Posting Aug. 6, 2017—According to an article published in Rollingstone Magazine online, the Night Wolves are the largest, most infamous motorcycle gang in Russia. Lead by The Surgeon, a former dentist (ouch), the gang is backed by the Kremlin and “hell bent on restoring the empire.” The Night Wolves are also classified as Putin’s Angels, as he is often seen at their events and also rides.
Over the past decade, the NW have gone from an underground biker gang to 5,000 patriotic holy warriors. The Surgeon is often quoted in the media outing Russia’s enemies: “America, Europe, homosexuals, liberals and traitorous fifth columnists.” The Surgeon, a religious man, also speaks strongly of global Satanism and how the rush to consumerism is crushing spirituality.
“All the values were lost,” he says in the Rollingstone’s article. “Everybody started kicking their history, spitting on their own granddads,”
But the Night Wolves are also cited as being Robin Hoods, protectors, fighters for the Russian people, patriotic stars. They also have a penchant for Russia’s youth, funding educational programmes and events.
Yet some Russians feel the Night Wolves are the enemy, have far too much power and are like a mafia. I wouldn’t expect anything less from a motorcycle gang.
Last winter, while searching for ways to get our visas for Russia, a Russian consulate employee, of all people, suggested I contact the Night Wolves for our invitation letter. I sent the club an e-mail, then decided to do a Google search. By the time I reached the article above, my palms were sweating and I had stomach pains. I thought of the e-mail I’d just sent: (Hi! We’re Heather and Dave from Canada and here’s our website! We hope to ride across Russia and are wondering if you can help!).
I read more information, however accurate, on how many people the Night Wolves have ‘conflicted’ with, journalists and writers included, and clutched my stomach in a sort of what have I done way. Then an e-mail dinged in my Inbox. It said Message Failed. The Night Wolves never got my ridiculous e-mail requesting help with an invite to Russia. And so, I breathed a sigh of relief.
So it’s ‘interesting’ how, only two nights after arriving in Moscow, Dave and I along with our friend Al Sova and her husband Eugene, were seated at a giant wooden table in Sexton, the Night Wolves’ clubhouse located behind a discrete wooden wall along a busy street in the city. The ever-resourceful Al knew Dave and I were searching for information about riding two certain roads in Russia—the BAM and the Road of Bones—and so she tapped into her network and found two guys who had previously ridden these roads and could give us information. And, well, they wanted to meet in Sexton, so that’s where we went.
I took some photos of the area with my iPhone, which means the quality sucks but hopefully you’ll get some idea of how cool this place is.
We got our information, had some dinner and beer, and exited the gates of the clubhouse back onto the boring streets where nothing really cool seemed to be happening. I liked thinking we had some sort of special time with the Night Wolves. Even if only one of the guys we met with was an actual member, he was an adventure bike rider and gave us two contacts in Yakutsk.
My only additional wish was if the clubhouse was having a raging party where Dave and I could wander around at will with some sort of gang immunity, taking photos of neck tattoos lit by a nearby barrel fire, and maybe receiving a few fist bumps from Putin decked out in his leathers. Think of a friendly Son’s of Anarchy meets The Long Way Round.
It was hard to top the excitement of that evening but a few days later, on July 8, Al, Anna, (the Green Chipmunk), Dima (Anna’s boyfriend) Dave and I rode about 200 km (125 mi) east of Moscow to visit Al’s mom in Tanka Vijay, a cute village where Al’s mom and her pop-star musician husband live on an interesting piece of property comprised of many outbuildings. For example, the bath house is just that—a small house with a shower, make-up area and place to hang things like clothes, towels, etc…There is another small house for the gardener, a house where we all stayed that was separate from the newer house her mom lives in and a pit toilet house, for bathroom activities.
We spent a very fun evening talking about world politics, hilarious Russian translations (see below) and Al wrote out the Cyrillic alphabet for us, which can be pretty mind-bending for English speakers! For example, the letter B is pronounced as a V, a small r is a G, an E is a Y, a 3 is a Z, a P is an R, a small n is a P and an H is an N. There are 16 Cyrillic letters that are not in the English alphabet but have the same pronunciation. A ф is an F, a д is a D, and a Л is an L. Got it? Neither do we! Try ordering at a restaurant. One night I had to endure liver as I thought I’d ordered beef!
The Russian letters хизер spell my name on my Russian visa but it’s actually ‘hyser’ in Russian and that’s how they say my name. I could never have anticipated the name Heather was so difficult for so many non-English speakers to pronounce. I’ve been called everything from Eder to Heeher and now Hyser!
Dave’s name is spelled дэвид and translates exactly as David, a much easier name to travel the world with 😉
We went for a long walk that evening for over three hours with Al’s mom and met her uncle as well in a nearby village. I loved walking around people’s homes getting a good, close-up look of the detail that went into building homes back then and how homeowners have preserved this detail over the years.
On July 9, we said goodbye to Al, Dima and Anna and rode on east while they returned west to Moscow. We are forever grateful for all the help and fun we had with Al and her friends.
My favourite memory of Al is portrayed in this video below when we decided her new nickname would be Moses.
Next post: Kazakhstan!
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