view of Povarskoy Lane, St Petersburg, street scene


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Povarskoy, 1915

On July 8th, 1915 Petrogadsky Listok ['The Petrograd Newssheet'} announced the unmasking of a band of hipesniki in Povarskoy Lane. The war had enriched Petrograd's argot with new words, and the city's criminal scene with new crimes. There were new figures such as sellers of cocaine, stealers of electric bulbs, and spirit couriers who took khanzhu (a variety of samogon or home-brew) around the coffee shops. 'Hipes' likewise belonged to the new repertoire of crimes. Hipes was a Yiddish word meaning a particular kind of robbery carried out with the help of prostitutes.

The prostitute - or blatnaya koshka ['thieving kitty'] - lured her client or misha to a specially selected apartment (malina). The victim was plied with alcohol and then robbed or simply mugged. One of the first bands of hipesniki was captured by the Petrograd police in Povarskoy Lane. Darya Latunova was arrested following a declaration made by a certain Kuznetsov. When questioned, Latunova told the following story. She had been hired as a servant by Varavara Trifonova. To begin with, Trifonova had treated her very well and had even taken her to the seamstress, who dressed her fairly luxuriously, even if stridently. Trifonova's civil husband, a certain Ivan Mikhaylovich Pavlov, took Latunova to restaurants and taught her the rules of elegant comportment.

But some time later, it was suggested to Latunova that she frequent restaurants and make the acquaintance of wealthy men, especially gentlemen of an advanced age, and lure them to a specially rented apartment, apartment No. 3 in house 11 in Povarskoy Lane. The guest would leave his coat at the door to the bedroom. Ivan Mikhaylovich, who would have been hiding in the apartment all this time, would remove the misha's wallet from his coat pocket and, leaving the apartment, press the button of the electric bell. Darya was at this moment to cry out, as if in panic: "My hubby's come, he'll kill you, run for it! - and would shove her client out the back door. If the client came back with the police, they would find neither Darya nor Pavlov in the apartment; instead, they would be met by Varvara Trifonova, who would say that the old gentleman had got things mixed up. Latunova, however, decided to give up this line of employment, for all that it was generally profitable, and asked for her passport back (she had given it to Trifonova when she was taken on as a servant). But instead of giving her back her passport, Trifonova tried to hand Latunova over to the police. The police worked out what was what and arrested Ivan Mikhaylovich. Trifonova herself managed to get away.

Kvartalny nadziratel, 17,
(original Russian version at