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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Present From Russia With Love

When you go home for the holidays, after the madness of living in Russia, friends and family may find you a bit touched.


And since their concern is often manifested through extra sympathy eggnog, why not buy loved ones gifts that reflect your state of mind? Why not pick up a Christmas present that says, "I've been head-butted by babushki and robbed by gypsies"?


Moscow teems with such gift ideas, so if your sister is saying "enough with the matroshka dolls," and you have been out to Izmailovsky Park one time too many, try these options instead.


Stocking Stuffers: How about a pack of Belomorkanal cigarettes for that militant non-smoking American? They cost a mere 500 rubles (10 cents) for a pack of 25 and can be found at kiosk #4 in the perekhod between the Lenin Library and Alexandrovsky Sad. They are a gift that says: "Lighten up and light up." And you could pave a road with the tar they contain.


Your little brother will light up with this memento of life in Russia: Stick in his stocking the ten dollar bill thrown back in your face by the obmen valuty women for having a "suspicious-looking" microscopic tear in the corner.


And why should your friends listen to Michael Bolton crooning "Little Drummer Boy" when you can buy them a tape with a cigar-smoking Stalin who looks like Leonard Cohen emblazoned on the cover? Just outside the Lenin Museum, nationalists and neo-Nazis stake out their niche every day and sell fascist literature, videos and audio cassettes. The aforementioned Stalin tape costs a mere 20,000 rubles and includes hits like "Ode to the Fatherland" and "We Should All Be More Like Comrade Lenin and Comrade Stalin."


Inside metro Kropotinskaya, the tables near the turnstiles hold some true wonders of Western culture -- ones we're too savvy to buy back home. Pick up some Arnold Schwartzennegger and Michael Jackson chewing gum, or "Penthouse" and "Beach Girls" gum (500 rubles each), all with appropriate stickers inside. Beware of the "Beach Girls," though; when my friend and I bought one each, we both got Cher.


For under the tree: While others bring Bailey's and Kahlua to Christmas dinner, you can spike the punch at Aunt Ethel's with tasty Russian beer. Starting at 3,000 rubles and available anywhere, this is a merry drop of Moscow living. You can even bring the party out to sit on the curb beside the nearest underpass, snorting exhaust for that really authentic Moscow flavor. There's nothing like health risk to spice things up.


If that's too racy, they can ferment their own goodies with kvas mix which sells for 5,800 rubles at kiosk #809 in the market outside metro Bagrationovskaya.


For the earnest communist Brit in your life, there's the inexhaustible Revolutionary Museum at 21 Tverskaya, a place with something for everyone. Among the old Party paraphernalia available here is a crest holding eight dead presidents and one live one, which costs 50,000 rubles; and, a large black-and-white photo of Stalin in an oval wooden frame for a mere 45,000 rubles. This bargain Stalin, incidentally, is a steal compared to a 10-centimeter porcelain statuette of Misha the Olympic bear that costs 75,000 rubles. There are also Soviet era posters galore -- like the one of wheat which sells for 300,000 rubles and carries this caption: "Pick No Less Than 127 Tons."


A must have gift for the family heart surgeon can be found over on the corner of the New and the Old Arbat where a young man regularly sells a photo book titled simply, "Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin" (10,000 rubles). It shows the humble leader petting sheep, stumbling toward a tennis ball, hugging Alexander Lukashenko, chatting with Bill Clinton (with the caption "It's not all so simple, Bill...").


Also, don't forget that while your friends are unwrapping these gifts, you can regale them with your tales of kiosk-hopping -- what may be the cause of homicidal headaches for you is exotica to them.


At least it's always good for that fifth mug of eggnog.