The People You Meet

Prison camp acquaintances, of course, slightly tweak the picture that can take shape when you read only anti-war media.

I talked to a friend from Krasnoyarsk today. He is currently doing time in a camp in Mari El (he was transferred there from Krasnoyarsk). He says, “A lot of people have left Mari El [for the war].” “Voluntarily?” I ask. “Voluntarily. And why not, the money is good, so they go. Plus there’s looting: they drag things back from there too.” In response to my remark that they might come back home in a coffin, he tries to explain, although he himself does not approve of their actions. “Well, a one-way ticket… People have been pushed to the limit. There’s nothing to live on. But there you can make decent money.”

Basically, you can’t argue with the material attractiveness of going to fight in the war. Here, in the countryside, some earn 20 thousand rubles a month [approx. 300 euros], but there they are promised 200 thousand [approx. 3,000 euros]. Plus looting. And there is seemingly nothing you can do about it. If they are paid, they will go. Especially because it has become harder to survive.

Source: privately posted social media entry whose author is afraid that it could be grounds for charging them with violating Russian Criminal Code Article 207.3. (‘”Public dissemination of knowingly false information about the use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.” The new law provides for a prison sentence of up to 15 years for knowingly disseminating false information about the Russian Armed Forces.’) Photo and translation by the Russian Reader

Pioneer

The withdrawal of the American company Corteva Agriscience (Pioneer) from the Russian market may trigger problems in the country’s agriculture. Experts are already warning about a shortage of seeds for certain crops.

Marina Petrova, deputy chair of the Moscow Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s committee for entrepreneurship development in the agro-industrial complex and CEO of Petrova 5 Consulting, told Delovoi Peterburg that while the level of self-sufficiency with domestic grain seeds exceeds 75%, import dependence remains high for sunflower, at about 70%, and for corn, at more than 50%. Leftover seeds held by suppliers and Russian-produced varieties and hybrids are an alternative source.

“Domestic seeds often have poorer traits than foreign varieties. But Russia has a scientific base and decent domestic wheat, oat, rice and buckwheat seed products,” says Petrova. In her opinion, domestic selection and seed production is in need of structural transformation and state support. Over the past decade, the share of foreign seeds has increased significantly in Russia. This is primarily due to their higher yields. The largest players also offered package solutions involving seeds, agrochemicals, and management via digital platforms. Third-party designs may thus often be incompatible with existing ones.

Corteva Agriscience is a well-known producer of alfalfa, rapeseed, corn, cotton, rice, sorghum, soy, sunflower and wheat seeds, as well as plant protection products (including herbicides, fungicides and insecticides). According to the Leningrad Regional Committee for the Agro-Industry Complex and Fisheries, the region does not depend on Corteva Agriscience’s seeds. The committee’s press service clarified, however, that rapeseed, which is cultivated in the region, is actually grown from imported seeds. But corn and wheat seeds are domestically produced, while wheat seed is produced in the Leningrad Region itself.

Prinevskoye Breeding Farm CJSC (which grows rapeseed, among other things) reported that they had managed to purchase all the seeds they needed for the 2022 sowing campaign. “If there is no possibility of sourcing foreign rapeseed hybrids, we have a domestic analogue, Oredezh 6, which at the moment we can use to cover the needs not only of our farm, but also of the region,“ says Alexander Peretyatko, deputy general director for commercial affairs at Prinevskoye.

According to experts at the Agrophysical Research Institute, Russia has the potential to replace imported corn and rapeseed. This can also be said about wheat, which Crimea supplies in fairly large volumes. At the same time, seeds for protected soil (tomatoes, cucumbers, greens) are limited on the market. The chief researcher at the Institute’s Laboratory for Plant Biophysics, Professor Mikhail Arkhipov, recalls that back in 2016, a decree was issued ordering the production of original and elite agricultural plant seeds in the areas of domestic crop production that were highly dependent on foreign-made seeds. According to Arkhipov, the decree has still not been properly implemented.

“75% of the agricultural holdings that produce grain are owned by foreign companies. Foreign seed companies also continue to be actively involved in the Russian market. However, domestic seed growers can also solve the issue of supplying grain-growing areas with domestic wheat seeds. We have the necessary agricultural resources to produce our own seeds,” the expert notes.

In late 2021, President Vladimir Putin said that within a decade the country would be able to provide farmers at least 75% of the seeds they required. Arkhipov believes that this is a real prospect in the seed market for most agricultural crops. Petrova points out that many seed-growing enterprises need to improve their physical facilities and increase their technologization. Another problem that hinders the industry’s development is a shortage of personnel.

Source: Darya Dmitrieva, “Fresh ground: farmers prepare for shortage of imported seeds,” Delovoi Peterburg, 11 May 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader, who grew up on a farm in the Upper Midwest.


Corteva to Withdraw from Russia

Corteva has made the decision to withdraw from Russia and, having already paused new sales, is initiating a plan to stop production and business activities.

Our priorities remain the safety of our employees and global food security. Since the onset of this tragic war, we have taken all possible action to support and protect our Ukrainian colleagues and their families, our customers, and the communities in which we operate, including through direct and indirect aid to address the immediate humanitarian needs.

We have also put in place direct action to help assure as normal as possible 2022 growing season in Ukraine.

Given the war’s impact on global food security, the Company will donate seeds to Ukraine, Africa, and the Middle East region for the 2023 growing season, to lessen the impact on global food production.

Corteva joins with many others around the world in advocating for peace.

Source: Corteva.com, 28 April 2022

Annals of Import Substitution: Khudi Zarina, Etc.

“Our everything: a huge selection of goods from Russia! Even more goods from Russia – look! [1.] Zarina hoodie, 1,689 rubles [approx. 21 euros]. [2.] Vasilisa Botanika bedding set, 1,571 rubles. [3.] Tech Team Comfort urban scooter, 3,990 rubles.” Source: Ozon email advertising circular, 2 May 2022. Ozon is a major Russian online retailer and is sometimes referred to as “the Amazon of Russia.” When I still lived in Russia, I regularly ordered books from them. In the first weeks of the war, they were pushing the imported western goods they still had in stock. ||| TRR

We’ll Replace You

“We’ll replace [them, you, etc.]”

An art installation about import substitution has appeared in the center of St. Petersburg today. While some are recalculating advertising budgets and monitoring news about global brands resuming operations in Russia, others are replacing [them]. 👀

Source: Sostav.ru: Advertising and Marketing in Russia, Facebook, 27 April 2022, via Five Corners community page. Translated by the Russian Reader

The Show Must Go On

A warehouse in the Edelweiss (Stroybat) hardware store chain in Petersburg. Photo: Sergei Yermokhin/Delovoi Peterburg

Good day!

Skimping on bags and paper, problems with electric cars, and the rise in price of coffee beans

Skimping on little things. Retailers and catering are reducing the use of certain types of packaging, containers, and consumables. Some things you have to give up against your will.

Tired of waiting for guests. The travel industry wants to get a tax exemption from Petersburg city hall, an extension of cashback, and a new version of Booking.com.

Russians charge slowly but drive fast. Sanctions have blocked the way to Russia for foreign electric cars, but import substitution is already being readied.

Pecking like a bird. Petersburg coffee roasters have faced logistical problems. Green coffee beans have risen in price by 15-50%, which has already affected retail prices.

They keep well. In the current situation, warehouses remain the most stable segment of the commercial real estate market, experts argue.

Have a good day!

Source: Delovoi Peterburg, daily email newsletter to subscribers, 7 April 2022. Photo by Sergei Yermokhin for Delovoi Petersburg. Translated by the Russian Reader


Queen’s hits as played by a symphony orchestra

Show must go on? [sic in English] We agree! Great news for everyone who has dreamed of going to a concert by the legendary Queen. On April 21, the group’s international hits will be performed at Tinkoff Arena by the IP Orchestra under the direction of the brilliant Igor Ponomarenko.

Queen is one of the greatest bands in history: their cultural legacy has changed the world of music forever.

The supremely rich acoustic palette of a symphony orchestra, new arrangements of classic Queen compositions, the wild drive of the musicians on stage, and the charming voice of the soloists — all this is part of the patented “Queen Show. Show Must go on” [sic in English].

The IP Orchestra performing Queen Show. Show Must go on. Tickets for their April 21 performance cost between 1,500 and 2,500 rubles [approx. 17-28 euros]. Subscribers to Bileter.ru’s newsletter get a 10% discount

The IP Orchestra has long established itself as a brand not only in Russia, but also in the countries of the near and far abroad. The band has toured on five continents, performed at the world’s best venues, and has thousands of admiring viewers and loyal listeners.

To attend this event, you will need a QR code showing that you have been fully vaccinated or have had the disease, or a certificate showing that you have had a full course of a vaccine, or a document confirming that you have been granted a medical exemption from vaccination along with a negative PCR test for participants and guests over eighteen years of age.

Source: Bileter.ru. Translated by the Russian Reader


Unfortunately, for reasons beyond our control, all parts of J. K. Rowling’s famous saga about the boy wizard will be unavailable on LitRes in three days. Only now can you buy them in time with a 25% discount! It is important that every book remains in your personal library forever.

“Unfortunately, the Harry Potter series will disappear from the LitRes shelves at 23:59 p.m. on 8 April 2022. Buy the books in time and they will remain with you forever.”

To activate the discount, follow this link or enter ACCIO on the promo code page. The offer is valid until April 8.

Source: LitRes email newsletter for customers, 6 April 2022. Image, above, captured on this page on their website. Translated by the Russian Reader

“Don’t You Know What’s Going On?”

Spoiled by grocery delivery services, I am rarely in supermarkets these days and don’t see all of life’s nitty-gritty.

Today I went into the Dixie [a Russian discount supermarket chain] near my house. Everything seemed pretty normal. I went along the shelves, but I really like buckwheat groats [a staple cereal grain in Russia] and wanted to buy some, and there was no buckwheat. I didn’t need sugar but when I saw there was no buckwheat I looked at the sugar shelf — no sugar. Also there were no Always pads, and I needed some. Probably there was lots of other stuff missing too, but I didn’t have time to make a thorough study. I put some of what was there into my basket and got into line for the register. I never remember prices, alas, so I didn’t particularly notice whether anything had gotten more expensive over the last month. But this would be cleared up shortly.

A woman and her friend come running into the store, right up to the register, and she starts complaining loudly that she bought ketchup for 146 rubles [$1.33 today (3/15/22) — trans.] as per the shelf tag, but at the register they charged her 194 rubles [$1.77], which she only noticed when she got home and checked the receipt.

“Why would I want ketchup for 194 rubles! You have to sell it for the price that’s written on the tag. Give me my 48 rubles back!”

“We’re not giving you anything back: our prices don’t match the shelf tags. You can return the ketchup and we’ll give you your money back.”

“What do you mean, the prices don’t match? You are obliged to show them!”

“On your website it still says that ketchup costs 146 rubles,” the woman’s friend interjects.

“The prices are changing every other day here, you think we’re going to go around pasting up the new ones all the time?! Don’t you know what’s going on?” screams the cash register lady.

“We’re not the ones setting the prices. They change by themselves in the system. They don’t even send us shelf tags: we just scan everything here at the register!” adds another cashier supportively.

“Why is the store management suddenly changing the prices?” I ask.

The line, the cashiers, and the woman with her friend all look at me with stern incomprehension and even an element of disapproval.

“What, you don’t know,” someone mutters angrily, and everyone again looks away, down at the floor or at the checkout conveyer belt.

Everyone knits their brows in silence. The older cashier quietly tells the younger one how to do a return, take cash and calculate the correct change, because many people’s bank cards aren’t working.

No one says out loud that President Putin is waging war in Ukraine or that “NATO-the Americans-who knows who” is to blame. No one discusses why the prices are higher and why there’s no buckwheat. No one says anything at all and everyone looks at the floor.

Only the man who was standing behind me went back to the shelves and grabbed a third bottle of vodka.

Source: Alexandra Polivanova, Facebook, 14 March 2022. Translated by the Fabulous AM with the author’s permission. Photo by the author

“People Are to Blame”

Alexander Kynev: “A moment of patriotic joy. I don’t know if there is anything more bogus. Even the Young Pioneer line-ups of my childhood were more natural.”

The video Mr. Kynev has embedded on his Facebook page is entitled “Zapolarye Za Mir” — “The Arctic for Peace.” The activists identify themselves as “residents of the Murmansk Region” (and, indeed, are standing on a hill overlooking Murmansk itself.) In addition to the newfangled Russian “Z” swastika, the hoodies sported by the lead troika of “activists” are also emblazoned with the “We Don’t Abandon Our Own” slogan that featured heavily in Russia’s first invasion of Ukraine in 2014 and has been revived for the new invasion. ||| TRR

__________

 

A Perekrestok chain supermarket in Moscow. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

“People are to blame…”

I stopped by Perekrestok and was blown away. Bananas were 140 rubles a kilo, pre-washed carrots were 100 rubles a kilo.

The hypermarket itself is open until eleven p.m. nowadays, not around the clock.

“Prices have really gone up. Is this all because of the w*r?” I say to the middle-aged woman at the checkout.

“No, it’s not just because they’ve attacked the neighbors. It’s because of the people.”

“The people who unleashed it all? I hope they will be held responsible…”

“No, because of the people, all of us, who allowed this gang to take over Russia. And each of us will bear our share of responsibility for this. And bananas at 140 a kilo are still just icing on the cake… We are to blame for what happened. Everyone who let this happen. Everyone who ‘wasn’t interested in politics.'”

Source: Alexei Sergeyev, Facebook, 15 March 2022. Translated by the Russian Reader

The Perfect Gift for Defender of the Fatherland Day

The Dendy Junior with a cartridge and detachable controllers

Toys for everyone

On the eve of Defender of the Fatherland Day [February 23], the demand for electronics (game consoles, laptops, tablets) has grown — they are among the most coveted gifts. Ozon said that in mid-February, unit sales of consoles and accessories had increased 2.2 times year-on-year. “Retro consoles have been an unexpected trend in the video game consoles category — they have been the best-selling products. Dendy Junior and Sega Genesis will be nostalgic February 23rd gifts for Petersburg residents,” the retailer’s press service added.

Wildberries has also seen a run on electronics. But electric razors (demand for them increased by 153% in the first half of February) and hair and beard clippers (up by 48%) have been their most popular items.

M.Video-Eldorado told us that headphones and portable acoustics have been trending. In addition, the new digital reality dictates its own rules: gifts that cannot be touched with your hands are becoming more and more desirable. High demand this year has been shown by digital content such as subscriptions to services (videos, books, etc.). Sales of digital codes for games had more than doubled by February 2021 [sic].

Sales on Avito of laptops and smartphones have also increased by 15% and 9%, respectively. You can buy devices for an average of 22,380 rubles and 17,920 rubles [approx. 249 and 199 euros]. Some female Petersburgers decided to make their task as easy as possible and present men not with a specific gift, but with a gift certificate. The Avito press service said that users spend an average of 4,700 rubles [approx. 52 euros] on them.

Retailers can also make money in February on sales of children’s goods. Radio-controlled toys have become more than twice as popular on Ozon. Wildberries noted that parents purchase toy weapons, cars, airplanes and helicopters, as well as various prefabricated models for their little defenders.

Whether he’s going to the army or on a fishing trip

Goods for hunting and fishing — that’s what female customers have paid attention to this holiday. However, even this involves electronic gadgets. “The list of [our] popular items includes an echo sounder and a case for it, a monocular telescope, powerful binoculars, and a set of walkie-talkies,” Ozon’s press service says.

“In the household and garden goods category, sauna accessories (for example, a hat embroidered with the phrase ‘February 23’) and goods for cooking kebabs and barbecue (a set of skewers with lacquered beech handles in a tight protective cover has been among the top sellers) have been purchased the most,” [reports Ozon]. It’s funny that in St. Petersburg and the Leningrad region this year one of the most popular February 23rd gifts will be a set for making homemade liqueurs.

Wildberries’ female shoppers have been no less creative in choosing gifts. They decided that army dry rations are an inexpensive and original option, orders of which have increased by 344% year-on-year. These are gift sets designed to look like a real soldier’s rations. Jumbo-sized dry rations featuring canned food and snacks cost about 1,5000 to 2,000 rubles [approx. 17 to 22 euros].

Traditional values

And yet the popularity of socks and men’s skin care products remains unshakable. In the first half of February, Wildberries saws the number of orders for socks in St. Petersburg increase by 113%, and shaving kits by 150%, while orders for cosmetic care kits rose by 750%, deodorants, by 46%, and colognes, by 157%. The demand for men’s lotions has increased by 100%, while the popularity of shower gels has soared almost ninefold compared to January. Ties (up 95%), belts (up 153%), and wallets (up 144%) are also among popular traditional gifts.

Corporate customers of online stores this year bought sweets for the holidays. According to SberMarket’s b2b department, companies have most often ordered gift sets of Merci candy, coffee and tea in gift packages, and Old Spice, Palmolive, and Gillette skin care sets for employees for Defender of the Fatherland Day this year.

Source: Darya Dmitrieva, Delovoi Peterburg, 22 February 2022. Image courtesy of Wikipedia. Translated by the Russian Reader

Privatization in Your Pocket

“Privatization in Your Pocket”

A lot of two items related to privatization in Russia, 1992-1993

1. Zvezda: The People’s Newspaper of the Kama Region (Perm), no. 182 (November 11, 1992). 4 pages, illustrated. Complete copy in good condition. “This concerns all of us: privatization in Russia,” an appeal by Anatoly Chubais, appears on page 3.

2. Privatization in your pocket. A brief guide for participants of check auctions, or what to do with a privatization check and how to do it (Novosibirsk, 1993). Brochure, 32 pages, illustrated, 10 × 13.2 cm. Publisher’s cover, good condition.

Privatization in Russia [was] the process of transferring state property of the Russian Federation (formerly the RSFSR) to private ownership. It was implemented in Russia in the early 1990s (after the collapse of the USSR). Privatization is usually associated with the names of E.T. Gaidar and A.B. Chubais, who were involved in privatizing industrial enterprises in the 1990s. The outcome of privatization has often been harshly criticized, in particular, due to the emergence of severe economic stratification among the Russian populace.

A rare artifact of the era.

[Source: Litfond auction house. Translated by the Russian Reader]

Solving Problems

Grigorii Golosov
Facebook
October 14, 2021

Yesterday, President Putin, driven mainly by the curiosity of journalists, publicly tried to solve problems. There are a lot of problems, he noted: they are literally “raining down.” He named only two: the decline in incomes among the population and the population’s rapid decline (the “demographic” problem). He promised to solve the first one non-linearly, i.e., not by growing incomes per se, but through economic growth. As you know, the Russian economy grows rarely and slowly, but when it does grow (which has happened over the past ten years), then for some reason this has no effect on the incomes of the population. However, it depends on whom we understand by “the population.” There is definitely a population of several thousand people constantly getting richer, although this population is more often outside of Russia than inside it. Putin did not elucidate his methods for solving the second problem, but he is certain that they will also be nonlinear. There are no other problems in Russia, however. There is no problem with political prisoners: they are all criminals. I would probably doubt that. But I totally agree with Putin that there is no problem with democracy in Russia. If there is no democracy, there is no problem with it. Verily, “if you don’t have an aunt, then you won’t lose her.”

Translated by the Russian Reader

President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Russia — one of the world’s biggest producers of oil and gas — is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2060.

“Russia in practice will strive for carbon neutrality of its economy,” he said at an energy forum in Moscow.

“And we set a benchmark for this — no later than 2060.”

Source: AFP/Moscow Times

Russia’s natural population underwent its largest peacetime decline in recorded history over the last 12 months, an analysis of official government statistics has shown.

Russia’s natural population — a figure which counts registered deaths and births, excluding the effects of migration — declined by 997,000 between October 2020 and September 2021, demographer Alexei Raksha calculated.

The stark drop comes as Russia, which has one of the world’s highest Covid-19 death tolls, continues to see record numbers of lives lost to the pandemic. The country has recorded at least 660,000 excess deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Russia’s total population of around 145 million is lower than it was when President Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000 despite Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 which added 2 million to Russia’s official population statistics.

Source: Moscow Times

Only 12 World Leaders Greet Putin on His 69th Birthday. In another sign of Putin’s isolation, only 12 world leaders sent him greetings on his birthday this year. None at all came from the US or from EU countries (business-gazeta.ru/article/524870).

Source: Window on Eurasia (Paul Goble)