Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Consumer goods shortage in Russia

What kind of products are missing or difficult to acquire in Russia that yourself or others have wanted to purchase before? I know this is a weird question but any help would be greatly appreciated.


Dear Garrot!

Thank you for your question. Well, your question evoked so many childhood memories that it will be a lie to say that I want to forget those times.
Born in the USSR I witnessed only the last decade of so calledconsumer goods shortagewhich accompanied my compatriots through the history of the XX century.

The shortages were both horizontal and vertical which means that they affected both the supply of intermediate goods as well as related complementary goods. This could have involved several hours a day spent in queues just to obtain basic products like.... food.
I spent my teen years in the lines for groceries not noticing the hours go by. Like many kids of my generation I spent this time reading my favorite world classicsThus , I can say, that unwillingly the Soviet grocery shortage contributed to my general culture. ;)
It also is very important to remember that different regions of USSR had different methods of products distribution. Sometimes this regional divergence was more significant than the social one.
Some studies mention today that “those , who during the 1970—1980s were considered as Soviet Intelligentsia as well as simple employees have different memories of Soviet consumer goods shortage than those who belonged to soviet leadership families".
Through the Stalin and Khruschev times Kommunist Party leaders denied this obvious fact. But all Russian citizens knew that your life will change once you either get into the countries’ elite. You will be shopping in the“reserved to elite only” shops (a secret invention of the planned economy). Or if you have no chance to become a part of this elite, your life could be much nicer if you make friends with those who work in these shops.
No doubt this contributed to the hidden corruption in the USSR. But still the majority of Soviet population had more chances to make friends with sales staff of “closed to public” boutiques than ever have a chance to visit those shops.

Now, 25 years later, everything has changed. Like kids who waited for Christmas presents for too long our people happily enjoy consumerism. All tastes are catered.

So if someone still thinks that Russians lack anything he will live a real disillusion. Those times have gone. 

Like in any shops in Europe during any season you will find in Russian shops everything you want or dream to see. (I remember seeing our Moscow municipal house cleaner browsing on his iPhone3 a month before they were officially launched in Russia. Funny, no?)

Modern Russians are curious and open to new consumer world discoveries. Different manufactures from all over the world dream of entering the Russian market, hoping to conquer millions of new customers who will taste, use, try anything which is considered fashionable

...to such extend that only a good taste (and definitely money, which is never enough) will remain in real shortage!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What do Russians think of other nations: Americans, Finns, etc..

1) I am Finnish and growing up all I heard about Russians was negative.
Pejorative words were used which I know now wound Finnish speaking
Russians. The stereotype was that Russians were dirty, dishonest sexist.
No one could do business in Russia with out getting involved with the
mafia and bribery was as much a part of business as a handshake. Well,
more than statements it was a general sense of loathing.

Since then I have grown up and met many people from all over the world
and I have realized that many of these stereotypes are false, or like
most stereotypes deeply skewed. I also realize that the hatred Finns
feel is for the things to do with the war and like all wars bad things
are done and those things were done by men who are now dead or practically dead.

Our view of Russians is pretty mean. My question is what is Russia's perception of us? What stereotypes do your people have about Finland and Finns? Asked by Miina

2) I've always been curious what Russians think of their neighbours (especially the ones who used to be a part of Soviet Union). I live in a country that have once been heavily influenced by the Soviet Union and that period of history left people here with a specific animosity towards Russians (more towards their politicians though, than to an average Russian). I will be be more than happy to hear your thoughts. Asked by Alexandra

3) What does the average Russian think about about Americans and the United States? Do they see us as stupid, bad, etc.?
Asked by Brittany, USA

Dear Miina, Alexandra & Brittany!

I am sure these are the first questions of whole possible series
"WHAT-DO- RUSSIANS-THINK-OF..." When I just opened my blog I was wondering when I am going to get this most typical question of all expats. At some point of any conversation it pops out living me wondering what to answer.

There were rarely happy times in the history of Europe and the first half of 20th century brought huge changes to the territories of many countries. (We don't mention the fall of 3 major Empires : Russian, Ausrtia-Hungary, Germain ones) . (Was it less painful then the crash of the colonial world of African countries?) How to measure positive and negative points of such events.
And would it be less painful to our generation to find out what people thought in the 15 th century after Hundred Year's War in Europe.

Still , I understand that it must be very important to those who ask really get the true answer ...

BUT the thing is that to me this question if more from the provocative series ones: "
No matter what you answer the problem of such questions will be the true answer as the is no such thing, as an absolute truth. Reality has many faces and everyone speaks of his own experience. So all variations of answers are possible.

If you spent your childhood playing with a cute neighbor later in you live you are most likely to think that ALL neighbors are cute. If on the contrary you were chased around by a crowd of teenage neighbors your perception of the neighbors will be not so optimistic...

I have met once a nice old British gentlemen, whose daughter was married to a French guy, and who claimed to hate French....but was a subject to his family jokes, as he found any French he met in his life "absolutely-adorable".

People might have strong "pro" or "contre" opinions on the other nationalities, but if you try to scratch a little and get to the origin of such opinion you must be ready for surprises. Even when all claim to know the truth... you might discover a little thing which will balance the opinions.

We live in the open world . Have many sources of information to choose from..and still our opinion on the other nations has nothing to do with the nationality or any national identity. It is often related to the personal experience.

P.S. I know this is not the answer you have expected but I am afraid this is the only one possible )))))

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Marrying a Russian guy. Part 2: "Asking a girl's hand"

My American daughter has fallen in love with a Russian man in the States, actually to be specific he's Ukraine. Is it customary for him to ask her father and I for her hand in marriage?
Also my daughter says his family won't be at the wedding because they are not allowed to leave the Ukraine? Does that seem normal?
Asked by Elissa, USA

I am happy to learn that Russian (ex-USSR) traditions regarding proposing are of interest for people in other countries. That means that our boys do marry foreign girls !

However, few of Russian (by that I mean ex-USSR populations) know the origin of this ritual.


Many believe that "asking a hand" tradition came from Western Europe, where several centuries ago was established a custom of offering future bride when proposing to her one glove.

Hence the expression "ask a hand" became widely used throughout the world.
Of course, that means not only proposal to create a family, but also the promise to love, care and support.

In the ideal world, making such offer man promises to love his woman forever, to share her joy and sorrow & to be faithful.

Sweet and necessary precision
..... he guarantees her permanent attention, care and understanding in any situation.
(It is international, isn't it? ))))

And of cause it always meant that a man who decided to start a family must have not only material and moral independence but most importantly - the confidence in his feelings and intentions towards his future wife.
....And of course, he
must prove to his future bride
 and to the people who raised her that he is sure of his feelings. Marriage (regardless of the country, time or language) has always been and is considered as one of the most serious steps in the human's existence.
Modern times, trends or traditions may insist that this is not important, but deep inside every parent would want to see the future life-time-partner (isn't it what marriage is about) to show respect towards the people who invested their lives in their daughter (wouldn't it be finally flattering for a parent to see that his opinion really counts)))).

BUT one of the advantages of being a woman today is to have a choice (unlike many of our ancestors) to accept the offer, to refuse it or to postpone her decision taking time to weigh all pros and cons.

STILL (just like our ancestors) man can expect at least some kind of response. He, in turn, as a true gentleman should be ready to accept his own defeat if he gets rejected.


Having said all of above I shall mention that Russians do have certain specific traditions in such ritual of "the proposal".

Until The October revolution of 1917 it was always a parent's choice when it came to choosing a husband or a wife. So in such delicate matter they often needed to be assisted in making the right choice.
Thus the job of a matchmaker was created, leaving to this person and the future parents-in-law from both sides these unromantic practical calculations and negotiations, which often made their children's tastes secondary.
That tradition left to a girl passive role and only a matchmaker was her confident...however those matchmaker- ladies (often in the mature age) also managed to take advantage of the market ...and get potential grooms to fall for a matchmaker)))) (oh, this timeless competition between the youth and the experience!)

Later on when the Soviets came to power many old tradition have been changed.

One of which was the disappearance of the engagement ritual; wedding rings, matchmaking job was considered as of a  criminal character ("hooker"?) and the people were given a freedom to choose their partners themselves. (The success of each choice can be argued, but every newlywed hoped to go through this casting only once in the lifetime).

Nevertheless, the mentality never change and the propaganda insisted that the IDEAL SOVIET CITIZENs were supposed to treat their parents with the respect. So, like in the old times, the men were supposed to ask permission of the future in-laws "to create a family with their daughter".

THAT HAS NOT CHANGED EVEN NOW. So such act will be considered as appropriate ))))

To answer your second question...I do not know the background of the family of the boy. But even not mentioning financial aspects of the trip to the USA and knowing that the majority of ex-USSR citizens will need an entry visa to come to the US, I would refer this part of the question to the USA visa authorities