Russian Roulette the game and Deer Hunter

Russian roulette a game of suicidal proportions

Russian roulette has always remained a strange, potent yet morbidly curious game of probability. Considered a game of chance or even assisted suicide - the game refers to a loaded revolver (6 shots normally) being spun around. Whoever the barrel points too must proceed to fire the gun at their own head.

The name “Russian roulette” takes its meaning from the suggested birthplace of this notorious game. It’ curious that such a dangerous game may have emanated from the land of the Cossacks. However there is as no definitive concrete proof. Only the merest mention exists within Russian Literature as a point of reference. The weak literary reference is from Mikhail Lermontov in his 1840 "The Hero of Our Time". The mention was not a direct note. His description of the game offered only a fleeting reference.

The roulette part of this games name refers to the revolver’s cylinder looking similar to a roulette wheel. However it’s also safe to say the element of betting as well as statistical odds in playing Russian roulette add further credence to the gambling connection.

The chances of the gun firing are based on how many previous shots have been fired. Also of course how many bullets have been placed in the revolvers cylinder before the Russian roulette game has begun. It’s impossible to play the game with an automatic pistol even if one bullet get loaded as automatics fire bullets automatically. If this version exists then surely it must set an example for natural devolution.

Russian Roulette revolver and a game of chance

With a 1/6 chance of living is Russian Roulette for you?
With a 1/6 chance of living is Russian Roulette for you?

The statistics of Russian roulette

Statistics of Russian roulette get based on a 1/6th chance of being killed so it equates to a 17% risk to your life ending in the next spin. The percentage increases at the next spin until only one player remains.

Russian roulettes gaming origins remains purely based on myth. Because no reference exists within Russian culture it’s possible to say this games name does not indicate, nor provide a direct reference to the game being played in Russia. Instead the games name remains as a statement of how Russia exists as a mysterious eventful country, as well as often being perceived as a violent place to many non-Russians.

Film however does offer an insight into both the intensity and the madness of this game of chance. The most immediate example is the Michael Cimino film "The Deer Hunter" - there are two very strong scenes between Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken where Russian roulette is played. A point of consideration here is that the films main protagonists are from Pennsylvania, but this state has only a 1.6% Russian Population.

Unfortunately people tend to blame television, films, and video games for defects within society. It’s a shame that the Deerhunter film may have led to suicides among the younger generation. Although how directly the film remains responsible for promoting positive imagery of suicide appears unclear as well as undefined. However Russian roulette’s main victims appear to be white averaging 25 years of age. Medical records show prior to playing the game victims have usually consumed alcohol.

Deerhunter - Christopher Walken as Mikey playing Russian roulette

The Deerhunter - featuring the game of Russian roulette
The Deerhunter - featuring the game of Russian roulette

The Deerhunter and Russian roulette

Its far to say that inspiration from the Deerhunter film may or mat act as an instigator in suicide through Russian roulette. However precise figures may of course never reveal a true figure. Only recently in an English BBC television show called “Who do you think you are?” actor Alan Cummings discovered his grandfather has been killed wile playing the game in Malaya. The family remained convinced their grandfather was killed due to an accidental firearm discharge. This tragic story highlights the ambiguity surrounding death through Russian roulette.

This game has no proof of being Russia while its true origins seem hard to locate. It’s possible that the game derives from a game played in Russia called “cuckoo” were an officer stands on a table in a darkened room and other soldiers hide and shout out “cuckoo” in the darkness the officer then shoots at the sound, presumably trying to shot the soldier who shouted “cuckoo”. However lack of direct information also points this Russian tradition into the realms of mythology.

Although initially played between numbers of two or more, some people have played Russian roulette alone. Perhaps the most infamous player is John Hinckley Jnr. the man responsible for trying to assassinate Ronald Regan in 1981. Furthermore William Shockley (co-creator of the transistor as well as the Nobel Prize winner for Physics) tried to commit suicide using Russian roulette.

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Did you find the Russian Roulette hub interesting 8 comments

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

To us, it's just a saying, one that we use when talking about something important though. Either not doing something, or doing something can be like playing RR, and that something is always important, never a casual, joking matter, at least in good company. It's used as a serious warning.

That said, perhaps we should find another term to use out of consideration of our Russian friends. It's very late here in the southern USA so I can't think of any right now. Can you?

I'm sure there are phrases used about Americans that are not very flattering which I would not like to hear. :) It's the way of the world, but truly, when I have used RR (once in a hub, I think) it was no reflection on our Russian friends. They are some of the warmest as well as the smartest people we know.


johndwilliams profile image

johndwilliams 5 years ago from Essex England Author

Yes I agree its like a risk we take, when we use the expression - its funny though I was speaking with my wife last night, and she mentioned in Russia the game's called "American roulette" - :)


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

That is funny!!! Our friends have never told us that. Now I can ask. :)


johndwilliams profile image

johndwilliams 5 years ago from Essex England Author

Da see what they say :)


johnwindbell profile image

johnwindbell 5 years ago from - the land of beards and buggies

Funny, I just thought of writing a hub page on Russian Roulette, now I don't have to. Thank you. It's cool, wasn't wild about the prospect, but wanted to stretch myself. And ya know what caused me to think of it? Yep, Deer Hunter.

Nice page, man. Enjoyed it. Read it twice. Didn't like the video, I went for the real thing.


johndwilliams profile image

johndwilliams 5 years ago from Essex England Author

Hi John - Thanks for the feedbacks! I am having problems getting the right youtube video I want, something about the video being restricted by the up-loader - Thanks again!


philipandrews188 profile image

philipandrews188 5 years ago

Great article. Thanks for great job.


johndwilliams profile image

johndwilliams 5 years ago from Essex England Author

Thanks you provide me with the determination to continue writing! thanks for the comment - John

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