Unless you are already in the know; you may find the miniscule nature of the average Russian monthly wage hard to believe. It’s around 35600 Rubles, which will (probably) mean very little until you learn that it’s the equivalent of 530 USD or 370 GBP. Yes, per month, and that’s even with a modest rise since January.
Just in case you were wondering; us Brits are currently floating around the monthly 2200 GBP mark. That figure is of course a theoretical mid-point balanced numerically between homeless and billionaire, and not the figure that the majority of earners receive. It’s also a politically expedient way to present incomes as ‘pretty good’. Really, we’re each earning (an average of) 26,500 GBP per annum after all. Fantastic isn’t it? Well done everyone. Meanwhile the average lollipop lady may look at her annual 3000 GBP salary and wonder if she took a wrong turn somewhere.
Meanwhile in Russia; the mood is decidedly grim – on the financial front at least, which tends to colour most aspects of daily life one way or another. Increasingly (and paralleled in the UK); young earners may remain in a modest parental home/apartment until they’ve saved for years and clawed their way up the pay scale by a good margin, perhaps even until they marry and can then (maybe) pour two incomes into a pile of bricks/concrete. That’s assuming that traditional husband/wife roles are not upheld of course. A hutch in a tower block, perhaps? Fingers crossed.
Moscow (as with London) is renowned for it’s eye watering living costs. St.Petersburg likewise; as Ekaterina Kazmina euphemistically remarks on her Petersburg4u blog: “Naturally, the cost of living here is fairly high”. She continues: “(it’s) 28th position in the list of the most expensive cities in the world. But now, with the devaluation of ruble, Saint Petersburg became much more affordable for both living in and travelling.” Some good news there then – relatively speaking.
Reduced industrial output has been one of several factors leading to a burgeoning hardship, with, for example; Avtovaz (manufacturers of the iconic LADA) stripping over 10,000 employees from its workforce since 2014, and/or operating a reduced week for some. Then there’s Western imposed sanctions (still ongoing), rising food costs, falling oil prices, a tense international/political climate, the incursion of terrorism into Russia and (unsurprisingly, therefore) a globally weak exchange rate. I’m bound to have left something/s out, but you follow the general idea.
We are all aware, abstractly, of the kind of measures that desperate times call for – although mercifully most of us today have never had to encounter them outside a history book. So expect (and indeed witness) scape-goatism, rising nationalism, a sense of victimhood (externally imposed sanctions don’t help there) and even a desire to return to some prior halcyon era. A recurring theme, this, alongside: “making America great again”, the dubious Renaissance idyll of Greco-Roman perfection and the Swinging Sixties that, according to one insider (whose name I forget): “happened to 500 people in central London, whilst the rest of us just went to work”.
The era that over 50% of Russians wish to return to, isn’t that of the Tsars, it’s amazingly that of the Communists. So I hear, can it be true? It’s certainly at odds with the video footage of celebrations atop the Berlin-Wall on 9th November 1989 or the post-party honeymoon of the early 1990’s. Although the communist (political) party was banned (1991-92, post coup attempt), and in spite of stories of Oligarchs, rampant domestic capitalism, rich Russians abroad etc; the thread of support for “how it was” never quite went away, completely.
As circumstances worsened for a modern proletariat, then the idea of a benevolent state returning to make everything stable, regulated and “right” again (whether true or not) has gained increasing popularity. President Putin has even been accused (particularly by the West) of desiring the establishment of a neo-Soviet State under his rule. This ostensibly contrasts with his statement that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a tragedy for Russia. But, that doesn’t automatically mean that now he wants it back. I just don’t know what (or who) to believe, or what indeed will be the outcome, irrespective of any current plans/desires by anyone, at all, sorry!
At any rate, an increasing rose-tinted desire to reconstruct a modernised past (excuse the oxymoron) is one thing, but contemporary statements (and merchandise) on the theme of “Long Live Stalin” that are indeed out there, in use today, are something else entirely.
[Photo by klemenchukov]