November 8, 2003 by AK
Russia Is Mostly Unmoved by the Troubles of Its Tycoons, according to the title of a recent article in the NYT, which is an example of a good point being supported by shaky arguments. Ostensibly, one of the author’s intentions was to show, by example, how people in the streets of a small town in the middle of nowhere react to the arrest of an oil tycoon.
In this cinder-block town just outside Moscow, people do not have much sympathy for the jailed oil tycoon Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, and care little about the freezing of shares in his company or the turmoil that has convulsed Russia’s financial markets for the past week.
The name of the town is Khimki; it is located, indeed, “just outside Moscow”. (Khimki was the closest the Germans got to Moscow’s city limit in 1941.) I am not sure if most apartment buildings there are built of cinder blocks, but Khimki is the kind of suburb (not a US-style suburb, of course; more like an old London borough) where those Muscovites who cannot afford to buy an apartment in Moscow move to. It is possible to commute from Khimki to central Moscow every day, which many suburban professionals do. As long as one has a job in Moscow, and a registered address in a suburb, one is for all practical purposes a Muscovite. Therefore, Khimki is far from the sort of exemplar small middle Russian town that would ideally suit the reporter’s apparent purpose. One gets a nasty suspicion that Sabrina Tavernise, pressed for time or whatever, felt no inclination for intra-Russian air travel, and chose instead to visit Khimki, which is conveniently located on a common auto route between the center of Moscow and the Sheremetievo International Airport.
I enjoyed the photograph in the right upper corner, especially the salami sticks hanging, in their turn, in the picture’s right upper corner; it’s worth taking a good look at, despite its meagre size and resolution. This is a typical sausage stall at a Moscow/Moscow oblast’ grocery store. Hams and gammons, salamis, bologna, bacon, franks and links, and other varieties whose English names I do not yet know, can all be found in the sausage sections of tens of thousands of food stores scattered around Moscow and its environs. The fact that they exist in Khimki — obviously, the one in the picture is only one of many — is a testimony to its residents’ purchasing power. A kilogram of good salami costs $10–$12 in Moscow: not quite cheap by Russian standards.
The bottom line is that the newspaper of record could have produced a more convincing story if it had not saved on time and effort.
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