In a half-lit basement on a side street in St. Petersburg, 18 men holding reproduction Makarov pistols were fumbling through an exercise, racking the slides, taking aim and firing. Click, click, click, click, click. Repeat.

Denis Gariev, the instructor, called out to pause the training.

He was not about to air his political views, an ethnic nationalism so raw that he is far to the right of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He was about to rail against a society that had gone soft.

“Nowadays everyone tells the boys starting in kindergarten, ‘Don’t act so aggressive, be smarter,’ ” he said in a mocking baby voice. “And we turn into these unaggressive vegetables.”
Gariev aims to restore the aggression.

“By and large, we are learning how to kill,” he told his charges, who had come to the “Reserve” military-patriotic club for a one-week paramilitary course called “Partisan.”

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