Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Last of the Best and Worst

Looking back at 1993, I hereby present the final part of annual Best/Worst ceremony. Here are the Metro Diary Awards:


Person of the Year: None.


Events of the Year (according to category):


Political: The fall of the Supreme Soviet and vice-presidency, and the beginning of authoritarian leadership.


Economic: The (relative) stabilization of the ruble.


Social: The rise of a national-socialist consciousness, as reflected in the December elections.


Legal: The adoption of an internationally compatible copyright law; the abolition of the anti-homosexuality article from the criminal code.


Cultural: Pina Bausch; Th?‰tre de Complicit?.


Media: Twin Peaks on national television.


Weird: Michael Jackson at Luzhniki Stadium in the rain.


Question of the Year: How many people actually got killed in October?


Hope of the Year: Staying alive.


Rip-off of the Year: Prices at Mos-cow restaurants.


Sport of the Year: Finding the currency exchange with the best rate.


Loser of the Year: Konstantin Boro-voi.


Plague of the Year: Casinos; tab-loids.


Hype of the Year: Presidential Republic.


Drug of the Year: Last year, it was soap operas; this year, nothing seems to get anybody high except money.


Fear of the Year: Walking alone at night.


Joke of the Year: Vouchers.


Resort of the Year: Home (For the rich minority: Thailand).


Enemy of the Year: A gay Chechen mafioso serving in the Ukranian Navy.


Disappearance of the Year (?): The KGB.


Comeback of the Year: Patriotism.


Animal of the Year: Rottweilers.


Food of the Year: Chewing gum.


Drink of the Year: Fake Amaretto.


Surprise of the Year: Cold summer.


n


The coming of the new year in Moscow has been marked by several memorable features. Slippery pavements, huge puddles and fountains of liquid dirt spurting up from the wheels of passing cars are some. I understand that street-cleaning machines, salt and sand are now too expensive for the city government, so all we pedestrians are now more than ever the hostages of bad climatic conditions. Still, remembering the incredible traffic jams I witnessed in December, I'm reluctant to sit down behind the wheel myself.


The good news for us car-less Muscovites with no street trade aspirations is that the bloody baggage carts are now not allowed in the metro, unless their owners fork over a lot of money. The situation in the subway -- especially the apocalyptic Ring Line -- has improved substantially. I suppose taxi and gypsy cabs have become busier and more expensive than ever, but I don't care. Thank you, Mr. Luzhkov -- this is perhaps the first thing your administration has ever done that I really appreciate. I wonder who the unknown hero is who bribed them to issue this decree.


The third important beginning of 1994 is the serious attempt at ruble-fixation. I can't judge the macroeconomic impact of it, but some smaller consequences are already visible. The ruble has fallen against the dollar, and the gap between the official exchange rate and the street rate has widened to more than 50 rubles. For those with hard currency who don't shop much in former "valyuta" stores, this is obviously very good news. Too bad for the others.


n


Russian newspapers threatened to go on strike if the government raised manufacturing costs, which it was planning to do by five or six times. The threat was timed so perfectly with Bill Clinton's visit and the opening of the Federal Assembly that the entire affair smelled of blackmail. No wonder Viktor Chernomyrdin had to take his decision back.


There's something very sneaky about this to me, though. The demand of the newspaper editors is clearly anti-free market, although it is precisely the editors themselves who have always stood for "liberalization of the economy," "a law on bankruptcy," etc. So here we are dealing with a typical case of double standards: Let others suffer from the reforms that we promote, but keep us away from the cruel market economy. In any case, it is better to spend $500 million on supporting newspapers than constructing a new parliament building.