More than 25 years after its creation, a party game that enables participants to pretend they are Mafia hitmen remains wildly popular in Azerbaijan. Some regular players contend that the game is a reflection of daily reality.
Created during the perestroika era by Moscow State University psychology student Dmitry Davidov, the game, called “Mafia,” steadily gained popularity across the former Soviet Union during the twilight of the Communist era. These days in the Azerbaijani capital Baku, large groups of young people routinely gather in parks, cafes and bars to play the game and to decide, via deduction, intuition or just plain guesswork, who are the mafia assassins, and who are not.
The game starts with a moderator distributing cards that assign each player one of three roles; mafia hitman, a regular citizen or a detective. Only the two players assigned to be the hitmen know each other’s identities, and they attempt to dupe the remaining players into believing they have no mafia ties. In turn, citizens and the detective race against time, trying to identify the mafia members before the hitmen “kill” all the other players.
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Shahla Sultanova is a freelance journalist focusing on Azerbaijan.