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Travels in Russia

Russian Remonts
Stop Theif!
Almost Worth Staying For
Offshore Your Rubles in Swiss Accounts
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
Cash Transfers Across Russia
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, August 31, 1999

Russian Women

You gotta love those Russian women!

Oh, please look at me!
Show me that belly button!
Lidya stole my heart!
Strutting their stuff

Cleaning the streets with twigs

Your grandma look like this?
I hate to choose!
She'll love you for your mind
Straight from a porn video
Ice, Ice, baby!
Not Russia, but Ukraine
Not a future a young girl wants
A Russian Yuppie
Good drinkers, bad husbands
Single and proud
Looking for a few good men
The strong silent type
Thinking about that big step
Bad hair marriage
The most famous Ukranian
She doesn't wear make-up
Dreaming of exit visas
Mmmmmmmmmm... Women. My favorite subject in the whole world! I only wish I was an expert on the subject, not the ignorant man that I am.

Russian women are like Russia itself, putting on a stoic and strong exterior presence, while inside they are soft and warm. I admire the Russian women, they have to put up with sexual discrimination, thankless labour, and most of all, Russian men, with a bit of style and grace. There are three types of Russian women that I can discern now: dey'vs', sotrudniki, and babushkas.

Deyv's, short for "deyvouski," or young women, are amazing in their style. They are all quite thin, dressed in skimpy clothes, and beautiful. I'm not sure if its the huge workload, or the lack of Twinkies that keeps the deyv's thin, but it is amazing. American women usually look healthy and well fed, European women look healthy and thin, while Russian women scare me a bit. I want to shove food in their mouths and make them eat Ben & Jerry's New York Super Chunk Fudge ice cream until their ribs are no longer visible.

Strangely enough, their ribs are visible quite often. This past summer, tight tanktops, short skirts, and knee high black leather boots were all the rage. It difficult for me to walk down the street without getting whiplash looking at all the eye candy. Oh, bras, mandatory in America, are optional here, as in Europe, adding to the overall visual effect. Now that winter prevents tanktops, tight turtlenecks are worn with short skirts and stocking to keep the same effect. Even dressed in full length fur coats, just the face and the black leather boots can get a man going.

The deyv's are beautiful in addition to thin and stylish. There is a real Russian look visible in Moscow. Usually blue eyes are combined with a slightly rounded Western face to produce an exotic, yet familiar face. When I first arrived here I heard a lot of stories about American men flying here just to find a beautiful wives, and now I can believe it. They do have an amazing look about them that I have never seen in the West.

With all that worshiping, you will be surprised to learn that I have no desire to date Russian women. They do have a physical presence, but it does not attract me. I was talking with a friend Friday night and she pinpointed the concepts perfectly. American and European women have a Victoria's Secret sexiness, while Russian women have a Fredrick's of Hollywood look. Sexy, but a bit cheap. The deyv's also have a different cultural outlook than I do, they all plan to be married by their early 20's and are surprised that I am not already. By my age they want children. Yikes!

Sotrudniki, or workers, are the women in their late 20's to mid 30's that are the backbone of this country. If you want to know who is doing the work in any given company, department, or government, just look for the women. They do all the real grunt work in my company, from cleaning, to data entry, to organizing. A man will be in charge, but a woman will do the work. You would think that the women would be active in changing this role set for them, but such isn't the case.

My mom's voice screams in my head when I watch my landlady wash Andrey's dishes, but she says he needs her help because he is a Russian man, incapable of doing it himself. I say the lazy punk has two hands, he should do them himself! One of my coworker's mother tells her daughter that her husband should never be in their kitchen because he doesn't know what to do even though he is a professional chef! When Heather asks her female students what they will be doing in ten years, all answer that they will be housewives. Where's Gloria Stienman when ya need her!

Sometime in the late 30's a strange transformation occurs, sotrudniki become babushkas, not that you will ever know a woman's age. The women gain weight, loose their sense of style, and scare little kids. I am being realistic, not derogatory when I say that babushkas are not attractive at all. Once they become babushkas they shuffle around the city with bags in hand, looking for bottles to turn in for cash and deals on bread to eat. There is still a wonderful woman under all the layers of hard working years, but it is a weaker flame than the bright light from the deyv's, and only shines on Woman's Day.

I remember a Russian friend of mine staring for an hour at a photograph of my mother. At first she did not believe that she was my mother, then that she was her age. At first I was a bit confused and offended, but then I realized her reference point. My mother did not look like her mother yet they were similar in age. My friend was doing the mental leap to what she would look like at their age, and she had a look of fear in her eyes.

When I first heard about the Russian women who would marry these American men so desperate for a wife that they would grab the first woman they found here, I thought poorly of the women. Now, after I see what the women have to live with and look forward too, I understand with brilliant clarity. I would do the exact same thing if I were in their shoes. Hell, the Western dental work alone would be worth it! Below is a great warning from one who should know, and American married to a Russian, living in the grand ole US of A.

Tuesday, 18 May 1999, Russian-Women-List - Relationships with Russian & Soviet Women

My 2 cents, "un-advertising" and then some

By Roger

This is NOT a flame. This is my OPINION. Having dealt with this day in and day out for over 3 years I believe my opinions concerning this have some validity....however small to some. If not to some, that's ok too. You just cannot teach some people anything. I STILL hate to think that the "masses are asses".


I have been following this whole thread with both great amazement (again) and sadness. Amazed (again) on how low and cold hearted these women can be and sadness because another man is getting a royal screwing and hearts that we are seeing torn apart this week. Yes, hearts. There is yet another man we know that this is happening to. Practically, a carbon copy of Clays' situation. (usually, they differ little) It is becoming more prevalent and I thought it not possible. However, I know there is another "syndrome" that is a contributing factor. It's immaturity at its best. I call it the "Trophy Wife Syndrome".

Simply defined, its when men (or women) are blinded by the physical beauty of another person and the ego takes over. ~~Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead! Worry about the ship and the crew members lives later!!!~~ If one is only looking at a face, a body or how "good" the sex is at the beginning of a "relationship" then I'd say 8 out of 10 times (conservatively) the "relationship" will FAIL. If one does not heed or ignores the many, many warning signs the "relationship" will FAIL. When you're 16, 25, 35. 50 and even 60+ years old and the only thing a man can excuse their future wifes bad conduct with is "...but look at her! She's so pretty" says you are too immature to be doing this. Usually it is without regard to the children's lives involved, sadly enough. Yet, another sign that you are immature and self indulgent. It akins to the 65 year old man that buys a Ferrari just to drive around town on a Saturday night to impress the strangers at the stop lights. Pretty disgusting, eh?

I've written probably more about warning signs (red flags) than perhaps anyone on this list. Some listened, some heeded and put it into practice but, most ignored me and some even got defensive enough to call me profane names as if I were writing these things specifically about them. Another sign that some men are too immature, too self absorbed or just plain too ignorant to be undertaking this daunting task of finding AND KEEPING A GOOD WOMAN as a wife.

GUYS. Again, this is not a competition. This is not a game of "one-up-manship". This is life. Life is not to be played is to be played. But there are rules believe it or not.

I'm not trying to convey that my marriage is perfect for very few are. Tanya and I have had our upheavals but never, ever to the extent that I so often see today. I contribute it to that we took our time and got to know each other first. I watched for the warning signs and there were none. Just lucky I guess....or patient....or maybe it was my attitude towards life and, or perhaps hers. I don't know. However, I DO know that I did NOT get married just to have a cruddy home life and then PERVERSELY shine when dragging my "Trophy Wife" to social events for all to see. Nor did I "save" her from a bad situation of any sort.

I've seen this scenario before: "LOOK AT wife's beautiful!" (sshhh...let's not speak of our marriage or home life) "BUT..AIN'T SHE JUST GORGEOUS"?!! (no, I/she's we are not so happy) "BUT...JUST LOOK AT HER"!! (no...we have separate bedrooms) Yada, yada, yada

Look fellas, when you're old, fat, balding, gainfully employed and there is some very young, gorgeous woman giving you soooo/too much attention you should stand back and take it slooooowwwww. Not saying to discard her. Just take it slow. Put yourself in her shoes. Would you go after an old, fat, wrinkly, successful woman? Maybe so but, would you be committed to her forever? Would you never, ever look at another woman? Probably not. Let not your ego blind you.


And yet another factor.....


These gals are not stupid. These gals are coy and very, very sly. When brought up in USSR these ladies learned to be "survivors" from their parents. Some have taken it one (or ten) step(s) further. When growing up in a society where neighbors turned in neighbors as "spies" was encouraged it gave people a sense of "watching out for #1". To hell with everyone else. Some of these women will do ANYTHING to achieve their goals. ANYTHING. Those who have been in the CIS know this. Here is common site: Have you ever seen an actual *western-type* line at the metro, grocers or anywhere for that matter? How about at customs when you arrived? LOL...hell no! I didn't think so. That's just a small sign of that society that speaks volumes.

The signs are there...if you just watch for them. But, you have to take off the blinders, put aside the ego, rid yourself of the mind fogging testosterone any way you can and proceed with caution.

If anyone of you think that I'm full of BS. That's ok. Nobody has to take my word for it. Just watch what has happened and is happening to some men via this list. I assure you there are many others you know nothing about. They are not on this list. That should be enough for some men to wake up....but I doubt it's enough for a few (choose one) insecure/stupid/poor/misguided/stubborn minded souls.

And, it's sad but I have to admit it it. The manner in which many, many agencies portray these women have alot to do with this as well. But, that's something many men should already understand. That is, if they are not in such big hurry to perhaps ruin their lives.

Saturday, November 14, 1998, Moscow Times

Young Single Russian Women

By Natalya Shulyakovskaya

After picking out a ripe autumn cantaloupe for me from the large pile at his stand, the mustachioed vendor smiled and handed over another one. "This one is for your child," he said. "I don't have children." I responded while stuffing the fruit into my bag. The man blushed, and after a ' pause blurted, "Well, you are still just a child yourself."

A few weeks later, three men I had hired to move some furniture around in my apartment wanted to know why my husband was not helping me. When I told them I was single, they wished me good luck in finding a fiancée. It seemed pointless to try to explain to them that I was not looking.

In Russia, a woman in her late twenties is assumed to be married with children. And if not, she is expected to be searching hard. Russian women marry on average between 22 and 23, younger than their counterparts in most European countries. At 22, while many of my friends were donning wedding bands and my family was wondering when my turn would come, I flew to America to study at a. university. It was refreshing in the United States to run into many happy, single women.

Recently, I was surprised - and even relieved - to discover such women though still few, in Moscow. The small group of successful, urban women who can afford to rent their own apartments aren't rushing out to order their silky white gowns. A friend of mine, 43 and divorced after 16 years of marriage, thinks it, perfectly logical. "Why would a financially independent woman want to wash a mans socks?" she asks. Sitting in a cozy cafe, Alya, a sociologist in her mid30s, pulls out a piece of paper and draws a semicircle denoting a weight scale. She marks off a point and writes the number 72, then shakes her head and laughs. "I used to believe that I couldn't get married because my weight would regularly slip past this mark," says Alya, who didn't want her real name used,

But three years ago, Alya came to a different conclusion after a night-long conversation in her communal apartment kitchen with a friend who was also having trouble meeting the right man, despite being slim and stunningly beautiful. A neighbor dropped by the kitchen and stood by listening. "She was not attractive. She was a street vendor, always tired and untidy. But she had a husband and even a few lovers, Alya says. The neighbor's explanation for the women's fruitless search was, "You girls are way too smart."

After two failed engagements, Alya now agrees with her neighbor. Taking out another sheet of paper, Alya draws two columns and jots down notes about her current lifestyle in one and that of an ex-fiancée in the other. She concludes that had they decided to marry, they would have had to either squeeze into her communal apartment room or move in with his mother. She would have had to give up one of her research projects in order to spend time with him. And she estimates that it would have taken years for her to convince him that her work and research were worthy, "The union was not worth it," Alya says.

Irina, a 28-year-old manager of a printing business, is weighing her options. "I do want to have a family. I do want to have children. But I don't want to carry the entire, burden on my own shoulders," she says, picking at a piece of cake at her favorite club, Stylishly dressed in a leather coat and matching boots, the former beauty contestant has been unattached for three years.

Despite Soviet propaganda images of men and women on equal footing - like the statue of a male industrial worker and a female farmer standing back to back with arms outstretched - the roles of husband and wife have been far from equal. The heroines we grew up reading about were almost never happy in their relationships with men. Marriage transforms Tolstoy's Natasha, in "War and Peace," from a gentle, romantic girl into a fat, doting mother whose interests are her children's health and family meals. Her husband doesn't talk to her much: He is busy reading political literature. When Anna Karenina strays from her unfulfilling marriage, she ends up miserable and driven to suicide.

Generations of Russian mothers and grandmothers, as they cooked horshch and pelmeni, handed down like folkloric wisdom their grumblings about men: They are egotistical ne'er-do-wells who can only be treated like infants. At the same time, many strong-willed women who were used to running their households and fending for themselves, were overprotective mothers who coddled their boys, sending them into the world as spoil-d and helpless men, says Yelena Potapova, executive director of Anna, a support organization for battered women. "Russian men are extremely immature," Potapova says. "They smoothly sail from under the control of their mothers to the care of their wives.

While Potapov, 38, campaigns in her job to stop physical violence against women, she has been fighting her own, different battle at home with her husband. "Although it took I5 years, we were able to reach a compromise," says Potapova, who has been married for that long. "It is only now that I feel my real life has begun." She lists her victories: "I have the right to go on business trips. And if I am late from work and dinner is not ready, he understands that it is going to be that way. He doesn't hold a grudge."

Many people find it hard to believe that a single woman could be happy. Feminist author and television commentator M Maria Arbatova likes this joke: A mother surrounded by -drunken husband and three wild children - a baby suckling on her breast, a child sitting on a pot and a teenager high on drugs - is talking on the phone with a girlfriend. The friend, a New Russian, is lying in a Jacuzzi wearing a facial mask, sipping a mixed drink. The mother says sympathetically, "When I think about you all alone, my heart aches."

Russians measure single men and women by completely different standards. "A bachelor is a lucky guy, but a single woman is utterly unhappy," Arbatova says. "Our society is not capable of viewing women as self-sufficient." Soviet films like "Lonely Woman Seeks Lifetime Companion" and "Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears" promoted that belief, portraying lonely and sad single women who turn out of desperation to men far below their standing.

Natalia Sopova, owner of the art gallery Vmeste, has felt shunned both personally and professionally for being single. 'The best thing about marriage from a social standpoint is that it provides a shield, support," says Sopova, whose husband died from cancer nine years ago. "We were popular as a couple. But a single woman is rarely invited over, even by friends. She is always a burden." When Sopova was opening her gallery five years ago she remembers how her friends didn't make an effort to come to gallery openings at crucial times when she needed the show of support. Had her husband lived, she believes her friends would have attended such events out of respect for him.

A religious and conservative woman, Sopova had long supported the idea of a man being the omnipotent head of his household. Now she believes many men have abandoned their duties as financial providers, fathers and husbands, and that women have been forced to take over these roles. "Women are much more oriented toward work and being independent, and it's clear why. Men aren't that responsible anymore," says Sopova, pounding her fist on the table. "Women are left no choice but to build their own independence. They are ready to marry but when they look at the men they have dislodged, they don't find their company interesting." Sopova plans to remain Single. "I managed to carve out a place for myself,' she says. "It's me and my gallery, and everyone knows that now."

While the trend in other industrialized countries has been for women to put off marriage until they are older, the average W age of marriage for Russian women has declined from 27 in the 1960s to 22 in 1995. The early age of marriage is partly because the housing shortage forces most people to live with their parents. When young couples try to carry on amorous relations, the watchful parents often pester them into marriage. But early marriage is also because many women feel that their chances Plummet after the age of 25. "A woman spending time building up her career is moving herself to the margins of the marriage market," says Yelena Meshcherkina, a gender studies specialist at the Moscow Sociological Research Institute.

But that doesn't mean women stay married. Russia, like the United States, has one of the highest divorce rates in the world. In 1960, the divorce rate was 1.5 per 1,000 people. After divorce procedures were simplified, tile figures soared to 3.2 in I966. Post-Soviet freedom seems to have encouraged the trend. The divorce rate was 4.0 in I99I and 4.6 in I996. That is slightly higher than 4.4 for the U.S. and more than twice as high as 2,07 in Germany. "You can count on your fingers how many happy families you see in your entire life," Says My divorced friend.

Publisher Alla Shteiman recently told the television show "ya Sama," or "I Myself," hosted by Arbatova, about the badgering she gets for staying single. Shteirnan loves her busy job, relishes her freedom, and has no desire to marry. But the conventional wisdom, she says, is that "it is not good not to give it a try." Shteiman says a male colleague told her, "You ought to get married for at least a little bit. Otherwise it's embarrassing."

-Shteiman's friend might be embarrassed himself if he knew the following results of a 1996 survey of attitudes toward men among women in Russia, Poland, Hungary, Germany and Sweden, Russia had the highest share Of women - 62 percent, who responded that they did not admire men. And nearly half of Russian women said they did not trust men

The Independent March 9, 1999

Street Life - Where women tune in to Russia's 'Oprah'

By Helen Womack

For the typical Russian husband, who pays attention to his wife once a year, there was an alternative this International Women's Day to rolling home drunk and thrusting into her hands a bunch of wilting mimosa. He could roll home drunk and give her a copy of the new bestseller Women's Stories. The only snag was, she had probably been out already and bought the book herself. Women's Stories is based on a confessional television series of the same name. It is hopeless to make a social engagement for a Tuesday evening, as all the bars are empty, the streets are deserted and the blue light of television screens flickers from every home. Russians are glued to a show hosted by the peroxide blonde Oksana Pushkina, the closest they have yet to Oprah Winfrey.

Each week, Pushkina interviews a famous Russian woman about her private life. There is no studio audience. They just have a heart-to-heart chat. Compared with Oprah, the programme is tame. But it breaks ground in Russia where, until recently, Raisa Gorbacheva was the bravest woman here, because she dared to appear in public with her husband, Mikhail, and show that she had something of a personality herself.

The heroines of Women's Stories are mostly unknown in the West, although two names mean something outside Russia. Nanuli Shevardnadze, wife of the Georgian leader Eduard Shevardnadze, enlivens a dull account of being a political spouse with a description of how her husband howled in an ice-cold Jacuzzi for 10 days when trying to stop smoking.

Lyudmila Rutskaya, wife of the Afghan war hero and Russian politician Alexander Rutskoi, gives a much franker interview about how, on the eve of their 25th wedding anniversary, the man for whom she had sacrificed her own career ran off with a younger woman. "I did not attach much significance to it at first," Mrs Rutskaya says. "I thought, 'He's grey-haired, it's just the male menopause.' But when the articles started appearing in the papers, I realised he had gone completely off his head. At his age, biology takes it toll. He flew to Argentina with her. He came back, I looked at him and noticed he was wearing cosmetics - women's face cream. I said to him, 'Sasha, how long have you been using women's face cream?'"

Pushkina, who learnt her interview techniques while working at American television stations, says courage and determination are the qualities her subjects have in common. She answers critics, who accuse her of banality and muck-raking, by claiming to give comfort: ordinary Russians recognise their own problems in the struggles of the stars and know that they are not alone.

If Russian women had hard lives in Soviet times, when the Communists paid lip service to equality while sending them out to work in road gangs, then their lot has scarcely improved. The Russian woman still faces a low glass ceiling at work and does everything at home for the man who might, if she is lucky, wash the dishes on Women's Day.

The celebrities in Pushkina's series probably had servants or dishwashers but their hearts were still broken by unfaithful men, who left them to bring up the children alone. Larisa Latynina, the woman who trained Soviet gymnasts including Olga Korbut, describes how her husband would go off on "business trips", returning a few days later with large sums of money. Only after he was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison did she learn that he was a swindler. His downfall ruined her career too, for the Soviet authorities said she could not be trusted to travel abroad and denied her an exit visa.

Hardship, however, has made Russian women strong and Pushkina believes the time is right for feminism in this most sexist of countries. It should not reject men, she says, because they are victims of the system too. Rather, it should be a hearty babskoe dvizhenie (lasses' movement) of capable and talented women, ready to help each other and do good in society.

Pushkina believes there is no reason why a woman should not one day sit in the Kremlin. The interview that gave her most satisfaction was with the democrat Galina Starovoitova, shortly before she was assassinated. "She was a klassnaya tyotya (a cool auntie), the nearest we have had yet to a woman leader in Russia."

Thursday, April 29, 2004

For Russian Women, Whiff of the Good Life: $5 Billion Cosmetics Industry Entices Consumers With 'Small Joys' of Luxury

By Susan B. Glasser, Washington Post Foreign Service

MOSCOW -- Galina Vladimirova is a believer in what she calls "the Russian cult of makeup." Tucked neatly inside her purse one recent day were her latest acquisitions of lipstick and eye shadow, her first Armani purchases. They were more than twice as expensive as any makeup she had ever bought, even for a woman who spends up to $150 a month on cosmetics.

"It makes me happy every day to know they are there," she said. "It's an accessible part of the good life."

In the beauty boomtown that is Moscow today, she is no exception. Just a generation removed from the time when their mothers and grandmothers resorted to the peasant trick of reddening their cheeks with beets, Russian women today spend twice as much of their income on cosmetics as Western Europeans do -- 12 percent of their entire paychecks on average, according to research firm Comcon-Pharma.

Perhaps no other cosmetics market in the world is as hot as Russia's, which has quintupled in size over the past four years and is forecast by industry analysts to triple again, to $18 billion, by 2010.

The "lust for beauty," as the weekly Russian business magazine Expert dubbed it, is more than a success story about what happened when consumer culture met pent-up Soviet demand. It is also very much about the identity of Russian women in economically uncertain times and how they have rejected Soviet stereotypes while refusing to embrace American-style feminism.

In a country where the new archetype is the Cosmo Girl -- and where circulation of Cosmopolitan magazine is higher than in any place outside the United States -- makeup is still about liberation, about affordable luxury and about what's required to get and keep a man.

"Russian beauty is beauty made natural," said Larisa Sidorova, an analyst at the Validata market research firm who conducted extensive focus groups last year on Russian women's attitude toward beauty. "Russian women differ from other women in the sense that they want miracles from cosmetics."

At Arbat Prestige, an oasis of self-improvement on Lenin Prospect, the owner claims that more money is spent on makeup per square foot there than in any other cosmetics store in the world. "What can I say?" said Natasha Lutsenko, an impeccably turned-out teacher wearing a leather coat with a fluffy collar as she shopped for a birthday present for her mother. "There's a cult of femininity in Russia now."

Never mind the mystifying economics of it, how a $20 tube of lipstick wouldn't seem to make sense as a mass-market proposition in a country where average salaries have only just now hit $200 a month. In this, as in so many things, Russia has taken its own path, and it definitely includes luxury lipstick, eye shadow, mascara, face creams, body lotions and other miracles in a bottle.

"A Russian woman will spend all her salary on a Chanel perfume," said Anna Dycheva-Smirnov, an industry researcher. "Russian women are very particular about how they look, even if they are just going to the bakery."

At a time when at least a quarter of Russians live in poverty, the country manages to spend 1.3 percent of its gross domestic product on cosmetics -- compared with an average of just 0.5 percent in Western Europe, according to a report this winter by consulting firm Ernst & Young. Researchers at Comcon-Pharma found that 76 percent of all female Russians older than 10 use makeup.

The total Russian cosmetics market reached more than $5.2 billion last year -- even more, for example, than the country's consumer electronics sector. And it is continuing to grow at a rapid pace with annual increases of at least 25 percent, according to several analysts.

Some sectors, such as direct sales in the Russian provinces by U.S. cosmetics firms Avon and Mary Kay, are still recording annual growth rates of 50 percent to 80 percent -- a full decade after they arrived in Russia. Homegrown products are also booming. Kalina, the leading Russian firm and maker of the Black Pearl line of face creams, reported a 73 percent rise in profits last year on sales of $157 million.

Now ranking just behind France, Germany and Britain in total sales, Russia could soon become the European cosmetics capital. Arbat Prestige, a Russian company that has built the largest chain of cosmetics and perfume stores here, plans to invest $500 million in new stores just over the next two years.

"Finally everybody realized what's happening here and started to pay attention to this market," said Dycheva-Smirnov, vice president of Staraya Krepost, a marketing research firm that specializes in cosmetics. "The new birth of the Russian cosmetics market is only 10 years old. It grows very fast, just like children when they are small."

Vladimir Nekrasov is preparing to bet half a billion dollars on it. Nekrasov, 43, president of Arbat Prestige, forecasts that his 14 stores in Moscow will take in $250 million to $300 million this year -- up from $56 million three years ago.

"Life is hard here, people are tired and they spend more money here than people in other countries on this," Nekrasov said of the "small joys" he sells in his stores. "It's a sip of oxygen for people in conditions of this dirty and exhausting city."

His shops are something of a wonder in a place unaccustomed to service with a smile. Friendly consultants answer questions and offer personalized makeup advice. He stocks as many as 50,000 different items and arranges luxury products on one side of the store, more moderately priced brands on the other. Nekrasov says he offers Russian women "emotional support" and "their piece of happiness" along with the aromatherapy and cellulite-fighting potions that would have been impossible to obtain in the Soviet past.

In fact, he evokes that era for customers who are nostalgic for it but who are also grateful for a choice in lipstick colors that ranges beyond pink.

A well-known collector of socialist realist art from the Soviet period, Nekrasov has hung canvases from his personal collection all over his Moscow shops -- including one room in his Prospect Mira store that features World War II portraits of Stalin and the bloody battle of Stalingrad.

But for many women, the voracious and seemingly unquenchable desire for makeup is all about overcoming that Soviet past. "We spend a huge amount of money on cosmetics in Russia because, first of all, it was not long ago when such variety came to Russia. So for many it feels like, 'Finally we got it!' " said Maria Taranenko, beauty editor for the Russian edition of Elle magazine.

Indeed, there's hardly a woman in Moscow of a certain age who doesn't remember the opening of the first real cosmetics store here in 1989, an Estee Lauder shop still known fondly as the "Golden Rose." Many can recount how they stood in line there, or when exactly they bought their first tube of Lancome lipstick. One woman recalled placing her expensive moisturizer in a prominent place in her living room, so all who visited would see it.

Natalya Arkhipova remembered the strange eye affliction that started to plague her girlfriends not long after they bought their first French mascara in the early 1990s. Their eyelashes became stiff, as if they were popping out of their heads, and they couldn't leave the house for days. All because they had no idea how to properly apply the stuff -- they had smeared their lashes with multiple coats of mascara and then refused to wash it off, because it was so expensive.

"It was our first experience, no one taught us," said Arkhipova, a nutritionist. She, for one, was hooked. "I saw myself turning from an ugly duckling to a swan. Like all Russian women, I would save and save money for cosmetics."

Sidorova, the pollster, said the obsession with cosmetics is "from Soviet times, when people focused on the way they are perceived by others. Russians lack confidence from that era, and lack of confidence means they do not allow themselves to be natural."

In the post-Soviet era, the ideal in Russia has become more strongly feminine, according to Sidorova, who said that participants in focus groups in several cities came up with the same definition of a Russian beauty: a woman in a dress, with long blond hair, elaborate makeup and hairdo, and high heels.

"We are not moving toward the unisex look like in the rest of the world, which connects to a negative attitude toward feminism," she said. "We are moving in a different direction."

Not long ago, she recalled, Dove soap tested its slogan here, "You are beautiful the way you are." It was, Sidorova said, "a complete failure to Russian women. They don't believe in beauty itself. Beauty should be made."

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