The Investigator and the Thief (thing)
Return to The Investigator and the Thief (thing)
Children's game from Soviet Labor Camps.
We owe our knowledge of it to Anton Semyeenevich Makarenko, the great Soviet Pedagogue. In addition, a few of the eyewitness testimonies in the labor camp mention the game. As far as I know, it is not mentioned in any other culture.
The game is crude but teaches it's lesson effectively. One of the players writes different social roles on various pieces of paper: judge, functionary, party commissar, and so on, with as many different levels as there are players plus two important ones: the investigator and the thief. The Investigator is given a thin tree branch, preferably a tough sapling and his job is to try to catch the thief. All the players hold out their hand and the investigator thwacks chooses and thwacks one of them. If he guesses correctly, he "punishes" the thief by hitting him 10 times on the palm of the hand. If he makes a mistake the other player hits him in the hand. According to some versions of this game, they all hit with similar intensity. Other versions of the game imply that different levels of society hit with different strength. Once the thief is caught the game begins again.
If you're like me, this game doesn't seem like very much fun. However, it is reported to have been played with joy and glee in the orphans homes, labor camps and other Soviet institutions for street orphans or other undesireables. The real point seems to be 1. Acclimating the boys to real life in the Soviet system and 2. Showing off youthful bravado by taking a large amount of pain without complaining.
I have no idea if anyone still plays this game. I hope not.