This struck me the other day. Let’s consider:
Reasonable lunch at the library or institute (small salad, ½ cup of soup, meat&side dish and/or tvorog [a sweet, non-lumpy farmer’s cheese, if you will] cake) – 150 rubles. Roughly $5.
All the kartoshki and other cookies I could ever want for the week – 150 rubles.
Metro card for the month – 255 rubles (around $9.15)
A ½ liter (I don’t know quite the conversion – roughly a pint and a third) of draft beer – 150-250 rubles (depending on import/export, etc. You understand how beer pricing differs)
The price of a drawing pad, extra notebook of yellow legal pad (the cheapest one in the store) and eraser -194 rubles
Ticket to a pretty nice seat at the famous Teatr na Taganke, depending on the show – 150-500 (only the very most famouses of their shows or premiers get up to about 1000 r. for good seats)
What determines the costs of goods and services here is beyond me. Some things (like the shower rod and curtain I had to buy for 700 r. because there was nothing imported from a country closer than Canada) have prices that are reasonably jacked up because of importation. Still. I could have bought that same curtain and rod at Wal-Mart – maybe even something of higher quality – for around $3.50.
I don’t know why I put the “could” there – I speak from experience. This must be what “transition economy” signifies – the basics (which, apparently, includes tickets to those theaters that give the older populace nostalgia for the days of “good ol’ dissidence against the Soviet man” [it’s much harder to be dissident against capitalism, especially when you have to buy a t-shirt to participate in the picketing…]) are at prices even a hard-pressed pensioner could afford.
But as soon as it gets into questions of erasers and notebooks and other unnecessary, frivolous, ridiculous materials for “educateds” (‘you literary types,’ as I’ve [true story] heard it spat through clenched teeth with almost as much vehemence as any other slur) – oh, no, milk those for all they’re worth! I could buy three loaves of bread to feed my family, or an eraser…
…I must be missing something.
Edit: Speaking of materialism, I have but one thing on my Christmas list: a bad ass leather jacket with feathers sprouting from its shoulders. It is B.Flow and Frozen Icarus IN ONE! Gah! So much angst! So far to fall from the sky to the sea! Such pelagic depths await!
I’m a crazy person.
Edit, part II: Third time, now, I've tried to finish this post. I was browsing at amazon, trying to come up with good gifts for people. I happen to look at the right hand portion of the screen, where it tells me I can express pay out with a certain phrase. The phrase it gives me? "Icarus's bureaucratic rivals."
I started laughing in the middle of the cafe. Because? Wait for it -
6 months ago