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In several places, I have seen reference to the story that in the past in Russia, travelers by troika might throw one of the travelers before chasing wolves in order to save the other travelers (wolves will be busy for a little while eating one of the children, troika races on to safety). I like the story, but I'm sceptical still, since wolves don't really tend to chase people. Or did they in the past?

I have seen several references, but none reliable. I know it from the Dutch song "Dodenrit" (original in Dutch, or translated to English via Google Translate), as well as arabnews.com, to mention a couple.

  • Is there any historical account of this occuring?
  • If yes, is there any indication as to how common this was?
  • If not, where is the story originating from? Is there any core of truth?

I'd love to read some article digging into the background of this :)


Edit: source from the article, that is mirrored at several places

The troika hurtles across the frozen plain. The wolves are close behind, and from time to time a peasant is hurled from the sleigh in the hope of letting the more important people escape. But nothing distracts the pack for long, not even when the occupants of the sleigh move up the pecking order and throw a couple of minor aristocrats to the wolves.

Wait! What’s this? They have thrown a newspaper to the wolves? An entire newspaper, with two hundred full-time employees and hundreds more freelance contributors? How do they think that that will help them to get away?

The troika is called News International, the newspaper wing of Rupert Murdoch’s globe-spanning media empire. The paper that has just been sacrificed is the News of the World, a Sunday tabloid that claims to have more readers than any other paper in the English-speaking world.

The NoW makes a tidy profit, but this Sunday’s edition will be its last. After 168 years, the institution that pioneered the art of persuading the emerging class of semi-literate English people to buy newspapers has been shut down by its owners.

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    Sounds like folklore or a fable. Especially the link from Arab news... I cant imagine Russian aristocracy hobnobbing with peasants. – Chad Nov 22 '11 at 16:49
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    Actually, it's not originally in Arab news, just an article repeated in many places (e.g. gwynnedyer.com/2011/murdoch%E2%80%99s-troika) – gerrit Nov 22 '11 at 17:45
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    I just meant that the story told there seems like folklore as the aristocracy would not commonly travel with peasantry. – Chad Nov 22 '11 at 18:37
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    "My Antonia" by Willa Cather relates this as having happened to a russian character, as a literary (not factual) reference. – Mike Elkins Nov 22 '11 at 21:24
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    I think, instead of throwing others, people should think of throwing themselves in front of wolves (to save others) :) :)? – Aquarius_Girl Nov 23 '11 at 4:09
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Being a Russian myself I read the article, you quoted, with curiosity. I never heard anything about throwing passengers from troikas to wolves. And there is a major error there: aristocrats never rode together with peasants.

In reality wolves rarely attack people. When riding through wolf dangerous places, Russians took firearms:

enter image description here

Trying to answer your last question:

If not, where is the story originating from? Is there any core of truth?

Yes, there is. There is a Russian idiom: "to throw to the wolves". In the times of famine, peasants left their little children, whom they couldn't feed, in the wood, where they were eaten by wolves.

This situation is also described in the German folklore. In the fairy tale "Hansel and Gretel":

When a great famine settles over the land, the woodcutter's second, abusive wife decides to take the children into the woods and leave them there to be by themselves, so that she and her husband will not starve to death

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hansel_and_Gretel

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

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    Welcome to Skeptics Stack Exchange! Please provide some references to support your claims. – Jamiec Sep 3 '13 at 15:40
  • @Jamiec Will do soon. I think, the folklore claim is well referenced by wikipedia. The link, you gave is broken. – user4035 Sep 3 '13 at 16:39
  • @Jamiec I am not sure, that I can find bulletproof evidence, that little children in Russia were left in the wood during the famine. But this story must have some ground. And this theme is repeated not only in Grimms fairy tale, but also in the Russian fairy tale "Morozko" and Charles Perraults "Le Petit Poucet": fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Petit_Poucet – user4035 Sep 3 '13 at 17:01
  • I think the main problem is that IMO this answer does not answer the question. And yes, if you're saying Hansel & Gretel is based on a real event(s) I think that needs a reference. – Jamiec Sep 3 '13 at 20:44
  • @Jamiec I tried to answer first 2 questions of the PO. I think, it is well proved, that passengers were not thrown out of troikas to wolves. The last one needs investigation. I'll ask about that on Russian historical forum. But it's hard to get the evidence now: that kids are dead and the parents were illiterate. – user4035 Sep 3 '13 at 21:38

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