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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Deck the Halls or Else, Shops Ordered

Hate Christmas? Want to cancel New Year's? If you're a shopkeeper, you're out of luck, because in Moscow this winter, seasonal cheer is mandatory.


As well as ordering Moscow factories to ensure supplies of more than 1,300 tons of candy and 800, 000 bottles of champagne for distribution to designated stores and charities, the city government has decreed that shops must display festive decorations in their windows by Tuesday.


The fact that many of these enterprises are no longer state-owned seems to have had little effect on the city's deliberations. "Private? Not private? What's the difference?" asked Vasily Chernosov, of the city government's consumer market department, "The city should be decorated."


While Chernosov said the government might fine those who do not comply, he would not say how large the fine would be -- and said, in effect, that the question was academic because he was certain there would be no such cases.


The scene downtown seemed to prove him correct; all the stores were already decorated.


Chernosov said Moscow government officials had already told shopkeepers to decorate their windows, and were planning to inspect shops next week.


Many shopkeepers in central Moscow said they had already decorated their windows by last week, and many believed the government had every right to tell them what to do.


"It's normal," said Zhenya Sugrobova, at Sirin, a jewelry store on Tverskaya-Yamskaya Ulitsa. "We're not stuck alone in a forest; we live surrounded by other people, and there's no reason why everyone should be able to just do what they want."


Even the threat of a fine did little to dampen managers' spirits.


"It didn't frighten us," said Marina Urbanovich, director of a store called Sport, on Tverskaya Ulitsa. "We were prepared. We bought all our decorations in November." Now Christmas trees glimmer among the store's ski jackets, and a huge sign saying "1995" shines above the skates and sweaters.


Urbanovich said the decorations boosted spirits, as well as business, and were well worth the 500,000 rubles ($150) she had spent on them. The decree did not bother her in the slightest, she said.


"They can always find something to fine us for, so what does it matter?" she asked.


Urbanovich said the freedom to choose decorations made a welcome change from holidays of the past, when Communist Party officials brought, and even hung, the appropriate banners, posters and slogans.


Today, by contrast, Moscow's decorations vary as much in style as in design. GUM, for example, displays an enormous, decorated Christmas tree, surrounded by flashing lights, red bows, and bilingual, Russian and English greetings. For 12,000 rubles, customers can be photographed with a monkey dressed as Santa Claus.


Nearby, Nadezhda Yemets, manager of the dairy shop TOO Moloko, displays her year-round white-and-orange cow surrounded by a field of large plastic daisies. The only seasonal touch, it seems, consists of a few silver garlands dangling above the cow.


"We already have our customers, and no gimmicks are going to help us," she said, unaware of City Hall's involvement. As for the silver garlands, she said, "We've had these decorations for 100 years."