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Feature Story March 3, 2003
By Jake Rudnitsky Browse author Email
Page 4 of 6
While this story might be lacking in good guys, Tynda does have a worthy super-villain: Ali the Drug Baron. Ali is too perfect - it's almost as if he had to audition for the part. Ali is the Caucasian - or Khachik in local slang - who has cornered the entire heroin market in Tynda. I've never seen him, but he's supposedly hugely fat and injects the impossible amount of four grams of junk in a single sitting. Misha OD'd on less than a quarter gram.

I imagine Ali commanding his couriers from a white leather couch, with his rolls of fat, a silver ladle for cooking dope and maybe some funny little Muslim hat; something of an Islamic hybrid of Jabba the Hutt and Drexel, the pimp in True Romance.

His apartment - everyone knows the address - is completely evro-remonted and he regularly buys new used Japanese cars. By those yardsticks, he is just about as rich as anyone in Tynda. Nor is it a secret where he gets his money. Junkies, cops and health care workers all know where he lives and what he does. Apparently, dozens of junkies loiter right outside his podyezd all summer, hoping for a fix. "Wow, even foreigners know our Drug Baron," Manokha joked when I asked about him. Ali is living proof that everything has its price in Russia.

It's beyond imagining just how corrupt the militsia must be in order to tolerate such flagrant criminal behavior. This isn't traffic tickets or petty corruption - Ali is quite clearly a murderer. Even ignoring the hundreds of ruined lives, countless overdoses, and 38 people here who got infected with HIV via intravenous drug use, surely he's to blame for the seven people who died from shooting up shit. He is complete scum. He doesn't even sell clean smack; according to Manokha, he cuts it with baking soda, barbiturates and other garbage. How does the militsia tally up how much that is worth in bribes? I don't know; they wouldn't talk to me.

I'm not saying Tynda's heroin problem would disappear if Ali were arrested, but it would certainly help. Evil monopolistic dealers like Ali give the whole drug world a bad name. Keeping a small town nowhere near anything free of large-scale drug rackets is simple. Junkies give Manokha info about Tynda's drug scene regularly. But she claims that the militsia refuses to cooperate, even with commonsense issues that are legally required, like testing prisoners before they are sent to the zone. Instead, she said that they rebuff her by telling her that it is not as easy as it seems to catch a drug dealer.

Which is bullshit. These are the same militsia who have beaten the crap out of several people I know for insignificant drug offenses. Vlad, the guy who kept pounding on Misha's chest, told me how the militsia hung him by his hands so that his toes barely touched the ground and, after beating him with nightsticks, left him hanging all night long. His crime was selling a relatively small amount of khimka, or chemically processed pot. They wanted to know who he got it from. He was 15 at the time.

The same pattern is visible with heroin. Ali will toss the militsia a junkie who has outlived his usefulness every now and then, setting his own customers up for a bust. Others get busted for stealing to feed their habit and are handed 5-year sentences. I'm not trying to justify some whacked-out junkie's behavior, but the only person who really profits off of their crime is Ali. Even if junkies become sub-human, nobody deserves to end up living in the zone's harems, crowded into the corner by the toilet and getting their asses sold by the top fag for two spoons of tea and a cigarette. I wouldn't even wish that on Ali.

"Oh God, we got so drunk today!" was the first thing Lily told me when, at around 7 pm, I walked into the two-room apartment she shares with her husband Max, his father, and their toddler. Her stupid grin and Max's wandering, dislocated eyes told a different story. They were totally high. Lily said they were drunk because the dad was home, even though he seemed to be asleep. Just to be safe. The kid, who would be turning three the next day, was running around naked in anticipation of a bath. It was a perfect example of a nuclear junkie family, of which there are many in Tynda.

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