How is Zaroff Able to Finance His Lavish Lifestyle?


Common Zaroff is the most adversary in Richard Connell’s 1924 brief story “The Foremost Perilous Diversion.” He lives in lavish quarters on a inaccessible Caribbean island, where he chases human creatures for don. But how can a Russian military officer banished to a tropical island bear such an excessive way of life? This article investigates Zaroff’s conceivable sources of riches that empower his aggravating side interests.

Zaroff’s Aristocratic Upbringing

As a Cossack, Zaroff came from an old Russian military family that likely had strong ties to the aristocracy and Czarist regime prior to the 1917 revolution.

Early Wealth and Privilege

  • Zaroff states that his family was “one of the oldest and proudest in the Czar’s realm.” This upper class status gave him wealth, land holdings, and influence from a young age.
  • Eldest sons of aristocratic families often inherited family funds, properties, and valuable assets like art, jewels, and gold. This established financial security.
  • Zaroff was accustomed to fine living from his youth.

Pre-Revolution Plunder

As a high-ranking cavalry officer and military commander, Zaroff would have had ample opportunities to enrich himself further in the chaos of World War I and the following Russian Revolution:

Wartime Embezzlement

  • Officers often redirected funds intended for troops and weapons into their own pockets. With unreliable record-keeping, this was easy for powerful commanders.
  • Zaroff could have smuggled precious gems, valuables, and money stolen from homes of the fallen aristocracy after the first revolution failed in 1905.

Post-Revolution Seizures

  • Following the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, the Red Army repeatedly raided the estates of exiled nobles. Items seized included jewelry, gold, silver, artwork, antiques and porcelain wares.
  • High-ranking officers like Zaroff were ideally positioned to stash away seized assets before being ordered to inventory them. These spoils of war served as insurance policies.

Refugee Smuggling

  • As soldiers loyal to the Czar were killed or exiled, many aristocrats fled for their lives. Zaroff could have profited helping them secretly emigrate out of Russia in exchange for their remaining heirlooms or wealth.
  • Cossack units were largely autonomous around the Baltic and Ukraine. Zaroff’s contacts there facilitated illegal border crossings. Refugee trafficking was an extensive racket at the time.

New Life in the Caribbean

After reestablishing himself in the Caribbean, Zaroff continued using illicit dealings and violence to preserve his aristocratic lifestyle:

Gun Running

  • Shortly after Zaroff arrived in the West Indies, Prohibition took effect in the U.S. This gave rum smuggling and organized crime a dramatic boost.
  • With local contacts from military days, Zaroff began trafficking illegal weapons to mobsters, pirates and rum runners defending operations.
  • Cutthroat gangland violence increased demand for firearms. As a supplier, Zaroff took hefty profits from the thriving U.S. black market.

Safari Hunting Guide

  • For rich adventure seekers, Zaroff provided hunting guide services to stalk and kill exotic prey from around the world.
  • On his remote island, he could secretly host these “safaris” away from public attention or authorities.
  • Only the wealthiest clientele could afford Zaroff’s packages covering travel, room and board, weapons rental, hunting licenses and more.

Narcotics & Vice

  • In the lawless Caribbean outposts, virtually anything was for sale at the right price: narcotics, gambling, prostitution or contraband imports.
  • Zaroff easily could have invested in the Chinese opium trade, Cuban casinos, molasses-based rum production or even a brothel in port cities.
  • These lucrative vices provided tax-free underworld income on par with modern-day cartels and money laundering operations.

Modern Slave Trade

  • Despite abolishing slavery in 1834, Great Britain’s Caribbean colonies continued human trafficking illegally for decades.
  • Zaroff’s Russian mercenaries could have captured and sold natives as “contract laborers” alongside the African slave trade flowing through ports near his island.
  • Whether insider trading, smuggling or piracy, the colonial West Indies offered unlimited paths to amass tremendous wealth quickly – for those willing to get blood on their hands.

Hunting Humans for Sport

Eventually, General Zaroff exhausted traditional game hunting and sought increasingly dangerous prey to quench his bloodlust – human beings.

  • He transformed his Caribbean stronghold into a traps-filled playground to track terrified people turned loose in the jungle and kill them like animals.
  • Wealthy visitors purchased trophy prey, funding the construction of obstacle courses, weapons stockpiles, guard kennels, watchtowers and confined lodging to make Zaroff’s island a hunter’s paradise catering to sadists.
  • With intoxicating power over life and death, this highly efficient enterprise brought Zaroff as much sick pleasure as the profits needed to perpetuate his twisted hobby indefinitely.


  1. What evidence from Zaroff’s background suggests he was born into substantial family wealth?As a Cossack, Zaroff states his family descended from a long line of Russian military nobles serving the Czarist empire. This dynasty granted generations of status, assets, land rights and income through peasants and agriculture.
  2. How might wartime chaos have enabled Russian officers like Zaroff to steal assets?In both the 1905 and 1917 revolutionary periods, record keeping around inventory seizures, property confiscations, and criminal investigations was very incomplete. This allowed high-ranking officers trusted by common soldiers to redirect recovered valuables secretly for personal gain without consequences.
  3. Could Zaroff have really captive people and sell them into slavery decades after it was banned?Yes – despite Britain and America prohibiting the African slave trade early in the 1800s, black market human trafficking persisted for nearly a century due to high demand for cheap labor. The remote nature of Caribbean islands allowed merchants like Zaroff to illegally capture and sell native people or refugees off the books.
  4. What major vice industries could Zaroff have invested in on Caribbean islands?As colonial outposts with limited authority, Caribbean islands became havens for smugglers and vice profiteers all supplying the enormous U.S. black market in banned substances. prime investment options included narcotics, rum production, casinos/gambling, brothels, and gun running. Zaroff had both the means and amoral nature to thrive in all.
  5. Does Zaroff actually finance his entire lifestyle from hunting humans on his island estate?No – while Zaroff is sicherly analytic of providing visiting big game hunters with the opportunity to kill human prey, this would have been an expensive passion project funded by prior wealth from weapon sales, piracy, smuggling, slavery and poaching over his long, dark career rather than its main source. However, it did give him another way to commoditize violence for profit.


General Zaroff in “The Most Dangerous Game” has clearly led a life of crime, exploitation and cruelty since his aristocratic upbringing in Czarist Russia. His rise from wartime chaos enriched his coffers greatly at the cost of countless lives. Devoid of empathy, Zaroff monetized pain and suffering however he could once exiled to the Caribbean by the Bolshevik revolution. W

hile the specifics remain a mystery, his island estate and blood sports against humans demonstrate willingness to finance vile pursuits through vice, weapons, slavery and death built on his legacy as a remorseless hunter of both animals and people. Where money flows freely, ethics mean little on isolated outposts – allowing the ruthless like Zaroff to buy their darkest whims without restraint. The key was discovering which evil desires the rich were willing to subsidize, then fulfilling them quietly for a hefty, no-questions price.

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