For Russia's flamboyant New Rich, the upscale Sadko Arcade is the place to visit during the Christmas holidays. Sadko secured its spot in the annals of conspicuous consumption two years ago with its costly, plush animals. In some Moscow circles, 1994 became the Year of the $10,000 Stuffed Horse. This year, Sadko's theme is Home Holiday Decor, and the Swiss-run arcade blazes with a dazzling array of handmade German decorations and artificial trees costing as much as $4,500. ""It's snow-proof, water-proof!"" Sadko executive Martin Binder enthuses, gesturing at the 4 1/2-meter-high faux fir. ""You can even put it outside!"" The flashy, post-Soviet elite used to flaunt its wealth in the bluntest possible fashion: Wear it, drink it, drive it, eat it. But the days when a Mercedes said it all are over. Now, Russia's New Rich are getting house proud, Binder says. He's sold seven of the trees so far, and five $1,290 angels with silver wings and golden hair. As for the $329 wreaths, well, he's simply lost count.
Don't expect a line of limousines at the polls Sunday. Many of the people flourishing in the ""new'' Russia probably won't bother to vote. Predictions that anti-reform parties -- like the Communists -- who court the angry, the elderly and the impoverished will do well in the parliamentary elections don't seem to faze the new rich. If Rome is about to burn, these people are reaching for their fiddles. Maxim's, the posh French restaurant, is already half-booked for a $450-a-plate New Year's Eve feast of oysters, caviar and duck. ""People are calling every day,'' said headwaiter Andrei Ozol, who recommends a nice bottle of 1971 Chateau Petrus Pomerol for just $4,500 to go with it. Business is also brisk at the Maserati dealership, where salesman Vadim Zityatdinov reports that a client recently paid cash -- more than $200,000 -- for one of the sleek Italian sports cars.