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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

It's Not Really A Different Planet Today

Things are changing so rapidly here in Russia that old Moscow hands sometimes feel they have landed on a different planet. So, it is oddly comforting to know that in some places the Soviet Union persists. V. Voronin writes to the paper Golos from the city of Ulyanovsk, the birthplace of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin:


"In our wonderful town of Simbirsk (which is, for some reason still called Ulyanovsk), although they have hung a sign saying 'regional administration' on the former regional party committee building, the head is the same - the former first secretary of the party committee.


"And the bureaucrats are all the same, except that there are even more of them.


"The majority of regional bosses believe fervently in the ideas of their famous fellow countryman. They still have special coupons for food, with subsidized prices, while the town is collapsing for lack of funds. It will take at least two generations for our area to begin leading a normal life. But it would really hurt to have to wait another 70 years".


Even some of the slogans are the same. To those who remember 25 years back to the "Prague Spring", this appeal from Y. Trostyanetsky, published in Sovetskaya Rossiya, will sound wryly familiar:


"I am a firm democrat. I voted for Yeltsin. But now we have economic collapse, runaway inflation, a rise in crime and prices through the roof. It has just become impossible! Yes, we need reform, but with a human face! "


So many new concepts and words have arisen that Russians can be forgiven for being confused. But it is refreshing to note that some retain their sense of humor about it all, as this more than slightly tongue-in-cheek letter can attest. A. Kuzmitsky, from the capital of Uzbekistan, Tashkent, writes to Pravda:


"I am now a foreigner, since I live in Tashkent, but my son lives in Tulskaya district, and I am still able to go there every year without a visa.


"My son has a puppy, whom we decided to name Voucher, to be in step with current fashion. It's a fine name, but, I must confess, I had no idea what the real meaning of the word was. My relatives did not know either. We couldn't find it in an English-Russian dictionary, and one slightly inebriated native of Tula told me it was an American swear word.


"In the airport I bought a pirate copy of a dictionary of American slang. I glanced through it on the plane, but could not find the word 'voucher'. I asked my neighbor if she knew what the word meant, but, taking a look at the cover of my book, she blushed furiously and said 'You ought to be ashamed! ' Perhaps 'voucher' is the untranslatable name of some sly swindler? "