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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bye Abacus, Hello Cash Register

The abacus, the sturdy handmaiden of merchants across Russia, is headed for commercial oblivion if the government has its way.

All retail outlets will be required to ring up sales on a cash register, President Boris Yeltsin decreed this week. The government will work out the exact details of the plan over the next two months, the decree said.

"The reason for the cash registers is for the tax department, so they can verify receipts" said a Yeltsin press spokesman, Alexander Orfyonov. "You know, in the West, all points of commerce have cash registers".

Many store clerks and directors are likely to resist the decree, both for reasons of tradition and because they have insufficient funds to invest in new equipment.

"Why is such a machine needed? " asked Irina Nitina, director of bread store 92, which still counts out sales by abacus. "How much does a cash register cost? They're expensive, very expensive, and on top of that, our store needs capital renovation, there are leaks here".

A Russian-made cash register typically costs 80, 000-90, 000 rubles, a pretty penny for a store like a bakery.

In the short term, stores are likely to cling to their abacuses, using them alongside cash registers, said Nadezhda Tarasova, director of the Preparation Center for Trade Cadres, which trains check-out clerks. Many clerks will add up on the abacus and then punch in the final number on the cash register, she said.

"I think in every store in Russia every salesperson has an abacus", she said. "It's not possible to forbid these by presidential order".

Responsibility for enforcing Yeltsin's cash register requirement will fall to regional administrators. Tax inspectors will then be called upon to verify the store's receipts with their filed tax forms.