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Russia’s Tiniest Drug Capital
A few hours from Moscow by train is the town of Kimry. It was once a town of shoemakers. In the Soviet Union, residents worked in local shoe and textile factories. But in 2001, it was flooded with heroin.
By 2004, the problem was impossible to ignore. Father Andrei Lazerov became an outspoken advocate for young addicts in Kimry.
The Russian orthodox priest has a long flowing beard, hair pulled back into a knot behind his head, and he wears a massive gold cross over his black robes. On a recent afternoon at his home in Kimry, he remembered what the town was like not long ago.
“We had around 300 drug dealers and 311 students in the city,” he said, almost in a whisper. “There were needles everywhere. From this house where we are right now, they sold drugs 200 metres that way, 300 metres in that direction they were selling heroin, and over there too.”
Kimry became known as Russia’s tiniest drug capital. According to Lazerov, the local drug mafia was protected by the local prosecutor at the time. A kilo, or two pounds, of heroin was sold every day in Kimry. According to a 2004 news report on Russian state TV, nearly one in five residents in this city of 50,000 was addicted to drugs.
With all of the attention Kimry received in the Russian press, the city was eventually cleaned up and the problem was no longer visible when we visited. Still, in the area near the train station where heroin was once sold openly we found ample evidence of recent heroin use: Needles littered the dirt road and local residents told us that drugs are still sold there.
At the rehab centre near Stavropol, we met up with Dmitry Glazunov, a former addict from Kimry. Glazunov is soft-spoken and very polite.
“All of the people I know who are around my age shoot up heroin,” he said. “As for the older guys I started shooting up with, there are only two or three left. And they have HIV and they might already be dead. If you go to the cemetery in Kimry you’ll notice that there aren’t very many old people — it’s all kids.”
Glazunov said that he’s afraid to return to Kimry because he knows the temptation to use again is too great.
“I’ll walk through the area where they sell drugs right near the train station,” he said. “Even if I can hold off for two or three days, it’ll draw me in eventually.”