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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Boys Are All Crazy About Jeeps

Fedya's dad bought him a black jeep for his birthday. Made in China, it runs on batteries and annoys the cat as it zooms across the carpet.


Magomed's dad bought him a black jeep for his birthday. Imported from America, it costs $60,000 and traumatizes other road users as it speeds around the city.


The spending power of Russian fathers may vary, but Russian boys are all crazy about jeeps.


The jeep is regarded as the most krutoi, or cool, vehicle on the road, cooler than the Mercedes Benz, the BMW or even the Lincoln Town Car. It should be covered with pribambasy, or additional features, such as kenguretniki, kangaroo bars, spoileri, spoilers, and talking alarms that tell potential thieves in abusive language that touching the car is a bad idea.


Fedya and Magomed had come to McDonald's to show off their jeeps. Fedya, 10, was sitting with his dad, a builder called Mikhail, drinking a strawberry milkshake. The toy car, bought in Detsky Mir for 495,000 rubles, was on the table. "I love the thick wheels," said Fedya. "When winter comes, I will play with it outside and it will make tracks in the snow."


Magomed, 22, and his friend Shamil, 20, had taken their burgers and french fries out to the parking lot to eat in their jeep, a gleaming Ford Bronco. "It was a gift from my father," said Magomed when I asked how such a young man came to have such a splendid car.


Magomed's dad, from the Dagestani town of Khasavyurt near the border with Chechnya, is officially in the car service business.


Magomed's pribambasy were actually rather modest. Surprisingly, he did not even have a car alarm, but he did have beautiful leather seats and invited me to take one. The Dagestani boys said they were "students of commerce," although they just laughed when I asked at which institute they were studying. Right now, they were cruising around, looking for girls.


"It's hard," said Shamil, a fat boy who looked as if he dined regularly at McDonald's. "Yes," agreed Magomed, who wore flashy sunglasses with gold sides. "There are no sincere girls in Moscow. They are only interested in your car and your money."


The boys denied that they drove aggressively but said the traffic police were always stopping them. "They see a jeep and flag it down automatically," said Magomed. "Then they see you are litso kavkazskoi natsionalnosti [person of Caucasian nationality] and give you a hard time. We don't take offense, but it's very boring."


Anti-Caucasian racism was not confined to the Russian authorities, said Magomed. "I have just been turned down for a visa at the British Embassy. They said: 'Why do you need to study English?'"


"Perhaps they thought you were from the mafia," I suggested. "No, we're not mafia," Magomed grinned. "Of course, nobody will admit they are mafia. But really, we are not. We are nice guys."


And to prove it, he pressed on me a fishburger and a coke. "Here, take it for your kid," he said, mistaking Fedya for my child. Lucky Fedya. For his birthday, he got not only a jeep but double McDonald's.