, we were returning from Yanka Kupala park, walking past the former exhibition center. We saw a traffic cop stop a car that had a blue balloon on each side. A guy got out of the car, the cop began to check his papers.

And suddenly the crowd started to chant: "Let him go!"

After some hesitation, the cop smiled and let the guy go.


Minsk, Belarus (April 9, 2006) - This story and a fragment of one comment were posted shortly after Aleksandr Lukashenko's inauguration and do reflect some bitterness and disappointment. The white-red-white flag of Belarus mentioned in the original post has been outlawed by Aleksandr Lukashenko and replaced with the Soviet-time flag.

belnetmon: My dad has told me this. He was walking back home from the garage when he saw a decently dressed man who was obviously having a heart attack. They called an ambulance, tried to get a few police cars to stop, but the cops were just speeding up and driving off very quickly!!!! This is how it is.

The ambulance, of course, arrived after 4o minutes or so, as usual.

Conclusion: always carry a small white-red-white flag with you. In extreme cases it'll help you stop a police car. Because the do not seem capable of reacting to any other problems of the citizens :(


muthafunk: [...] There're thousands of cases like this... I think everyone has seen or heard about something like this

This is an indicator of how kind and compassionate the wonderful Belarusian people are... people have been dumbed down so much that they can't even call an ambulance when someone's dying nearby - as always, they are thinking - "someone must've called an ambulance already," or "let someone else do it, there're so many people around..."

How can one count on the participation of the majority in protest rallies - or at least count on their sympathy? With each newscast, there are fewer and fewer normal people in this country... soon there'll be only one thing to do for a little group of those who haven't been zombified yet - to manage to get out of here in time


Moscow, Russia (April 14, 2006) - This story is by Marina Litvinovich, a Russian political activist and PR specialist; editor of (The Truth of Beslan, RUS); aide to world chess champion turned politician Garry Kasparov. Valeriy Panyushkin is a Russian journalist who refuses to pay bribes to traffic police because one such bribe made it possible for the terrorists to reach and seize the school in Beslan in 2004.

abstract2001: As you already know, I don't bribe traffic policemen out of principle. So. A week ago they took away my license because I turned around 30 meters before the U-turn sign. I went to GIBDD [traffic police department], they looked at my papers and sent me to a judge at Meshchansky Court. The hearing had to take place today. I arrived at the court and learned that the hearing can't take place because the court's paperwork department didn't have my case. And the district police department didn't have it, either. I was forced to go to GIBDD again, to find my case. There, I was told that my case had been returned from the court because of incorrect paperwork (GIBDD's fault). The hearing has been re-sceduled for the end of April. After the hearing, I - most likely - will be ordered to pay a fine, which I'll have to pay at Sberbank (and pay the tax, too) and then I'll have to take the receipt to GIBDD. Here's the route we've got: GIBDD-court-GIBDD-court-Sberbank-GIBDD.

Now I understand why people don't want to stop "solving the problem on the spot"... ;-(((

wsend: My license was taken away a year ago, I also don't pay at the spot out of principle. I used to go to the court and GAI [old abbreviation for traffic police, same as GIBDD] as if I worked there; the judge had made a mistake, there were appeals and new hearings, and my brother had to represent me because I had to leave. The court ordered to have my license returned, I don't even have to pay the fine. But GAI wouldn't give the license back until I return my temporary license to them, and my brother doesn't want to do it, out of principle ))

So my battle with GAI isn't over yet. I'm writing this because if they decide to take my license away again or issue a ticket, I'm not gonna pay them on the spot, even though I know very well how much easier it would be to solve the problem this way.

youngmeteor: I know one person who doesn't pay GAI - Litvinovich. I know two more, but not in person - Panyushkin and his wife. You'll be the third one. This is cool.

Me, I value my pedestrian status a lot. If I dare exchange it for the wheels, I won't be "solving the problem on the spot," either.

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