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Published April 30, 2023 Updated April 30, 2023

Theatre of Pain / Teatr Boli

Theatre of Pain / Teatr boli playing cards depicting politicians and leaders in the Caucasus territorial disputes.

2005 Netherlands Russia Cerberus Political Wartime Add to Collection

Published by Cerberus in 2005, this pack portrays individuals associated with the Second Chechen War which took place in Chechnya and the border regions of the North Caucasus between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, from August 1999 to April 2009. See the box

The court cards represent the leaders on both sides of the brutal political conflict, together with those innocents caught up in it:

  • KD: Vladimir Putin
  • QD: Anna Politkovskaia (1958 –2006) a Russian journalist and human rights activist who reported on political events in Russia, in particular, the Second Chechen War. On 7 October 2006, she was murdered in the elevator of her block of apartments.
  • JD: Yurii Budanov (1963 –2011) a Russian military officer convicted by a Russian court of the kidnapping and murder of Elza Kungayeva in Chechnya. On 10 June 2011, Budanov was shot dead in Moscow.
  • KC: Aslan Maskhadov (1951 – 2005) a Soviet and Chechen politician and military commander who served as the third president of the unrecognized Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. Following the start of the Second Chechen War in August 1999, he returned to leading the guerrilla resistance against the Russian army.
  • QC: An innocent soul
  • JC: Ramzan Kadarov (b. 1976) a Russian politician who currently serves as the Head of the Chechen Republic. He is the son of former Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov, who switched sides in the Second Chechen War by offering his service to Vladimir Putin's administration in Russia and became Chechen president in 2003.
  • KH: Boris Yeltsin
  • QH: Soldier’s mother
  • JH: Aleksandr Lebed. Soviet and Russian military officer and politician
  • KS: Shamil Salmanovich Basayev (1965 - 2006), a politician and senior military commander in the Chechen independence movement. He masterminded the 2002 Moscow theatre hostage crisis and the 2004 Beslan school hostage crisis. ABC News described him as "one of the most-wanted terrorists in the world".
  • QS: Black Widow or Shahidka, a term for Islamist Chechen female suicide bombers who became known at the Moscow theatre hostage crisis of 2002.
  • JS: Movsar Buharovich Barayev (1979-2002), earlier known as Suleimanov, a Chechen Islamist militia leader who led the 2002 seizure of a Moscow theatre that led to the deaths of over 170 people by Russian special forces.
Theatre of Pain / Teatr boli playing cards published by Cerberus, Netherlands in 2005 Theatre of Pain / Teatr boli playing cards published by Cerberus, Netherlands in 2005

Above: Theatre of Pain / Teatr boli playing cards published by Cerberus, Netherlands in 2005.

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By Peter Burnett

Member since July 27, 2022

I graduated in Russian and East European Studies from Birmingham University in 1969. It was as an undergraduate in Moscow in 1968 that I stumbled upon my first 3 packs of “unusual” playing cards which fired my curiosity and thence my life-long interest. I began researching and collecting cards in the early 1970s, since when I’ve acquired over 3,330 packs of non-standard cards, mainly from North America, UK and Western Europe, and of course from Russia and the former communist countries.

Russian Playing Cards

Following my retirement from the Bodleian Library in Dec. 2007 I took up a new role as Head of Library Development at the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP) to support library development in low-income countries. This work necessitated regular training visits to many sub-Saharan African countries and also further afield, to Vietnam, Nepal and Bangladesh – all of which provided rich opportunities to further expand my playing card collection.

Since 2019 I’ve been working part-time in the Bodleian Library where I’ve been cataloguing the bequest of the late Donald Welsh, founder of the English Playing Card Society.


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