|Weapon||Dragunov sniper-rifle, Stechkin APS|
|Manga||Chapter 00: Black Lagoon|
|Anime||Episode 01: The Black Lagoon|
|Japanese Anime Voice||Mami Koyama|
|English Anime Voice||Patricia Drake|
Balalaika (バラライカ, Bararaika/балалайка, Balalaika) is the boss of Hotel Moscow. Her real name is Sofiya Pavlovena (Russian: София Павловена, Sofiya Pavlovena/Nihongo: ソフィア・パブロベナ, Sofia Paburobena), but that name is not used in her presence. She was brought up by her grandfather, a general in the Red Army of the USSR. Balalaika's father has presumably either been condemned by the USSR or fled the country as was the case for many of the military commanders of the USSR after its collapse in December 1991.
Background[edit | edit source]
Before joining the mafia, Balalaika was a captain in the Soviet Army, Vozdushno-Desantnye Vojska' (translate from Russian: air assault troops), also known as the VDV, paratrooper and a veteran of the Soviet war in Afghanistan. A fine marksman and sniper, she received the nickname "Balalaika" (one of the Soviet army's slang terms for the Dragunov sniper-rifle).
Balalaika can be easily identified by the burn marks which scar most of the right side of her face, neck, upper chest, breasts and leg which she sustained in Afghanistan, earning her the nickname "Fry-Face". She supposedly sustained the scars from being tortured for protecting refugees in Afghanistan, stated by a former soldier of hers in the light novel. She is usually shown smoking a thin Russian cigar, in contrast with the other characters who smoke cigarettes. Using her participation in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the missed possibility to take part in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, it is possible to define her age between 35 and 40 years old.
In April 1986, while on an international illegal operation outside of Soviet territory, Balalaika and her unit saved a child who was in a refugee camp. The media recorded the event that led to the “Voluntary Discharge” of Balalaika and her unit; promptly deserting the Soviets forces.
Balalaika arrived in Roanupur in 1993, now a prominent member of the Russian mafia, which led to a large-scale conflict with the already-established Triads under Chang's leadership. Rather than destroy the city, a peace was brokered between the rival criminal organizations by Dutch.
When conducting foreign operations from Thai soil, she uses the Russian cargo ship Maria Zeleska as a legal cover from the police and various law enforcement agencies.
In Japan, she uses the pseudonym Vladilena N. Vasilinov to waltz audaciously through a law enforcement barricade by claiming to be covered by diplomatic immunity in the Fugiyama Gangsta Paradise story arc. She also gives her name as Jane Doe to Caxton in El Baile de la Muerte.
Appearance[edit | edit source]
Balalaika is a tall, blonde haired blue-eyed woman with scars across her face, neck, breasts, and leg. Her hair is very long, going down to the base of her spine, and done up in a huge ponytail. She is usually seen wearing a wine red skirt suit with black stockings and black high heels. Her nails are long, and painted pink. She also wears rose-colored lipstick. She has a mole under her left eye. Whenever traveling, she wears a Russian military coat draped off her shoulders with a rank insignia of a Soviet/Russian Army Captain. However, she removes it when it is considered polite.
Personality[edit | edit source]
Due to Balalaika's leadership during the hellish fighting in Afghanistan, her men look up to her as their superior and will do just about anything upon her orders. As a combat officer, she is a skilled strategist and well-rounded fighter, capable of taking care of herself despite the fact that all of her troopers, including Boris, often worry for her. Although she has shown herself to be rather cynical on occasion, she is also a pragmatic, opportunistic, and professional businesswoman. She is also downright ruthless, willing to go to whatever means to get what she wants. She frequently employs Dutch and The Lagoon Company, apparently because they share a mutual respect.
Balalaika regards herself and her men as soldiers who missed their chance to die in Afghanistan. While some of her actions can be interpreted as attempts to pursue an honorable death in combat for her men, Balalaika's status as a military figure is tempered by her role in the criminal underground. She agreed to a pact with Mister Chang's Hong Kong Triad in 1993 and backed away from engaging Caxton's American soldiers in combat after Chang reminded her of their un-concluded fight. Presumably, Balalaika opted for a future battle with Chang over a present opportunity to engage the American unit, which she regards as a foil to her own disgraced Soviet unit. It's also possible that Balalaika simply decided to work with Chang to preserve their joint interest, keeping the city of Roanapur standing.
Due to the fact that her force is entirely composed of ex-VDV, Spetnaz and Red Army Forces, they are at a serious advantage over the other criminal organizations as they have military grade training, combat experience and discipline that is unprecedented among the rest of the criminal underworld of Roanapur. This is clearly shown when they perform a series of complex raids to weaken the capabilities and coordination of the Yakuza.
Balalaika is also one of the few people to earn the respect of Revy, who calls her "Sis". In turn, Balalaika also seems to hold Rock in high regard, sometimes relying on his knowledge and business skills as well as hiring him as a translator and even flirting with him. It is very unclear what her relationship with Rock is at this point.
Trivia[edit | edit source]
- She has stated in the anime that she doesn't like cold blintzes (a type of pancake).
- In a popularity contest during the 10th collection manga release, Balalaika ranked 3rd with 1,354 votes
- Despite being a very powerful person and leader of one of the major crime syndicates in Roanapur, nobody besides Mr. Chang's Triads and Black Lagoon Company hold her in much respect. She seems to be used to that kind of behavior towards her most possibly because she and Hotel Moscow are considered to be outsiders to the city.
- She regards herself and her unit as soldiers who missed a chance to die in the war. This same behavior can be seen in the Japanese Samurai who believed there was no greater honor than to die in battle, facing the enemy. But since they deserted the Soviet Army, one can describe Balalaika and Hotel Moscow as Ronin - outcasts of Japanese Samurai troops, who were either forced or chose on their own to serve themselves, instead of the master (in the case of Balalaika and Hotel Moscow, their "master" could be either USSR, the Red Army, or even a particular General or Major).
- Although her hatred of American soldiers is shown by her talk with Caxton, she is never seen once mentioning the same hatred to Dutch who is supposedly an American Vietnam War veteran. Although it's revealed in the OVA Roberta's Blood Trail that Dutch saved Balalaika's life after a shootout with Mister Chang on the boat docks.
- In the anime, she stated that she listens to, or at least is aware of, the American new wave band "Oingo Boingo" mentioning their song "No One Lives Forever".
- A Balalaika is a Russian traditional instrument with a wooden triangle-shaped body and three or rarely four or six strings. "Balalaika," is supposedly a slang term for the Dragunov sniper rifle, which is where Balalaika gets her name due to her utilizing her Olympic marksmanship skills with the rifle in Afghanistan, earning her copious amounts of respect from the men under her command.