Russians Suffered More in ’98 Crisis Than Now, Survey Says

Russians suffered more during the 1998 crisis than they are during the current one, according to a survey released Thursday.

About 40 percent of Russians said they have not been affected by the current economic crisis, up from the 26 percent who made the same claim about the 1998 default and ruble devaluation, according to the survey by the Public Opinion Foundation.

The difference is obvious, just look outdoors,” said Oleg Tyurpenko, chief executive of MetallService, Russia’s biggest metals trader. “Imported goods are still out there on store shelves and foreign cars are being driven around. The atmosphere is completely different now because the economy is much stronger than it was back in 1998.”

Following the government’s default on $40 billion of domestic debt on Aug. 17, 1998, the ruble dropped in value from 6 rubles to the dollar to more than 20 rubles to the dollar by the year’s end.

Thirty-two percent of respondents said they suffered more from the 1998 default, while only 20 percent said the current crisis was worse than the one 11 years ago.

Thirty-six percent said they have been affected by macroeconomic problems both in 1998 and now.

The government, whose own financial problems prompted the 1998 crisis, is better off now and has played an active role in softening the effects of the current turmoil, Tyurpenko said. “The government is much stronger now and it is much more active in solving social problems than it was 11 years ago,” he said.

In 1998, the crisis mainly affected people over 60 and living in Moscow, the survey found.

This time, Russians aged from 31 to 45 are suffering the most from the crisis and Moscow is among the cities suffering the least, it said.

The cities dealt the most severe blow by the current crisis are others with populations of more than 1 million, it said.

Surprisingly, most of the 600 so-called mono-cities whose livelihood depends on one enterprise have a population of less than 1 million. Analysts have warned that the potential for social unrest is highest in those towns as their enterprises lay off workers and shut down amid the crisis.