This site is our response to everyone who has ever asked us what Russia is like, and for anyone who might have never wondered, but should have. It’s an attempt to put into words Russia as we see it; our go at explaining that big old riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, that in fact, never went away. It’s about understanding the views, opinions and psyche of a nation that hits our headlines daily, without many of us ever really knowing why. And ultimately, it’s about providing a picture of Russia, as seen first-hand by two people, who think that although the journey they’re on to try and understand this country might never end, the process itself is worth sharing.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Saving for a Sunny Day

Artwork: "Garden", Asya Nemchanok
The economic crisis is taking its toll in Russia, yet people are keeping faith and the authorities will not let a looming budget deficit get in the way of a sunny Victory Day parade. Well, at least that’s what the “Russia in Figures” section of this week’s Vlast magazine seems to indicate.

According to the Russian Home Office, on the 19th of April (Orthodox Christian Easter Day), an Easter church service was held in 9,300 churches across Russia with a participation of approximately 4.5 million people and an extra 106,600 thousand police officers on duty (or one extra police officer for every 42 people). Between 60 to 70 per cent of Russians consider themselves Orthodox Christians (85 to 99 million people), of whom 1 in 19 attended an Easter service.

Compare this with Christmas church-going. On the 7th of January (Orthodox Christmas), 2.1 million people (or one in 40 of those who consider themselves Orthodox Christian) attended a service at one of the 8011 churches open that day. An extra 85,700 police officers were on duty. This means that at Easter 2.4 times the amount of people attend Church than at Christmas. The proportion of police officers to visitors however is 1.68 times higher at Christmas than at Easter, leading the writers of Vlast to conclude that Easter is celebrated more widely in Russia than Christmas, but rather less riotously.

15,280 rubles [£310 / €348 / $462 by today’s exchange rate] was the average income in Russia for March of this year. This was 13.3% more than in March 2008.

According to Alexei Kudrin, Russian Finance Minister, the Reserve Fund of the Russian Federation [Note: which peaked in January 2008 at $157 billion] “will be practically completely run dry” by 2010. On the 1st of April 2009 the fund was still over $121 billion in the black.

Inflation over the period from the 1st of January to the 20th April 2009 stood at 6%. This is the same as over the same period last year.

The Moscow authorities will be spending 65 million rubles [£1.3 million / €1.48 million / $1.96 million) this year on cloud dispersal treatments for the 9th of May Victory Day celebrations and Moscow City Day celebrations [Note: on important bank holidays planes are sent up around Moscow to disperse the clouds and to ensure sunny weather. Boris Johnson should really take note.]

2,700 kilometres of road will be built in Russia in the upcoming year, which is 17.4% more than last year.

2.26 billion people were registered unemployed by the 15th of April – 1.6% more than the amount registered by the 9th of April. According to official statistics since the beginning of October last year 329,000 people have lost their jobs.

The foreign trade turnover of Russia in January and February of this year stood at $50.5 billion – only 56% of the turnover taken during the same period of last year. According to official statistics exports stood at $36.7 billion (52.3% of last year’s amount) and imports at $23.8 billion (64.5% of that of last year).

The price of medicine rose 14.2% in the January to March period of this year in comparison with prices in December 2008.

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