The Russian and His Gymnast

So I’m snoozing on the beach, right? And I hear a man’s voice that says in Russian, “Come on, girls, stop climbing the railing. What will people think? That everybody walks on the footpath like normal people, and only the Russians have to act all weird? Remember that people see us as representatives of our country abroad.”

Obviously, I was eager to see this defender of the image of Russians, so I opened my eyes. I saw a family: a man, a woman, and two precious little girls who were, indeed, trying to climb the railing. The man was a huge, burly Russian in minuscule shiny speedos that were smaller than even those worn by aging Italian gentlemen. He was also wearing a gold chain that was as thick as my finger. I have very small, dainty fingers, but still just imagine a chain like that.

Hanging from this chain there was a huge gold gymnast. A gymnast is a big golden cross that the Russian nouveau riche used to wear to show off their recently acquired wealth. A gymnast was a status symbol. the Russian bandits competed as to who could afford the biggest gymnast. I thought that this habit was a thing of the past but here was this Russian with a gymnast that was literally bigger than my head. Seriously, it was a humongous thing that looked especially bizarre against the background of his naked chest and tiny speedos.

I’m sure you can all guess why this golden cross is called “a gymnast”, right?

13 thoughts on “The Russian and His Gymnast

    1. The gymnast is a Christian cross. πŸ™‚ The Russian nouveau riche folks have all gone massively religious but we can gauge the depth of their christian faith by the way they refer to the Christian cross.


  1. Is it called that because the cross looks a bit like a person with their arms and legs spread out like a gymnast? πŸ™‚


    1. On these crosses, there is a figure of the crucified Jesus. Shop assistants at the jewelry stores would even ask, “Do you prefer a cross with or without a gymnast?” Meaning, with or without the crucified Jesus. πŸ™‚


      1. Oh my, that’s even more heretical than I imagined.
        It reminds me of this story of a little boy who misbehaves, and is then sent to a Catholic school as a last resort before becoming a juvenile delinquent. After one day in the Catholic school, he becomes a model citizen, quiet, polite, and studying. His parents are astounded, and ask him why he changed so quickly.
        “I’m afraid,” he responds, “I don’t want the teachers to punish me the way they did that man hanging on the plus sign in the room!”


  2. Halfway through the articles, I assumed you meant it was a mark of status to sponsor the career of a gymnast. Then all of a sudden you’re talking about crosses. I think there’s a gymnastic move called the “iron cross” or something. But I take it this is not a reference to that? There’s a Church of Christ Scientist, so I guess there may as well be a Church of Christ Gymnast. This is the ☦ or “patriarchal” type cross I’m guessing. They also seem to be popping up as body art.


    1. No, the “gymnast” is an allusion to an old Russian joke to illustrate the ignorance of the nouveau riche about the symbols they flaunt.

      As a Bulgarian friend put it, ” the whole gymnast thing comes from a popular Russian joke about the “new Russians”, the low-culture nouvelle riche. The story goes like this: a “new Russian” goes to a jewelry store and asks for a golden cross that would fit his social status. The store keeper brings a big golden crucifix. The rich guy looks at it and says: Take down the gymnast, wrap up the rest.”


      1. “The rich guy looks at it and says: Take down the gymnast, wrap up the rest.””

        – Yes, exactly. πŸ™‚ That was a popular joke. πŸ™‚ The cross that my guy was wearing was smaller than in your picture but not by much.


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