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Travels in Russia

Russian Remonts
Stop Theif!
Almost Worth Staying For
Offshore Your Rubles in Swiss Accounts
Russian Women
You Can Buy Anything in a Russian Kiosk!
What Did Russians Eat Before Potaotes?
Nothing Like a Birch Branch Beating!
Anything Can Be Scrap Metal
Serious Soviet Pollution
Day-Tripping Around the Garden Ring
The Russian Poezd
Yeltsin's Family
Soviet Photography
Happy Times in HTML Hell
Road Runners Rule!
Piva is Good!
A Subaka Says What?
Soviet Swimming
Manly Russian Men
And Peter is a Distant Second
Invest in Russia?!
The Zen of the Line
But He Went by the Name of Lenin
That Looks Just Like My Dom
Russian Adoptions by the Dozen
Internet Cafes Are Everywhere
Going to See Mama Russia
Going to the Movies
Russian Visas
Eta Notebook Batteria, Durak!
Fidelity is Not a Brokerage
Soviet Suburban Living
Taking the tramvai
Time to go...
Do Your Spring Cleaning Now!
Reclama Nation
Russians Do Tours
Going Local
Pecktopan = Restaurants
Yevgeniy Primakov, Who?
101 Reasons Why NATO's War Sucks
A State Secrect: Women's Ages
Russians Blew up the US Embassy!
It's Dacha Time Again
I Love Me a Starlite Diner
Anything Goes at Night
Yesho Piedesat Gram Vodkoo
Shock Thearpy
IMF & Reform
Zoos Should Be for Politicans
There Was Giligan, And the Skipper Too
The Regions Exist?
Do You Believe the Media?
What is Russian Feminism?
Russian Music Rocks
Bye Bye Fast Food
Yest Klooch?
Addicts Are Addictive
Racism in Russia Too
An Education in Russian Politics
Orphans Are Lonely
Making Bliny
Nasty Newspapers
#51 If you get the jokes
Sick as a Dog
Those Crazy Russians
An Open Road Ahead
Iron Felix
You Can Buy (Almost) Anything in a Market
Education Makes Elections Happen
Ice Cream in Winter
Superstitions Are Sneaky
The Adventures of Flat Jon
Ice Fishing in Sibera
Death is Painful in Any Culture, Anywhere.
Lenin is Alive
Every Thing is Leaking
New Russians
Go Dollar!
Corruption is Endemic
The Joe-Cool Moscow Crew
Taxes Will Find You
I'm Driven Mad
Holidays Last and Last
It's All About Location
Taxies Take You Everywhere
Russian Religion Re-emerges


Russia, May 19, 1999

Cash Transfers Across Russia

I love to get Cash Transfers in Russia!

How many times a month do you write a check? I used to write a least two a month, to satisfy those gracious gentlemen holding my student loan and those quick-to-late-fee credit card sharks. Now that I paid off my student loans (Look Ma, I did it, finally!), and the banking crisis killed off most of the Russian banks, I don't write a single one. This doesn't stop me from worshiping the amazing checking system we have in the West though, especially when I live in a check-free place like Russia.

Like they will ever trust again!Using checks is an amazing process, requiring both the writer and receiver to trust each other and the banks involved with the rest of the transaction to be honest and efficient. In Russia, all three, trust, honesty, and efficiency, are missing, and actually by design.

Those who once trusted Bank Menatep will never do that again!

In the Soviet days, while we were pioneering the checking system, and all the ways to corrupt it, The Soviet Union didn't need checks. Of course not, a workers' paradise, where everyone was giving what they needed, did not require people to transfer funds between each other. Everyone was equal to begin with!

Since, in reality, no one was equal; several methods were devised to transfer money around. The most honest, and therefore least used method was the postal transfer. Working just like it does in America, a Russian in Moscow would give 100 rubles to the post office, who would then give 100 rubles to the receiver in Vladivostok. All this would be written down, and probably both the sender and receiver would be questioned by the KGB (Why do you have extra money, comrade, and what does your brother intend to do with it?!).

To avoid that hassle, and the opportunity for a gulag vacation, the envelope method came about. Lets say you had a son studying shipping in Volgagrad, and he needed to buy a "gift" so he could get into a certain class, or make a better grade. And it ain't pretty either!You could make the 48 hour round-trip train ride from Moscow and give it to him, or he could come from there. If both of you were lacking the time (or stamina!) for such a journey, you could wait till you knew someone who was going anyway. But why wait?

Twenty-four hours on a train to see this?!

Every day there is a trustworthy woman going to Volgagrad who will be more than happy to deliver your funds for a small fee: the train dezhorniya. In each train wagon is a lady that takes care of all the passengers in that wagon and she will definitely be on the train when it pulls into Volgagrad. You simply give her the envelope with the cash, your son's name, and a gift for her. Then, once the train is on its way, send a telegram to your son, telling her that Ms. Valentinova in wagon 14 has an envelope for you. Your son meets the train, shows his passport to Ms. Valentinova, and all is well.

As I travel around Russia, I see this envelope cash transfer method employed on every train, bus, and hydrofoil I take. Amazing in its simplicity and, I assume, trustworthiness, I am almost envious of the system. Well, that is until I write a check to a friend and drop it in the mail for the USA. For the only failing of the system is that it only operates in Russia.

When I stayed with Laura in 1996, I asked her what she would want me to send from America when I returned. Her only request was a magazine subscription. Why? Because she couldn't subscribe to a foreign magazine without a check or credit card, both that don't exist here.

So for that, I thank you Federal Reserve!

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