At three-thirty this afternoon I was awoken from a well-deserved nap by an incoming SMS on my cellphone, which read:
Уважаемый Клиент, поздравляем Вас с Днём России – праздником свободы, мира, равноправия и справедливости! Искренне желаем Вам и Вашим близким душевного тепла, достатка, счастливой, долгой и благополучной жизни! С праздником, Ваш “Билайн”
Dear Customer, we congratulate you on Russia Day, a holiday of freedom, peace, equality, and justice! We sincerely wish you and your family warmth, prosperity, and a long, happy, safe life! Congratulations, Your Beeline
Aside from irritating the drowsy me to no end, the SMS inadvertently reminded me of an article I had read earlier in the day on the topic of equality in Russia.
One in six Russians lives below the poverty line
June 11, 2015
The numbers of Russians whose income is below the subsistence level increased by 3.1 million people in the first quarter of this year, up to 22.9 million. These figures have been published by Rosstat. The poverty rate rose to 15.9%, meaning that every sixth Russian falls into this category.
From January to March, the average subsistence level reached 9,662 rubles [approx. 155 euros] per person per month (a year ago it was 7,688 rubles). But inflation has also surged, which has been an especially painful blow to the poor.
The embargo on food imports from Europe and the United States, [introduced] in August 2014, fueled an inflation of food prices, and the 200% drop in the ruble’s value at year’s end drove up the prices of imported goods. As a result, by the end of the first quarter, the annual inflation rate in Russia had reached a thirteen-year maximum, 16.9%, according to Rosstat. By May, the figure had dropped slightly to 15.8%.
The statistics agency blames the increase in poverty on inflation. Average per capita monthly income, now at 25,210 rubles [approx. 400 euros per month], seems to have increased compared with the first quarter of 2015 by 11%, but fell by a quarter compared with the fourth quarter of last year.
Do you wonder how many Russians 15.9% is? The hipsters at The Village told their readers the answer yesterday evening as the latter were gearing up for the long holiday weekend: 22,900,000.
But how many people live in Russia?
According to the handy Political and Physical Map of Russia, published by AST Publishers in February 2015, which I recently picked up at my local French-owned hypermarket, the Russian Federation’s population stands at a healthy 146,100,000, now, apparently, that is, that the Republic of Crimea’s nearly two million former wayfarers have returned to home port.
But there are a handful of malcontents who bristle at this new method of fighting poverty by annexing the territory and populations of other countries. One of them is a stalwart of the Petersburg protest scene, Igor “Stepanych” Andreyev, who showed up to a “prayer for deliverance of the Fatherland from the oppression of lawless men in power” this afternoon, at the city’s Solovetsky Stone, sporting a provocative but veritable downer of a placard.
Russia immediately went mad after [the annexation of] Crimea (Yuly Kim). On June 12, 1990, Russia’s day of independence from the USSR was proclaimed! June 12, 2015, is the anniversary of Russia’s destructive isolation from the West.
Source: Facebook (Vadim F. Lurie)
Fortunately, the Russian authorities are not as down in the mouth as the sour old multiple arrestee Stepanych. For example, Maria Shcherbakova, the seemingly perpetual head of the city’s Central District, had these uplifting holiday congratulatory printouts pasted on every front door in our neighborhood the other day.
Dear Central District Residents!
The Administration of Saint Petersburg’s Central District warmly congratulates you on the national holiday, Russia Day.
This holiday is dear to everyone who loves their Fatherland and takes pride in the glorious pages of its history and its extremely rich spiritual and cultural legacy. Based on the centuries-old traditions of Russian statehood, the huge creative potential of our multi-ethnic people, and unshakeable democratic values, we will make Russia a strong and successful country.
On Russia Day, I would like to wish all of us to be happy, to live in peace and tranquillity, and to thereby multiply the riches of our Motherland!
Chief Executive, Central District of Saint Petersburg
Earlier today, President Putin expressed similarly upbeat patriotic sentiments while handing out state prizes for achievements in science, technology, literature, and the arts:
“These ideals of patriotism are so deep and strong that no one has ever been able and will ever be able to recode Russia, to convert it to fit their formats. We cannot be separated, torn, and isolated from our native roots and origins.”
Who would want to “recode” and “reformat” Russia anyway? Grumpy old Stepanych? The nearly twenty-three million Russians now living on less than 155 euros a month?
Of course not, you sillies. It is that wicked, black-as-tar, uppity Negro from across the seas, Barack Obama, as the hipster baristas in the coffee hut on the corner of Liteiny Prospekt and ulitsa Belinskogo have pointed out in their own droll way.
We continue our trek around Petersburg’s fashionable spots:
“What is Obama’s Blood?”
“A quadruple espresso.”
“And why did you call it that?”
“That’s just what we came up with.”
Source: Facebook (Alexander Nazarov)
At 147 rubles a cup, Obama’s Blood is the most expensive item on the menu, as a friend has pointed out to me, but when you convert it to euros (€2.36) or dollars ($2.66), it is practically a steal.
And it will get in you in the mood for a fun albeit nerve-wracking Russia Day.
* * * * * *