Articles by Lena Smirnova

Lena Smirnova started writing for The Moscow Times as an intern in 2011 and returned to be a business reporter the next year. Her journalism career has already had her go from trotting potato fields during a period of record rainfalls to getting whipped with tree branches in a Russian banya to digging for long-lost treasure. She currently writes about retail, transport, real estate, energy and marketing. You can contact her at

Cashiers on the Front Line of Battle Against Teenage Alcoholism

University student Darya Kiriyichko has an allergy to alcoholic beverages. She had a drink during her coming-of-age birthday party and ended up in hospital. But her forced sobriety does not mean alcohol has not played a role in her life.

Fairy-Tale Characters Celebrate Holidays in Belarus

Folk heroes and traditional figures from throughout the former Soviet Union gathered together in Belarus for a celebration.

Olympic Village Apartments Going on Sale

The Sochi Olympic Village, set to house athletes during the Games from January through March, will then morph into a premium-class residential resort, with sales of apartments to start by the end of this year.

Shake Shack Bets on Moscow in 'Unusual Expansion Plan'

It's unusual for a company to expand into a foreign country - perhaps especially Russia - before conquering its home market. But with Russians flocking to Shake Shack in New York and Dubai, the owners of the popular U.S. burger chain realized that they had to open in Moscow.

New Signage Rules to Take Effect Next Year

If a bright advertising sign outside your window does not let you sleep or you find the oversized letters on store signs you pass on the way to work are an eyesore, take heart because they are about to be scrapped.

Perceptions of Environmental Challenges Acute

More than a quarter of Russians consider the ecological situation in the country to be "close to catastrophic" and 59 percent said that there are severe ecological problems, according to a survey that state-run VTsIOM carried out in November.

Young Architects Visualize an 'Awesome' Moscow

Muscovites were asked to imagine what would make Moscow an "awesome" place to live and had their dreams visualized in 84 sketches by professional architects as part of the "What Moscow Wants" exhibit, which was on display at the Moscow Urban Forum last week.

High-Tech Investors Say Accounting Rules Slow Them Down

Overly bureaucratic accounting rules are one of the biggest hurdles that Internet companies face when they try to start doing business in Russia, executives of new market entrants said at Moscow's fourth TechCrunch conference on Monday.

Suburbs Await Transformation Into Hubs in a New Polycentric Moscow

Moscow will get a new master plan by 2015 to reflect its forthcoming transformation into a polycentric city, in which peripheral areas become alternative hubs for work and cultural activities, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said at the third annual Moscow Urban Forum.

Report Says Moscow Should Prioritize Quality over Cost to Attract Investment

It is hard for Moscow to compete for foreign investment with other metropolises because it offers below-average quality at above-average costs, according to a ranking that IBM presented at the annual Moscow Urban Forum on Thursday.

40 Years On, Polar Bears and Threats to Their Habitat are Multiplying

Environment ministers and delegations from the five countries bordering the Arctic met in Moscow on Wednesday to voice continuing support for polar bear conservation and outline steps for saving the species, which activists and officials say is increasingly vulnerable to the effects of global warming and resource extraction.

Q&A: Oriflame CEO Says Conquer Fear and Take Risk

When Magnus Brännström was 12, he and his family, suppressing their fear, crossed the Iron Curtain for a vacation in the Soviet Union, their friends' warnings still ringing in their ears.

Local Car Parts Manufacturers, Clustered With Foreign Firms, Face Annihilation

Russian auto parts manufacturers face complete disintegration if the government does not support them inside specialized automobile clusters, industry insiders said at a summit Thursday.

Young Entrepreneur Raises Houses and Business Out of Bottles

When a young Interior Ministry intern from Volgograd decided to build a house for himself, he chose unlikely construction materials - recycled plastic bottles - for the project.

First Generation With Wealth Shape Philanthropy Culture

The first Russians to dispose of free wealth in nearly a century are putting down the institutional roots of philanthropy, but donations trail behind the sums shelled out by donors in the U.S., Britain and China.

Russia Loses, but Proud to Host Miss Universe

Miss Venezuela, Maria Gabriela Isler, swept aside 85 contestants to give her country its seventh Miss Universe crown during the competition final in Moscow's Crocus City Hall on Saturday night.

Miss Universe 2013 Competition Kicks Off in Moscow

Miss Universe pageant's arrival in Moscow, the first time the contest has been hosted here in its 62-year history, brought out all the glitter and sequins that the 87 contestants could pack in their suitcases.

Food Price Inflation Reaches Double Digits

Potatoes, eggs and caviar are among the food products that have seen double digit price growth in 2013, according to information released by the State Statistics Service on Wednesday.

Print Losing Out to Digital in Battle for Advertising Spending

Print media is being hit the hardest by a slowdown in advertising spending, as companies trim their marketing budgets and shift focus to digital platforms, according to a recent study from the Association of Russian Communication Agencies.

New Kempinski a Long, Quiet Effort

Moving to Moscow from Dubai, the general manager of the Nikolskaya Kempinski luxury hotel, Burkhard Wolter, was initially put off by what he saw as the Russian capital's "slow pace."

Putin Creates Construction and Utilities Ministry

President Vladimir Putin has created a new ministry for construction, housing and utilities, and appointed former Ivanovo Governor Mikhail Men as its chief, the Kremlin’s press service announced Friday.

Siberian Shoe Retailer Plans to Raise $63M in Local IPO

National shoe retailer Obuv Rossii, or Russian Footwear, plans to carry out an initial public offering on the Moscow Exchange by the end of the year, the company's chief and largest shareholder Anton Titov said Wednesday.

Coastal Erosion Could Threaten Olympic Sites

Extensive construction that was carried out in preparation for the Winter Olympics in Sochi has led to coastal erosion, which increases the risk of damaging newly built sports facilities and other infrastructure, ecologists said.

Sochi Risks Fumbling its Olympic Tourism Opportunity

With 100 days left until the Winter Olympic Games, tourism industry insiders fear that the country has missed its opportunity to capitalize on the event and promote the host city to domestic and international tourists.

Turkish Low-Coster Forces Rivals to React

Competitors' ticket prices are falling due to Turkish low-coster Pegasus Airlines' addition of Moscow and Sochi routes this month, the carrier's commercial director said Wednesday.

Medvedev Talks Straight With Foreign CEOs

Russia's economy has hit a plateau and will grow 2 percent at best in 2013, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told the heads of 48 global companies during an annual meeting of the Foreign Investment Advisory Council at his residence outside of Moscow on Monday.

Car Ownership Easier, More Expensive

With new rules simplifying registration of automobiles going into effect Tuesday, the country's rapidly growing number of motorists will find the time and paperwork it takes to buy and sell a vehicle greatly reduced, while cost of ownership is on the increase.

Seagal to Promote Russian Rifle Model

American action film star Steven Seagal will become the face of a new Russian firearm, the actor announced at a Moscow news conference Friday.

Q&A: Bachurin and 'Stalingrad' Galvanize Russian Film

It takes Ilya Bachurin mere seconds to choose his favorite movie. But when asked to choose his favorite Russian movie, to say that it takes him a long time would be an understatement.

Economy Faces Stagnation Unless Productivity Increases

The Russian economy will stagnate if companies do not increase their labor productivity, which currently averages at 40 percent of that of the Fortune 500 Global companies, according to an annual ranking that Expert Rating Agency presented Wednesday.