Evolution of Russian Roulette: Its origin, history and popularity

The essence of optimizing equity over probability space is a key skill that players take years to master. But what about when there is no longer any risk of money. The history of Russian roulette is grim and gruesome. It is a game that originated amongst soldiers in the 20th century and entails the possibility of a fatal gunshot wound to the head if the bullet-containing chamber is active when the hammer strikes. However there are other non scary versions of roulette which are popular among the current generation of players. So much so that we here at Winissimo offer different variations of roulette. In this post, we are going to dig into the dark aspects of this game and see if it’s still an urban myth. We will also explore some folk-tales that revolve around popular Russian roulette games.

Evolution of Russian Roulette: Its origin, history and popularity

The Emergence of Russian Roulette Game

The origin of Russian Roulette, as you could tell by the name, is believed to have come from Tsarist Russia. The exact moment when it was conceived is unclear, however, it has to be in the period between the 1850s when the number of revolver handguns in Russia rapidly increased and the 1920s, when adventurers in Russia first mentioned it in their accounts of the civil war.

The origin of the Name

The origin of the term Russian Roulette is however known. The game made its first public appearance in a short 1,600-word novel, written by a Swiss author by the name of Georges Surdez. This was published in Collier’s Illustrated Weekly in 1937, one of the most influential publications during that period. Many of Surdez ‘s works were influenced by the various romantic stories of the French Foreign Legion, which he read as a kid.

The story behind the charade

‘Russian Roulette’ made no exception and told the story of a young German recruit who was attempting to cover up the suicide of his Russian comrade. Within a letter to his boss, he tells a tale about the game of the Russian roulette. According to his deceased friend, Tsarist army officers practised this deadly method of gambling in 1917, during the last days of their participation in the First World War.
According to the story, the Russians would randomly take out their revolvers, eject a single cartridge, turn the cylinder, point the gun to their ear, and pull the trigger. Sergeant Burkowski, the man whose suicide the young legionary was attempting to cover up, was a keen and compulsive gambler. After telling the story, he immediately demonstrated the game and invited the German to play a variant which features a single bullet in the cylinder instead of five.

However, there are many less deadly and more enjoyable versions of roulette available on our site. You can enjoy the much safer and legal versions of the game. Try to check out our online roulette games. And if you want to practice in a more real-life setting you can also play at our live casino roulette options.

Development in the Game

Evolution of Russian Roulette: Its origin, history and popularity

Russian roulette was earlier played by just removing one cartridge from the cylinder. This does not give a very good chance of survival, around 83.5% chance of death by blowing out the brains. The game changed as it spread through contemporary Europe. A lower chance of death means increased playing time for the players brave or crazy enough to even participate, thus giving more excitement. This version of the game is what survived and eventually gripped American popular culture, popping up in fictional literature, Hollywood movies and music immediately after the Second World War. Since then, the game has transformed into various forms with the most recent one being live roulette.

Other Versions of Russian Roulette

The Chechens came up with their version during the Chechen Wars in Russia: Chechen roulette, aka Caucasian roulette. This version is the polar opposite of Russian roulette. The Chechens didn’t play with 1 bullet, they played with only 1 empty chamber. Chechen terrorists forced their prisoners to play the game. Other sudden death versions of Russian roulette are using machine guns or shotguns instead of a revolver. Whatever version was played, somebody always died. However there are other non-lethal versions of roulette which have found popularity among roulette players like American roulette and European roulette to name a few. Both these versions are different from each other but are very captivating and are available as well on our site.

The manifestation of Russian Roulette in Pop Culture

During the days of the second world war, people were hungry for a good tale, a bit of excitement, and the seeming craziness and sinister nature of this game enticed people in the early days. Movie directors and producers were wise enough to hang on to this idea and soon set to work dramatizing and taking this undiscovered notion to the big screen. Since then, the game became an important part of American popular culture and has been depicted in several outlets.
From art-works, cartoons, poetry, literature and music the game began being referenced. But the most significant impact was in Hollywood on the big screen, below are some worthy titles featuring Russian Roulette.

  • Smiles of a Summer Night (1955)

  • El Topo (1970)

  • The Street Fighter (1974)

  • The Deer Hunter (1978)

  • Leon: The Professional (1994)

  • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

  • The Art of Negative Thinking (2006)

  • Irrational Man (2015)

What does the Russian roulette game portray?

Whether grim, comic or realistic depictions of the deadly game, the past of the game is deeply ingrained in the plot lines of all the above-mentioned films. The game plays on compulsive gambling tendencies of many players to learn all too well. The only difference is that the cost of this game is your life. This obsession with the danger involved has taken many lives, and the true death toll attributed to the Russian roulette game can never be completely understood.

Notable Fatalities in Russian Roulette History

This game has tragically claimed the lives of several public figures over the last century. While it is often difficult to classify these deaths as Russian Roulette or suicide, there have been several high-profile deaths that are confirmed to be due to poor luck in a Russian Roulette game. It is estimated that there have been around 2,200 deaths in America alone in the last 80 years due to this game. There are also occasional cases in the UK, such as the case of a teenager who died playing the game in 2018. Here are some of the more well-known events.

Evolution of Russian Roulette: Its origin, history and popularity

Ana Julia Lima Clemente

One of the most recent incidents in the public is the death of Brazilian teenager Ana Julia Lima Clemente, 15. In 2007 the young girl was tragically killed by playing Russian roulette game with her uncle’s .38 revolver. According to her friend and eyewitness, Clemente held the gun to her head and pulled the trigger twice, before fatally shooting herself on the third attempt.

Terry Kath

The founding member and lead guitarist of the rock-band Chicago tragically died in 1978 whilst fooling around with guns at a party. The Rockstar picked up an unloaded revolver, put it to his head and pulled the trigger, and nothing happened. Then trying to replicate the trick with a semi-automatic pistol that turned out to have a live round in the chamber, he died instantly.

Ivan Cole

Successful MMA fighter Ivan Cole died in 2016 reportedly playing this game. The fighter was found dead in his Dallas apartment by police in a scene that appeared he was playing Russian roulette. The fighter left behind his wife and a four-year-old daughter.

Some of the most frequently asked questions about the game:

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions about Russian Roulette history, the origin and other queries related to the game.

What is Russian Roulette?

It is a game where one or more participants aim a partly loaded revolver at their heads and pull the trigger. It is believed that it emerged from Tsarist Russia, during the 18th and 19th Centuries.

What are the Main Rules?

You will need a discharged revolver and only one cartridge in the drum of the revolver. You have to rotate it well to forget the position of the cartridge. Then the players alternately place the revolver on the temple and fire. The game comes from Russia, it was first practised more than a century ago. The first mention of the game can be found in a short story in the press. Then the players take turns, but the revolver to the head and shoot. The number of cartridges in the drum may vary, depending on the model of the revolver.

Why do people play Russian Roulette?

That is a question that only those who have participated not died playing Russian Roulette could truly answer. We believe that it is the extremely high risks and the thrill of ‘beating death’ that make people play this game. However, unless you find someone who has done it before, you will never really know the answer.

Final Thoughts

This is a game that no one should play. Nevertheless, media interest has romanticized the act for many decades, and it remains a subject of fascination for historians and popular culture critics. At the end of the day, whether you call it a “game” or not, the Russian roulette game is a potentially lethal exercise, and you might want to stick with something less risky. You do not need to try Russian roulette game to experience the excitement of gambling. You can very easily get to experience the thrill and excitement of playing the game by visiting any online casino you want to play different versions of roulette.