Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Red Dawn

What a difference a decade makes. Have the Russians actually won the Cold War? Maybe it just took them a while to realize it.

If you'd told my students ten years ago that major tourist destinations all around the world would be packed with Russians, and there would be Russian menus everywhere, they'd have laughed their asses off. The place I stayed in the Dominican Republic has a "Russky Magazin" across the street, staffed and owned by Russians for Russians.

While Russia's economy has slowed down considerably since the mid 2000s, and is tied pretty tightly to the price of oil, it still seems (by the numbers) healthier than the massively debt-ridden economies of the US and Europe.

Anecdotally, I've recently visited the Nissi Beach area of Cyprus, and Punta Cana, which are packed with Russian tourists, and I saw good-looking and healthy people -- slim and attractive women, burly and straight-backed men. Their clothes are considerably less goofy than they use to be, too.

The British and German and Canadian tourists I saw were mostly stoop-shouldered, pale unhealthy-looking old blobs. I was particularly unimpressed by the British in Cyprus -- snaggle-toothed, pot-bellied, covered with blurry tattoos, drunk at 10:00 am -- and usually dragging equally obnoxious children around. These are the ravers I was dancing on the beaches of Thailand with 20 years ago, now in their equally dissolute middle-age.

Funny how it all works out!

Alas, civilization has its price. It's now illegal to drink on the beach in Vodkaberg and all the cheap cafes in the park and on the embankment were closed. Apparently you can't buy alcohol of any sort, including beer, in shops after 10:00pm in a number of cities. The NEW New Russians, the second generation of successful and middle-class Russians, don't drink as much.

Article about alcohol consumption in modern Russia. Onward and upwards, comrades!


Anonymous said...

The new sober, boring, muscular Russia is exactly the kind of place you're going to want if you ever go to live there again. "Vodkaberg" exists only in your memories now. Do you really miss it?

Anonymous said...

Russia is a large, often isolated place. I doubt that the "New" Russia has infected every corner. There are certainly other Vodkabergs to be had, although perhaps with not all the 'charm' of Vodkaberg.

Cheap alcohol is a good thing (depending on the population - for instance, you could probably trust the Dutch with cheap alcohol) but it's not a good thing for an alcoholic. Whatever the good times were to be had for the itinerant English teacher, alcoholism in Russia was/is fucking tragic and, therefore, it's hard to lament a bit of change until they get their median life expectancy for males past at least 65. Some conservative change is just fucking merciful.