July 01, 2002

The Russian Art of the Con

Cheating and Russia have a long history together.

Sigizmund Herberstein, Austria’s ambassador to Moscow from 1517-1526, wrote in his “Rerum Moscoviticarum commentarii” (“Notes on Moscow”) that “the people of Moscow are much more astute and cunning than all others and are especially treacherous when its comes to honoring commitments.” Herberstein also warned that Muscovites are well aware of their infamous reputation, so, when dealing with foreigners they often claim to come from other cities.

Another historical reference dates to 1892. An inconspicuous man was making the rounds of photo shops in an average  Russian city, buying unclaimed photos for just kopeks. Shops owners were happy to sell these otherwise unnecessary “archives,” yet wondered why the man wanted old photos of ordinary people.

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