Magicians and motors go nowhere fast
Saturday 27 May 1995
A trip on the marble-lined Metro from the Kremlin to the station would take them a mere five minutes and cost the equivalent of less than 10 pence but they would not be seen dead using public transport.
I found myself stuck in my car for an afternoon on Brest Street last week. It was impossibly hot, so the window had to be open. Breathing in the poisonous air probably took years off my life. But the jam did give me a good vantage point from which to contemplate the Russian free market in all its vitality and ugliness.
Trotting in and out among the cars, poor children were hawking newspapers and magazines to the sweaty drivers, and wrecking their young lungs. On the pavements stood older youths, ready to take a cut of the money.
One grubby boy of about eight moved me especially. He was dressed in a frock and a baseball cap. His face was streaked with tears as he tried to persuade drivers to buy Playboy, which he kept dropping in the dust.
I took a copy of Iz Ruk V Ruki from him. The newspaper, whose title means "From Hand To Hand", is nothing but classified ads but it makes fascinating reading. Usually I like to enrage men in traffic jams bysinging nonchalantly while they strain to inch forward but this time I drove them mad by calmly flicking through the paper.
Classified ads are a rich source of information about any society. Because private trading was illegal in Communist times, the Soviet press never published them.
But Iz Ruk V Ruki advertises absolutely everything money can buy, and there is a lot of money washing around in Russia now, although it has yet to trickle down to the masses.
The property pages of the paper are astonishing. "For sale. Villa on the Estonian coast. Multiple garage, sauna, tennis courts, guards. Can arrange Estonian visa." Or: "New brick-built cottage outside Moscow. Four storeys. All mod cons including Finnish plumbing and Jacuzzi. Half-a-million dollars."
If you are not in this league, you can always find a flat to rent in the pages of Iz Ruk V Ruki - if you are racially acceptable. Ads repeatedly end with the words "available to Russians only" or even more blatantly "no blacks". Apparently there is no law against this. By "blacks", Russians do not mean people of African origin but the dark-haired Caucasians, whom they dismiss as gangsters and terrorists.
I like the adverts for magicians best. These are not performers who will pull rabbits out of hats; they are white magicians who will advise superstitious Russians on the most auspicious times to make important decisions, and black magicians who will, for a fee, put the evil eye on a client's enemies.
The lonely hearts columns are also fun. In Soviet times Russians were prudish, but now they say straight out what is on their minds: "Man wants woman with big tits."
But of course, the largest part of Iz Ruk V Ruki is given over to adverts for second-hand cars. Pages and pages of BMWs fresh in from Germany, which will soon render Ladas obsolete, to jam up the rest of Moscow as hopelessly as Brest Street. And further poison the planet in the name of freedom.
- 2 Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
- 3 Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire
- 5 'Hello mum, this is going to be hard for you to read ...'
Sally Farmiloe dead: Howards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, dies aged 60
Women in Turkey have a laugh in public at the deputy Prime Minister's expense
Sabina Altynbekova, the girl branded 'too good looking' for volleyball, says social media obsession with her is a 'bit much'
Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
Australian model Robyn Lawley stages naked protest against huge coal mine seven times the size of Sydney Harbour
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
Land for gas: Merkel and Putin discussed secret deal could end Ukraine crisis
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
A day in the life of Vladimir Putin: The dictator in his labyrinth
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Richard Dawkins tweets: 'Date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse'
- < Previous
- Next >
£18000 - £30000 per annum + Generous commission scheme: AER Teachers: Thames T...
£100 - £120 per day + per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Description Calling a...
£100 - £145 per day + Pension and travel: Randstad Education Maidstone: SUPPLY...
£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Supply teachers neede...