i>Question. Yevgeni, you seem to be a person on a world scale. However, for all that, you live in the city and walk along its streets. Do this city’s issue concern you?
Of course, I am not a person of world scale. I have never been to any other planet and to outerspace. I have been living in Moscow since 1948. Earlier, I lived in Tbilisi and finished school there. Afterwards, I came to the capital and entered the Institute of Oriental Studies. Therefore, since that time, I have been living here, except the five years I spent abroad. Moscow is my native city, and I cannot imagine myself in any other parallel place independent of Moscow life.
Question. Do you think Moscow life of recent years is similar to what you remember from 1948?
Moscow has seriously changed since that time. It is now completely another city, more similar to Western capitals: huge houses, lights, a lot of restaurants and cafes, traffic jams. I suppose this will remain in the history as “Luzhkov Moscow” or something like that. These are signs of urbanization: new people come here, foreigners, ect. Though, that old Moscow also had its charm, which now belongs now the memory.
Now we have social stratification. It has appeared not long ago, though it has become already a habitual issue. Do you feel comfortable living in a city where there are so many poor people? It is sad to see an old woman in the street begging for money. Of course, I understand it is typical for every country turning to a market system. However, it is completely impossible to get accustomed to it and look at it calmly. Unification is typical for another kind of society. During Soviet times, another groups of people stood out with their incomes, for example, Soviet scientists. I was 22 when I was elected to Soviet Academy of Sciences. At that time, a member of the Academy received 500 rubles a month, while the exchange rate was 63 kopecks for one dollar. I still receive 440 rubles as an academician. You see the difference? However, those privileges existed only for separate categories of citizens who really deserved them. This could not cause social protest. Other people’s salaries were more or less equal. Now, mass categories of workers do not earn enough, while separate businessmen earn much, even too much. Of course, it is not bad that somebody earns much if he fairly earns his money, though, it is not good when scientists or actors earn so little. Now, people who work with other people, teachers and doctors, earn less than those who work with metals or papers, because, earlier, it was supposed that citizens who work in material production produced the gross domestic product. While others do not create material value, so they make up the so-called “non-production sector. Apropos, after I became the government’s chairman, I cancelled a decree passed earlier abolishing additional payments to teachers for checking up class works and academic degrees.
However, now, to high-paid categories state employees belong to high paying categories who, officially, do not receive such large salaries. So, it means they evade laws or they are corrupted. It is with what we all have to fight.
Fiscal institution cannot see it, while their people next door probably do.
Recently, I have been visiting restaurants from time to time. And there are many people there, including youth. Such young people possess enough money to spend it in restaurants. Though, they do not look like functionaries. Where do they get such big money?
Moscow seems to be similar to big Western cities, though there is still not an accurate division: rich districts and poor districts. In general, you are right. Though I suppose, in the very center, there are no more poor people.
Most people even cannot afford to have children. One child in a family is not a problem, while two or three, yes. And this causes a dangerous tendency. Apropos, Moscow attracts people first of all due to its high living standard. And mayor Luzhkov really does much to help pensioners, which cannot be said about other cities’ administrations. Though, of course, Moscow has higher incomes than other cities; there are so many big banks and companies here, whose taxes partly come to the local budget.
Though, the situation with Moscow budget does not look as cloudless, as usual.
Theoretically, the federal authorities are right to suppose that people in all of Russia's regions should have the same living standard independently of where they live. And, besides, it is very important to preserve the united economical space. In our country, many people probably suppose that Moscow should share it's 'fat' with other regions. However, they did not take into account that in this way, the economical development of the country could be hampered. That is why I and my colleagues from the Fatherland faction do our best to prevent this practice. All these pumped over means are usually spent for consumption, while it would be better if Moscow plants, which are, as a rule, more developed, penetrate into regions and produce something together with the local producers. In this way, regional infrastructures would be developed.
It looks like Moscow is no longer an industrial city. What place does it occupy in the division of labour inside the country?
You know, it is everywhere that big cities are being relieved of industry. I cannot say that it is bad. Though, industry withdrawn from the capital should continue its existence somewhere else. But industrial works’ withdrawal from Moscow does not signify their annihilation.
Moscow’s future could be predicted looking at London, Paris, and New York, could not it? We have our own specification. To me, Moscow will not completely repeat any existing megalopolis. For example, when we speak about rich and poor districts, let us say in New York, we cannot see the same in Moscow. New York was historically formed in this way. There are ethnic districts there, Chinese, Italian, ect. And it is still being developed in the same way. Brighton Beach is a relatively new district settled with imigrants from the USSR.
In Moscow, there are now many imigrants from Third World countries that have never belonged to the USSR: the Vietnamese, Afghans, the Chinese, Pakistanis, and Nigerians.
Though, as a rule, they live illegally in Moscow.
Therefore, do they live worse in their warm countries than here in Moscow if they come here? Even Turks prefer Moscow to Istanbul.
As a rule, Turks work as builders here and stay in Moscow for a long time. It is significant, without doubts. Though, it is not the main argument that our life is better. For example, in its expensiveness; Moscow seriously outdoes many European cities.
So, it turns out that we have a rich city? To make sense of it, it would be enough just to go to a supermarket. It is a paradox: the country’s destruction, economy’s volumes have been reduced, while the consumers’ market is so rich?
Here, there is an element of a subsistence society. You know what is interesting? In the West, some perishable goods are being marked down, and they can be bought cheaper, for example, in the evening. While, in our supermarkets, there is not such a system. The sellers prefer to artificially keep high prices, and they never will sell the goods cheaper. Flower are withering, but they cannot be sold cheaper than a monopoly price. The mafia works here. It is bad. Because poor people, pensioners, could buy some foods for example at the end of the day. Paradoxes and absurdities, it seems, will not leave our reality for a long time.
Anatoli Baranov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Vera Solovieva Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2001/12/10/34720.html