A musing on the Russian middle class

Later, however, he became a prominent critic of Yeltsin\’s \”shock therapy\”, which he said had concentrated wealth in the hands of oligarchs and undermined the middle class.

There is indeed a sense that this is true.

However, there\’s also a sense in which it isn\’t. Certainly, not in Moscow.

The Soviet system of housing was all State supplied, yes. But you got a lease, a lifelong and then inheritable lease (and they were serious about this inheritance part: I know of at least one orphan (in fact, know this very orphan) who went off into the orphanage network and then at 18 was presented with her parents old flat which had been kept for her.) on that property.

Luzkov, early 90s, then simply said that all those who had such leases (ie, everyone legally occupying a flat) would get that lease converted into actual ownership on the payment of processing fees, amounting to about $100. I coughed up the fees for a couple of people to do this in fact (no, just a short term loan to friends, not an investment).

There is, therefore, a manner in which modern Russia is a very bourgeois place, a property owning democracy. Given that the population is shrinking (families tend to be very small) this property is simply cascading down the generations.

No, of course it\’s not quite the same, owning housing and the means of production are indeed different things.

But as an example of how family size has worked on this, my partner over there had his own flat (he was, umm, 50 ish when all this was going on) and a dacha (small, but perfectly formed….and no, not some commie big wig, metallurgy engineer) then inherited his mother\’s, his mother in law\’s flats and her dacha.

We once worked out that if he sold everything up he could buy his own island in the Bahamas.

Capital really isn\’t quite as concentrated in the modern Russia as many seem to think.

3 thoughts on “A musing on the Russian middle class”

  1. True. A lot of Russians don’t quite understand that in the rich west, we haven’t had the luxury of buying our home – often a 5 minute walk to a Metro station and from there a 15 minute ride to the CBD – for $100. The problem is those who haven’t been lucky enough to inherit somewhere decent.

  2. My mother-in-law, who works as a cook in a Russian regional capital owns her own apartment she privatized, her late mother’s apartment she inherited, her spinster sister’s apartment she inherited, her alcoholic uncle’s apartment (which he signed over to her in the 90s after someone tried to steal it from him when he was on a binge, in return for her keeping him safe she gets the apartment), and has just inherited a great aunt’s house after being the only relative to take any care of her in her old age.

    Altogether about $800k of property for a woman who earns about $250 a month.

  3. There are two major owners in Russia: the government and oligarchy community. The housing market has almost nothing common with that one we know from our own experience. However building industry in Russia has a long history that is crowned with financial efficiency even during the crisis. The middle class can rely mostly on in heritage from their own ancestors. Above all the prices on land and property market are kept high for a long period of time that discouraging potential investors…

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