20 October 2012

Russia In 2000 and 2012


That was then, this is now...

Russia has changed since 2000.  I see that people are getting by better.  When I arrived there were lines of babuskas near the open air market trying to sell something.  Working men frequently wore military fatigues. 

Changing motor vehicles...

Most trucks appeared to be former military transport with license numbers painted on the back.  Now we have a range of imports along with domestic GAZ trucks.

St Petersburg is jammed with automobiles.  In 2000 it seemed half the cars were domestic Ladas and Volgas, much of the balance German Mercedes.  Volga stopped production in 2010, as foreign cars took most of their upscale market.

Now along with Ladas and Mercedes are brands from Europe, the US, and Asia.  You’ll see more types than in the West, as Russia has low safety standards and anything that looks good sells.  I believe Russians are the least safety conscious of all people.

Smaller Chinese buses are a big improvement!


Yutong bus pulling away from our street entrance.

In 2012 suddenly it seems the awkward and uncomfortable sardine can mapshutkas are gone, replaced with smaller buses and larger jitneys than before... imported from China.


A larger mapshrutka, the Golden Dragon in St Petersburg

Memories of the old mapshrutkas...

Now people don’t have to stoop while getting to their seats.  In 2000 the jouncing speedy mapchutkas felt like amusement park rides. Climbing in, I often met blasting Russian popular music and I felt I was joining a party of poker faced people.

Often a young woman sat in the seat facing the passengers.  A few passengers sat next to the driver.  People passed their money to the front, the driver sending back change.  A ride in 2000 was 7 rubles, now it’s 33.

In 2000 many women were impeccably dressed while the men looked worn out.  Women now don’t seem as fashionable, but men overall seem healthier.

Corruption is worse...

Corruption is still joked about on television as it’s something everyone has to deal with. 

Alcohol is a curse on the Russian people..

I see fewer men walking down the sidewalk with an open beer in their hands.  Now beer has been reclassified as alcohol, not what was formerly a ‘food stuff’.  That change means that young teens have more trouble buying beer.  Medvedev’s anti-alcohol campaign may be showing results.

Since 2004 beer ads on television were prohibited from showing people or cartoon characters... only the bottle could move around.  As of July 23, 2012, beer commercials are banned from television.  Still, comedians do routines about drunkenness, a topic that in Russia is acceptable for laughs.

My inner clock is having troubles!

This is Russia’s second year with no clock changes.  We have summer time. with an extra hour of evening light. throughout the year.  This situation can at times put us close to two hours off actual solar time.

The good and bad of our apartment...

Our apartment house, like most of the others, has a dismal, unkempt entranceway, and no record  of elevator inspections posted, and the lighting on the stairways and in the hallways is as bad as ever.  But enter many apartments units here and you will find modern well-designed ‘Ot-Europe  homes.

Our dvor, courtyard, is one of the best in the city.  Arcs of flowering cabbage and cauliflower, nasturtiums, and begonias grace the yard, along with  mature trees.  The playground and exercise equipment is tops, and there are many wooden benches for the old folks to meet and chat.

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The view from our balcony

Eating well is a top priority in Russia.

We get top quality produce and meat.  Milk, sour cream, and butter is for sale right outside our courtyard door, fresh from a farm in Leningrad oblast. 

The supermarkets offer a good selection, less adulterated and corrupted than in the West.  Some of my favorites are sea cabbage, smoked fish, and tomato paste from the  south.  Our supermarket has a yearly ascending discount card, but no one clips store coupons as they do in the USA.

A good philosophy and a little luck is what we all need...

It amazes me how helpful strangers are with directions.  Few Russians have that hurry sickness  I frequently saw in the eyes of New Jersey people.

People are calmer.  They don’t admire that aggressive attitude such as shown by Romney in the first presidential debate.

The people I meet at the post office, the stores, and at parties are often helpful and glad to talk.  Even though we have a northern cold wet climate, we have been lucky to be able to live simply without interference.  Russia is an unlikely spot to be happy, but it has worked for us!

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