Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Russian Christmas Sale

Me and my wife are a little envy when we hear about Christmas sale in Europe or USA. Prices are so low, most of the merchandise is even cheaper than here in Russia, and of course the quality of the products sold is higher than here.
You might say "Poor Russians, how you live without Christmas sale?". You are wrong, we have a christmas sale. But as with all the things that we borrow from you, it is enriched with Russian colour.
Almost all of the december you can see a lot of billboards that say "New Year's 50% discount". Looks attractive. Let's vizit one of this sales. Wow! The price is 20% HIGHER than it was in November! Well, that is New Year's sale in Russia! Merchants know that demand is very high before the New Year and try to get more money. Not from larger amount of sales but from the higher prices. People would buy in any way, especially if it is said that "discount is 50 %".

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Software bugs lead to deaths from alcohol poisoning.

We all know that software bugs are annoying and sometimes dangerous. When you are in Russia, software bugs can harm your health or cause your death.

This year is the worst of almost 20 years for Russian alcoholics. Our government has decided to put in some order to the alcohol market, centralize and computerize it. The idea was to develop a computer database to store all the operations performed between players on the alcohol market. It’s aim is to stop cheap illegal alcohol products circulating here. What we get when our government tries to make something ordered? Right. Even more disorder.

The computer database was full of bugs. Actually, legal alcohol manufactures, importers and intermediaries were unable to operate. The database was down almost all the time during summer. Unfortunately by that time the law prohibiting alcohol operations that are not reflected in this database was already in action. There was almost no alcohol at shops. It was a perfect situation for criminal alcohol market to grow. And it did.

What is the criminal alcohol like? It is produced from spirit that is not intended to be used by humans as a drink. It’s a poison. Today we almost have an epidemic of alcohol poisoning. Large amount of the poisoned people are pensioners. I saw an interview with one woman suffering from toxic hepatitis caused by illegal alcohol. Correspondent asked her «Did you know that this is dangerous alcohol?» - «Yes» - «Why did you drink it?» - «It’s cheap».

What can I say. Russian people still combine extreme genius with extreme stupidity.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Beware of sharks!

From Here

Russian Typhoon Class submarine (Russian name is Akula (Shark)) passes near the beach full of people.


You can read more about this class of submarines here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typhoon_class_submarine

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

"Thank you for smoking" - In the Russian way

According to the recent research conducted at Arkhangelsk, 38% teenage boys and 28% teenage girls are smokers. It's amazing how tobacco compamies are receiving this amount of young customers even without television ads (that are illegal in Russia). Back to Soviet Union, a smoking kid was a kind of outcast or a misfit. Now it is "cool" to smoke.
The average age of death for the male population of Russian North is about 50 years. The generation that is dying today at this age is far more healthy than those smoking kids. What we will get in the near future? 40 years of life or less...

Kindergarten problem

The last Russian baby boom was long ago in the early 80s. Then came perestroika, fall of Soviet Union and Boris Yeltsin. The country was in ruins, almost everyone except criminals were too poor. Child birth rate has significantly decreased. Kindergartens were empty and there was no perspective for them. Big part of them got closed. Now the buildings used earlier as kindergartens are used as offices or shops. But due to high oil prices Russian economic is now getting better, people are getting richer and the number of children born is increasing. And again it is a very big surprise for Russian government. Kondergartens are full, it is almost impossible to find a place for your child. And as always is Russia it is causing a great source of bribes for bureaucrats that have any affection on what kids will get their places at kindergartens. The amount of bribe now is too high for the majority of people.
There can be a way around it - non-government kindergartens. But... They are prohibited by the same bureaucrats.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Next President of Russia?

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Our mayor Aleksander Donskoy has recently told journalists that he should become Vladimir Putin’s successor. Stop laughing! He is serious.

Donskoy is the FIRST one to claim his ambitions. His president’s program is aimed to further harden internal and foreign politics and to strengthen Putin’s “vertical of power” by eliminating the institute of mayor election. Government relationships with oligarchs would be even harder than now; he says that “Business talents of oligarchs are very helpful in Siberia”.

Now let me say something about our mayor’s person. He is 36 years old. Pretty young for Arkhangelsk’s mayor, his precedes were older than 50. He was the owner of the largest food trading network of Arkhangelsk, but now he has sold it for about 7 million dollars. I have to say that he is more active as a mayor than anyone before him. Others were just sitting on their asses letting the city slowly slide into destruction. The city is still almost there, we know that there’s almost nothing can be done about that, but at least we have an impression that there’s a hope 

Of course, no one really believes in President Donskoy, but his intentions have one good result – Arkhangelsk is in top Russian news almost for the first time since the block of flats explosion in 2004, where 89 people were killed.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Russian movies - what they are like?

In The Soviet Union cinematography was a huge industry. May be it was no that big as Hollywood, but there were no bad films. Yes, strictly zero. Every movie was a masterpiece, with great scenario and perfect actors' play. Moreover movies were not only entertaining, they were thoghtful.
But with the fail of Soviet Union this beauty was all dead and gone. The number of movies produced have decreased to no more than 10 per year. And the quality of that movies was very low.
But several years ago the resurrection of russian cinematography has begun. It was a slow and painful process but finally it did well.

The first great Russian movie I saw was "The Night Watch". It is based on the fantasy trilogy about the opposition between dark and light "others". "Others" are a wide variety of creatures - wizards, vampires, witches and so on. They live lives of common russian people but also they have their secret life full of adventures. The
movie featured visual effects that were never seen in russian movies before. We were visiting theaters again and again just to see how good russian movie can be. "The Night Watch" quickly became best-seller movie holding russian box office record.

The second movie was a screen version of another popular book - Boris Akunin's "The Turkish Gambit". It covers the period of the war between Russia and Turkey. The movie has a great intriguing scenario, written by the book's author, and hollywood-style visual effects. And again it have had a fenomenal cash record, overcoming "The Night Watch".

The third one is the second part of "The Watch" trilogy, calling "The Day Watch" combining the second and the third books of the corresponding trilogy. This movie was actual breakthrough. Again. It was like "The Matrix" for hollywood, it has set up a new level for visual effects, operator and director's work for russian movies. Actually it looked even better than the majority of hollywood products. And again it was ideologically very close to the hearts of russian people. And best-seller again.

Since then russian movies are constantly getting more cash in theaters than american movies. Russian viewers do want good russian movies and they are finally ready to pay for them.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Borat is banned in Russia

Russian's Federal Culture and Cinematography Agency ("Goskino") has banned Borat from russian movie theatres. According to officials, "this movie contains materials that some people may find humiliating or abusive". Only porn films were banned from theatres before.

This is what I expected for. Before you start to blame Russia for our anti-democratic behavior take a notion of just one thing. Russia is multicultural country. The mix of religions, nations and cultures is so complicated you can hardly imagine. And of course it's very hard to keep all this messy stuff from falling into chaos. Relationships between defferent religous groups are not peaceful, and that's a fact. Sometimes a very little thing can cause a big fight with bad consequences. Having all that in mind, there's only one wise decision - stop the potential threat as soon as it is possible.

Just think about it. Common Russian school. Russian, Ukrainian, Georgian and of course Kazakh students. And then the popular movie appears that says "Kazakh drink piss". Kazakh children quickly become social outcasts offended at every corner. What's next? Kazakh children fight back. Other children fight them too and the next day it's their parents' turn to fight. What do you think it is? Yes, massive conflict between ethnical groups.

Kazakh are presented here just for example. I think that Kazakh people are the most peaceful ethnical group in Russia (at least, they have the lowest criminal activity). But everyone's patience has it's limits.

Well, may be Borat is funny (actually I don't think so), but the fact is that his popularity (say money) comes from a bloody source. Borat is the next generation of terrorists.

A Little Story to Start From

Summer at the Russian North is very short, no longer than 1 month. But this single month a year sometimes is extremely hot. When I say extremely, I certainly mean relatively hot, 30 degrees celsius is far-far beyond acceptable temperature for us, northern russians. This summer was just like that. We were suffering from heat, and that was terrifying.
Yes, the river is just beside the city. I can come out of my office and in 10 seconds I will be on the beach. Well, it is not as good as it seems. The river is very-very-very dirty. In fact, it is the river of poison. It is filled with toxic wastes from pulp-and-paper manufactures.
We were in terrible need for a place to cool our bodies down, and such a place appeared. It was a small wooden swimming pool with a liquid substance that looked like a clear water. It was standing on the beach, calling everyone to come in. But... it was empty. Almost no one ever came close to it. Why? The price for swimming was even more terrifying than the heat. The beutiful little pool stood their for all of the hot time, but two weeks later the weather became very cold and rainy. Good useful idea but complete financial disaster. There's one thing russian businessmen need to understand - they don't have to be that greedy.

Brief overview of Arkhangelsk

First of all, I’d like to tell you something about the city I live in. It is called Arkhangelsk and named after Archangel Michael. The city stands on the bank of the river Northern Dvina and it is not very far from the White Sea. The city was founded in the year of 1584 and ever since then it was one of the major Russian sea ports. The city is not very large, it’s population is about 400 000 people.
Below is the photo of Arkhangelsk at winter from the height of a bird flight.