Chizhik Pyzhik robbery


The Chizhik Pyzhik monument on the Fontanka canal.

The monument to Chizhik Pyzhik looks just like it sounds, diminutive and a little absurd, and at 11 cm, it’s perhaps the smallest tourist attraction in the world. It’s a statue of a bird positioned midway down the side of Fontanka canal near the Field of Mars. You wouldn’t notice it walking by if not for the gaggle of tourists and couples trying to throw coins onto its tiny ledge, like one of those old-school carnival game.

Well, Saturday night as I was walking home around 1 a.m. it was a bit of a different scene. Passing a lone figure looking down at Chizhik Pyzhik, I naturally stopped to see what he was watching. There down below stood another sketchy type in waders, apparently scooping up coins with a red shovel.

“What are you looking at? Interesting?” the lookout growled at me.

I muttered something to my interlocutor and walked further onto the nearby bridge to get a better vantage point. Yes, these two depraved individuals where stealing the very coins on which so many boyfriends, girlfriends and Japanese tourists had made a wish.

When I recounted this to my host brothers, they hardly batted an eye. “They must have really wanted to drink,” Maxim said.

Indeed, the statue itself has apparently been stolen several times, so let these gopniks (dude who hangs out drinking in the street) have the change.  When I passed by today, the stockpile was already replenished, glistening like sunken treasure amid a hundred years of sea dust.

Incidentally, the statue was built in honor of a rhyme that recounts the drunken exploits of students at the nearby Imperial School of Jurisprudence, who were called “Chizhik Pyzhiks” because of their yellow-and-green uniforms:

“Chizhik-Pyzhik, gdye ty byl?
Na fontankye vodku pil.
Vypil ryumku, vypil dvye –
Zashumyelo v golovye.”

“Chizhik Pyzhik, where have you been?
On the Fontanka drinking vodka.
Drank a shot, drank two –
It made a racket in my head.”

My host father is big into this rhyme; he has a tradition of making all foreign guests learn and recite it.  I’ve already had my first ordeal, and I think I made the grade …


5 Responses to “Chizhik Pyzhik robbery”

  1. Alkali Matt Says:

    Yeah, I failed that test a few times. I was totally confused about his purpose at first, and finally I realized he wanted me to memorize it. It’s come in handy to impress my Russian teacher back home.

  2. Same here – my host dad made that one of the first things he showed me in our neighborhood, and he quizzed me on the rhyme several times. (Incidentally, your host family sounds an awful lot like mine. But you live on Kazanskaya, right? I lived near Chizhik Pyzhik, on Liteyniy.)

    Love the blog. Check it pretty often, whenever I need a virtual visit back to St. Pete.

  3. Stephen Streed Says:

    I think gopnik is also the word Anthony Burgess uses in Clockwork Orange, or his protagonist, Alec, for lager louts.

  4. slipperyboots Says:

    Luckily, they have now put bars in the waters below Chizhik Pyzhik, so now those hoping to scrape together some coins for a bottle of refreshing vodka will have to return to earlier roots and call their warmest and most inviting friends in hopes of an invitation to stop by for a drink… or two…

  5. ,,’ I am very thankful to this topic because it really gives useful information *,,

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