The Putinist Economic Miracle

As Inflation Soars, One in Five Russians Can Only Afford Bare Necessities
Delphine d’Amora
May 14, 2015
The Moscow Times

Many Russians flocked to stores late last year as the ruble plummeted against the euro and dollar, eager to get the most out of their savings before the prices of imported goods rose.

Nearly 20 percent of Russians can now afford nothing more than the absolute necessities as double-digit inflation erodes their spending power, a survey by consumer research firm Nielsen found.

The figure is a record high for the survey, which has been conducted regularly since 2005. Even in the first quarter of 2009, in the depths of the previous financial crisis, only 4 to 7 percent of Russians reported having no spare income after paying for basic items such as food and accommodation.

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Runaway price rises are making it harder to make ends meet. Consumer price inflation was running at 16.4 percent in April this year after hitting a 13-year high of 16.9 percent in March, according to state statistics service Rosstat. Prices have been driven up by Russia’s ban on a range of food imports from the West — a response to Western sanctions over Ukraine — and a steep devaluation of the Russian currency.

High inflation has depressed real wages, which fell 9.3 percent year-on-year in March, according to Rosstat. It has also encouraged some unwise behavior — Many Russians flocked to stores late last year as the ruble plummeted against the euro and dollar, eager to get the most out of their savings before the prices of imported goods rose.

This wave of spending is now coming back to haunt consumers, Ilona Lepp, Nielsen’s commercial director for Russia, said in a statement.

“After spending a lot at the end of 2014, Russians ran up against a significant rise in prices on the most essential goods in the beginning of the year, which means the drop in real wages was felt particularly hard,” Lepp said.

Russians’ consumer confidence fell to a record low of 72 points in the first quarter on Nielsen’s Consumer Confidence Index, a seven-point dip from the previous quarter.

With falling real wages forcing Russians to reduce spending, 55 percent of respondents to the survey said they would cut back on entertainment outside the home. Fifty percent said they would save on clothing purchases and 48 percent planned to switch to cheaper food brands.

Such cutbacks brought overall consumer spending in Russia down 8.7 percent year-on-year in March, damaging a key sector of the economy and deepening an economic slowdown that is expected to shrink the country’s gross domestic product by up to 5 percent this year.

The survey, part of Nielsen’s global consumer confidence study, was carried out among Internet users between Feb. 23 and March 13 of this year. The margin of error did not exceed 0.6 percent.

Icon by artist Sergei Suksin

Lev Rubinstein: “Rehabilitation” of Nazism

Lev Rubinstein
May 12, 2015
Facebook

Criminal prosecution for “rehabilitation of Nazism,” you say?

Well, it’s a respectable cause. Especially in a normal country, where the main features and properties of Nazism itself have been clearly defined, articulated and, more importantly, grasped by public opinion.

In a country where, on the contrary, the president of another country is referred to as a “black monkey” quite openly and with impunity, in a country where state TV facilely reports that the people of a neighboring country are a historical misunderstanding, and their language a parody, in a country where a classified newspaper ad that reads, “Apartment available for rent to Slavs,” is considered quite normal and natural, this talk about “rehabilitation” is rather strange, because there is nothing in particular to rehabilitate. And if anyone is going to be tried for such a crime, there aren’t enough judges for the job.

The point, of course, is something else.

11182204_864970266884978_1670294015098677080_nVictoria Lomasko, In the Neighborhood. View at the exhibition Post-Soviet Cassandras, Berlin, April 2015

The fact is that their “Nazism” is not Nazism in the conventional sense of the word, but what they themselves define as such or have already defined.

“Everyone” knows that a Nazi regime is now blossoming, for example, in Ukraine. And denying or even questioning this “indisputable fact” amounts, apparently, to rehabilitating Nazism.

Or doubting the divine origins of the main antifascist of all time can easily be identified as Nazism.

And who knows what else. Why give them suggestions? Let them figure it out for themselves.

It’s a shit issue, as certain rude people would say.

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