On the outskirts of Kirzhach, in Vladimir Oblast, businessman Gennady Verba maintains a dirigible and a field of dandelions. Said field is surrounded by a fence, and immediately on the other side of it is a forest that locals say stretches all the way to Arkhangelsk.
As Verba’s Mercedes rolls smoothly and slowly through Kirzhach, passersby cast unkind looks in its direction. He drives through a gate inscribed with the words “Private Property.” On the far side of the dandelion field is a massive hangar. It is eight stories high, and just as wide. Inside is the largest dirigible in Russia.
Verba is met by the man in charge, a former head of the Kirzhach Department of Criminal Investigations. He has battled the local organized crime group and knows every criminal in the area by sight. He speaks rapidly, mixing bureaucratese with muffled obscenities, as if he is bleeping out his own bad language. He reports that all is quiet. Except that this year the beavers have become bolder and are for some reason chewing down trees dangerously close to the fence.
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