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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Culture too Costly for Muscovites

Foreigners in Moscow always seem to be looking for a new restaurant to frequent. But according to a new telephone poll conducted by the center for public opinion at Moscow State University, Russians have almost entirely given up on eating outside the home. Of 1, 009 Muscovites surveyed, 85 percent had not been to a restaurant in the last twelve months.

It is not hard to see why. The flashy restaurants that play host to gangsters in their BMWs can easily charge an average month's salary - roughly 23, 500 rubles, or about $23 - per person and for mediocre food.

But it is not only culinary pleasures that ordinary Muscovites are going without. Concerned with economic survival in a difficult transition period, Russians are eschewing almost every type of leisure activity that costs anything at all.

According to Alexander Gasparishvili, head of the team that conducted the poll, 69. 9 percent of respondents had not been to a concert in the last year, and 69. 4 percent had not been to a museum. "People do not go to concerts because they do not have time", said Gasparishvili.

"People are too preoccupied with other things", he added. "And ticket prices are too expensive".

During the Soviet era, people became accustomed to superb standards at extremely cheap prices. The lack of attendance at concerts is part of a vicious circle - due to the withdrawal of state subsidies, many orchestras are finding it very difficult to survive. The ticket prices may seem high to concert goers - up to 100 rubles for a ticket at the Tchaikovsky concert hall - but they are still not nearly high enough to cover the musician's expenses.

Museums are still relatively cheap, but Gasparashvili attributes the lack of interest in museums to a general indifference to culture. Only 8. 9 percent of those polled had been to a museum twice in the last year.

The most popular leisure activity was attending the theater. About 10 percent said they had been to the theater two or three times in the last six months. Ten percent had been once in the last six months while 10. 7 percent had been once in the last year. But 58. 6 percent have not been at all in the last 12 months.

The Russians have also registered their disapproval of the offerings in the capital's movie houses. The best products of the Russian film industry are rarely on view in Moscow's cinemas, which are largely dominated by third-rate American imports voiced-over with Russian.

The poll, which was conducted in late April, found that 62. 8 percent of respondents had not been to the movies once in the last year. Those who have money seem to be more interested in watching movies on VCRs in their own homes. and those without money are not inclined to pay up to 200 rubles a ticket to watch a bad movie.

It is hard to determine how much Muscovite's leisure activities have been reduced in the last few years, since according to Gasparashvili, the Moscow State University poll is the first of its kind to harvest legitimate results. "There was a kind of survey done in 1989, but it was part of government propaganda, to show we were a happy people", he said. "I don't think anybody could trust the results".

Gasparashvili said the 1989 survey showed that about half of Muscovites went to the cinema once a week, and that roughly 20 percent went to theaters and museums once a month.

Although Russians have never frequented restaurants as often as people in the West, Gasparashvili said the old poll claimed 30 percent went to a restaurant once a month. "Before, intellectuals would go to the Aragvi, or the Pekin", he said. "Now, restaurants are only for criminals".