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Freezing In Hell

Cheburashka is a cute little animal-half monkey, half bear-from a 70s Soviet TV animation.
Κείμενο Nick Currie

Photo of Cheburashka fans by the author

Cheburashka is a cute little animal—half monkey, half bear—from a 70s Soviet TV animation. To understand why this warmhearted, naive little animal and the weekly dance parties named after him are so big with Moscow kids right now, you have to understand a bit about life in this city. Moscow is fucking scary. The whole economy runs on forged dollars. Everything revolves around drugs, casinos, and prostitution. The friend showing me around bought a brand-new black 5-Series BMW with money she won gambling. Three weeks later, four Chechens got into her car at a traffic light. They put tape over her mouth and drove her to a forest. One of them guarded her while the others drove off. It's going to take awhile before my friend feels warm about humanity again (especially Chechens), but these Cheburan parties might speed the healing. The invite is printed on a little packet of active carbon pills. Carbon is used in medicine as a universal absorption agent: It soaks up all the drugs and toxins lingering in your alimentary canal. The little black tablets are known as "Cheburashka's Breakfast." They taste like coal. As for the hate, fear, bitterness, and frustration lingering in Russian brains, that'll be absorbed by the early-90s daisy-house music (TR-909 drum machines meet bebop samples) and the sea of smiling young Russians all wearing Cheburashka buttons and T-shirts and big plushy ears. "The Cheburashkis' slogan is ‘We have the ears!'" says Tim Ovsenni, who started the parties. "Good people get together to have a good time, not to show how much money they've got or how cool they are." When they're not dancing, the Cheburashki sit around eating free oranges and being generally cute. "It's not only Cheburashki who go to Cheburan parties," Tim explains. "You can be a crocodile, or a rat, or a gingerbread man, or just Cheburashka's friend. You don't have to dress up—it's all inside the mind." Sure, you could call the Cheburan movement twee and retro, a throwback to the days when club kids dressed in diapers and suckled on pacifiers. Sure, the club Cheburashki have something in common with the pixieish, pigtailed, pigeon-toed Japanese girls who are the world's No. 1 Cheburashka fans. But there's a difference: The Japanese girls don't have to deal with Moscow on a daily basis. Kids here have earned the right to be as twee as they want to be. If they dressed as bumblebees and sunflowers and drank warm milk, I'd totally understand.