Rowdy dancing costs med students two weeks of studies

Medical students worldwide tend to have a reputation for working hard and playing hard. But would-be doctors at a medical school in the southern Russian city of Stavropol got more than they bargained for when their impromptu outdoor Caucasian dance routine brought the long arm of the law down on them.

The group of 18 young men were celebrating with gusto the start of term at a medical college in the town of Kislovodsk. But their shouting and wild whistling as they performed the traditional lezginka routine disturbed neighbours.

Arrested for breach of the peace, the students were hauled before a court and fined.

Letters sent to the medical school led to further punishment and all 18 were suspended from the college for two weeks, according to a news release issued recently by the regional ministry of the interior, which is responsible for policing in the city.

This is not the first time that raucous traditional dancing has been the cause of friction in an area that lies west of Dagestan and Chechnya and is home to both ethnic Russians and Caucasians.

Three years ago, five freshers were expelled from a university in Pyatigorsk for another display of the lezginka – a dance that involves energetic leaping about, and much shouting and whistling.

Last April, a student at Stavropol Social University was sentenced to a 12-month jail term for a rowdy routine in the city's Palace of Culture and Sport that climaxed with the firing of a 'traumatic gun', a type of non-lethal firearm that is legally permitted for self-defence in Russia.

Such is the potential for the dance – widely performed by people from across the Caucasus – to upset non-Caucasians, that the president of the semi-autonomous Russian republic of Dagestan, Ramazan Abdulatipov, recently called on wedding parties to refrain from letting off firearms when performing the dance during daylight hours.

Relations between ethnic Russians and people from other racial or ethnic groups are generally tense across Russia. Last month, the worst race riots in decades were sparked in Moscow after a Russian man was killed during an argument with a native of Azerbaijan.