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Travels in Russia

KLM Rocks Across Europe!
Santa Claus in Moscow
Television Is a Time Suck
The Reality of Irrelevance
Salute Mayor Luzhkov
Impeachment Happens
I Am Not The Only One...
I'm Back! Did Ya Miss Me?
Chechnya Burning
Weddings in Winter
The Jews Are Here!
Gailyn Goes to Town
Is There a Central Bank?
Santa Barbara is Real
Nick's Thanksgiving in Russia
Den' Rozhdeniya = Birthdays
Those Crazy Expats
It's Just a Few Drops of Vodka...
Elections Are Always Rigged
The Blind Leading the Blind
Good Russian Grooms
You Say 'Boris Berezovskiy' Fast
Too Cold to Care!
Russian Oil Towns
Sneaky Siberian Tigers
Which Way is St Peterburg?
Where am I again? Oh, yeah...
I Love Me Some Vodka
It's a Gosorg Halloween
Hunger Comes to Us All
Why Don't They Just Learn English?!
Post-Crisis, Life Goes On
Is Yeltsin 'The Man'?
Murmansk - Brrrr!
Taganka Hides Her Secrects
These are Communists
It's a Power Vaccum
The Commies are Back
Propaganda is Good for You
You Better Buy Russian!
Sex Ed Soviet Style
Party over, oops outta time!
Russian Healthcare in Moscow
What Russian Financial Crisis?
YE Prices in Russia
The Hungry Duck
Russian Caviar Mafia
Magical Mushrooms
Shhhh! We're Bear Hunting
Soviet Street Scams
Bez Dollarov
A Koshka Konspiracy
On The Dacha
Surviving Army Life
Shashleek is Steak on Steroids
Dacha Thinking
Beach Weekend
Dos Vedanya
Hello from Vladivostok
Equality Means Only She Works
Jogging is an Extreme Sport
Russians Have Reunions Too
My Folks in Massive Moscow
Better than Fireworks
Miners Are Real Men
The Russian Mafia is the Roof
No One Smiles in the CIS
One Year Anniversary
Russian Brides Rock
Laura is My St Pete Connection
Change is in the Wind
Chuck Norris' Beverly Hills Casino
The Expat Woman's Predicament
Street Food is Yummy!
Spring Flowers Make June Leavers
The Provinces Are Provincial
Ever Take an Elektrichka?
The English Invasion
Nuttin Like New Money
Rules Are Made to Break
All Black is Russian Fashion
Easter Memories = Easter Dinner
Politics, Russian Style
Theresa Tries to Russify
I Go to Gay Clubs Worldwide
I Hide on Women's Day
New & Shiny: Nizhny Novgorod
Psst! Wanna job in Moscow?
Fili Park Has All the Bootlegs
Web Page Reactions
Take a Break at Dom Odaha
Expat Living in Moscow is Swank
Why Are You Remonting?
They Look Like Telephones...
In Need of a Decent Hairstylist
Smashing Bottles in Red Square


Russia, August 17, 1998

The Banking Implosion

It is amazing to watch a banking industry collapse in one Black Monday

I felt like jumping off a cliff, but I'll wait till winter
One man's way of coping
The tried and true method of shopping
Back to the market
I read with great interest, all the wire reports and Western views of this, most recent Russian financial calamity, but I must defer opinion to the very people this effect most, the emerging Russian Middle Class.

Over the last few days I've asked my Russian colleagues what they feel is happening to their country, as Russians who, by working for a Western company in Moscow, are the cream of the emerging Russian Middle Class.

On Friday, as the beginning of the default/devaluation (and that is what this is, no matter what euphemism Yeltsin uses), I asked my colleagues what they view of events were. They all agreed that something was up. They knew the banks were not working as usual, and when the dollar dispensing ATM machine in our office ran out, the news gave everyone a sick feeling.

Over the weekend, there was a odd calm in the city, reminding me of the calm Florida feels every time there is a hurricane brewing offshore. You know it will hit somewhere, but you just hope it isn't your town.

On Monday, when all the banks stopped dealing in dollars, and rumors that SBS-Agro, one of Russia's largest banks, was bailed out by the government, my colleagues started to worry about their payroll. The Russian staff, paid in dollars by a large Moscow bank, were not so worried about devaluation, dollars are still dollars, but about access to those dollars. Since so much is conducted in cash USD here, essentially everything over $250 in value in stores, all residential rent, and most personal services; no USD meant no activity.

Today (Tuesday), as most street exchange booths quote 9.5 rrl/USD, my colleagues see a repeat of what has already happened twice in recent memory, the steep decline of the national currency, the steep incline of consumer prices, and the continuing despair of all those who are not paid in USD; pensioners, soldiers, government and provincial workers. I do not sense the feelings of panic, as one might expect, but a attitude of acceptance, as this has happened before, will happen again, and life will continue as it always has.

Oddly enough, they feel that the ruble will not stay at 9.5rrl/USD, but will appreciate back to around 7rrl/USD, and that the banks are trying to gain in the panic. They also seem strangely ambivalent about the national government. They laugh at Yeltsin's Friday comments backing the ruble and the economy, but they also know that there isn't much choice in the political field right now. Yeltsin may be a bit drunk at times, but he is still better than the Party Presidents before him.

As one woman put it, with a shrug of her shoulders, 'Eta Russeya.'

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