Russian rich evade rouble squeeze as old and poor queue: A decision to withdraw old currency hits some harder than others. Helen Womack in Moscow explains how a few can profit from the change

ANNA ILICHEVNA, one of Moscow's senior citizens, has 15,000 old roubles (pounds 10), the little nest egg she has managed to saved from her monthly pension of 12,000 roubles. Anatoly Kozlov, one of the new generation of businessmen, had 10m old roubles (pounds 6,700) until Sunday when he managed to dump the cash, which yesterday became obsolete under Russia's new money reform. They are typical victims of the central bank's decision to withdraw pre-1993 roubles from circulation but they are most unequally placed to cope with the sudden crisis.

All Mrs Ilichevna can do is keep waiting patiently in one of the many huge queues that built up outside savings banks yesterday as Russians tried to exercise their right to change old notes bearing the head of Lenin into notes printed with the Russian tricolour.

The amount that could be changed on the spot rather than deposited at the bank for eventual refunding was originally set at 35,000 roubles, but late yesterday President Boris Yeltsin decreed that the ceiling was being raised to 100,000 roubles (dollars 100) and the deadline was being extended from 7 August to the end of next month.

Mrs Ilichevna did not know of that concession when at lunchtime yesterday she had already been waiting two hours with about 100, mainly elderly people, in a line outside the savings bank on Karetny Ryad Street and the cashiers still had not even opened the doors. 'The problem is that the new money has not yet arrived,' she said, raising her eyebrows. She was, however, managing to keep calm.

Pensioners know from bitter experience that maintaining one's equilibrium, whatever the provocation, is a matter of survival. Back in 1991, when the then Soviet Prime Minister and later coup plotter, Valentin Pavlov, withdrew 100-rouble notes from circulation, several pensioners died of heart attacks in queues of desperate people trying to change their money.

Some of Mrs Ilichevna's neighbours in the queue, who shielded themselves from the hot sun with umbrellas, looked as if their blood pressure was already rising. 'It's disgusting, it's terrible,' interjected the fat woman behind her. 'The mafia should be the ones suffering from this reform but they'll find ways of getting round it. We, the ordinary people, get hit yet again.'

By 'mafia' the fat woman meant businessmen like Mr Kozlov, who is making a good living by selling imported hi-fi equipment. Had he declared his profits for tax, he need not have worried about the reform, for he would have been entitled to change all his money under special conditions for law-abiding businesses. But like most other Russian entrepreneurs, he cheated the tax man on the grounds that the state demanded an unreasonable percentage. Thus he was left with a suitcase full of old roubles and was in a blind panic on Saturday after news of the reform had been announced.

'Luckily on Sunday I managed to find a guy who sold me a whole truck full of blank video cassettes and so I exchanged the old money for goods,' said Mr Kozlov. But what would the cassette salesman want with old roubles? Did he not know they were about to become worthless? 'Oh sure, but you see he will have his channels for getting rid of them.'

Vitaly Markov, an assistant in a private kiosk that had been doubling its prices to customers wanting to pay in old roubles, explained: 'State enterprises are getting full refunds for their old money so anyone who has a contact with someone in a state shop can offload their dead roubles through them. That's how we were able to take the old notes without making a loss.'

(Photograph omitted)

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
footballTim Sherwood: This might be th match to wake up Manchester City
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Blahnik says: 'I think I understand the English more than they do themselves'
Arts and Entertainment
Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Crawley in Downton Abbey
TVInside Downton Abbey series 5
Life and Style
The term 'normcore' was given the oxygen of publicity by New York magazine during the autumn/winter shows in Paris in February
fashionWhen is a trend a non-trend? When it's Normcore, since you ask
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam