Cosmopolitan No More: Russians feel the sting of cultural and economic discord | Russia

A trip to the mall in Russia It is a different experience today than it was just a few months ago.

“When I had my first child, there was all this choice. Mothercare, Zara, you name it,” said Evgenia Marcheva, a 33-year-old architect. But when she went shopping in Moscow this month for her newborn, many were closed One of those big retail brands.

“Now, I can only find very cheap or very expensive Russian products. I grew up on tales of the limited options my parents had during the Soviet Union. I never thought it would come back.”

Three months into the war, Russia has become the world’s most sanctioned country, and nearly 1,000 foreign brands — most of them voluntarily — have scaled back their operations there, according to records It is maintained by Yale School of Management. Corporate migration officially continues this week with McDonald’s announcing You will leave Russia after three decades.

Helped by rising oil and gas export prices, the Kremlin has so far been able to keep funding its war effort, with the country spending up to $300m (£240m) a day on defense last month, double what it did in the pre-war period. According to the Ministry of Finance data. Meanwhile, the capital controls that Russia imposed to protect its financial sector in late February made the world’s ruble Top performing coin.

However, for many in Moscow and other Russian cities, the country’s growing political and economic isolation is having a direct impact on their livelihoods.

“Since the start of the conflict, every step of the production line has been a struggle,” said Vladimir Kokoshkin, director of a printing company in Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth largest city.

Kukushkin complained that after Adobe announced that its software would no longer be available in Russia, it had to find new ways to design its products, while the rising prices of ink and paper added pressure on his business.

“It has also been difficult to promote my business because Instagram and Facebook are blocked. These may seem like small things but they really add up,” he said.

After Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, the Kremlin has seen some successes import replacement engineIn particular, boosting local agricultural production, and owners of two Moscow restaurants said they had not had any problems getting their products since the start of the war.

The current exodus of companies has shed new light on the country’s failures to produce many of the consumer goods that Russians are accustomed to, said Maria Shagina, a research fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The Russian economy is still highly dependent on imports. For example, 90% of bakeries in Russia operate with imported equipment, primarily European. She said the decline in imports will have a significant impact on the products available in the country.

McDonald's restaurant closed in Moscow.
McDonald’s restaurant closed in Moscow. Photo: Evgenia Novozinina/Reuters

Shagina added that it will be especially difficult for Russian companies to replace foreign technology products and microchips. Russia’s efforts to copy banned social media platforms were met with derision, while sanctions sent the auto industry back to the 1980s, when new cars were no longer legally required to have airbags, which can now not be imported from the West.

In stark acknowledgment of the country’s struggles to replace products, Andrei Klichas, a senator from Putin’s ruling United Russia party, said this week that the country’s import substitution program had “completely failed”.

Recent economic data also points to signs of stress emerging across the economy.

According to estimates by officials, the Russian economy is expected to contract by 8-12% in 2022. Car sales, an indicator often used by experts to gauge economic mood, fell by about 80% in April, the largest drop ever. . Meanwhile, the country central bank Expect an inflation rate of 18-23% this year.

In a recent poll by the independent Levada Center, 85% of Russians surveyed said now was a bad time for big purchases, the highest in more than a decade, while more than 60% of Russians said they had no savings.

The government has created a false sense of stability. “But the long-term picture is terrible,” Shagina said.

While slow-burning sanctions may not force Vladimir Putin to change his actions UkraineShe said pressure on the Kremlin would rise “significantly” if the European Union pursued its plans to disengage from Russian oil and gas.

As long as Russia’s oil and gas revenues can continue the war. It would be a huge blow to the Kremlin if they lost that cash cow.”

As economists and companies sound the alarm about a looming recession in the country, some Muscovites are lamenting the collapse. Cultural ties With the West, which was associated with economic damage.

“Cultural isolation is probably more terrifying to me than economic isolation,” said Katya Fedorova, a former fashion editor who now runs a fashion and lifestyle blog widely read on Telegram.

Disney, Warner, Sony and other production companies have halted movie releases in Russia, with Moscow cinemas now rerunning blockbuster old Hollywood movies and showing Chinese action movies for the first time.

“We will be lucky if we make it through the fall without closing. People simply don’t want to go see The Wolf of Wall,” said the director of one of the famous cinemas in central Moscow, referring to the 2013 Martin Scorsese film that is currently being shown on some screens in the capital. Street for the fifth time.”

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In a symbolic move, Cosmopolitan, which caused a stir in 1994 when it became the first international women’s magazine to be published in post-Soviet Russia, was forced to change its name to Cosmagazine, after Hearst Corporation revoked the magazine’s Russian license.

“I remember the summer I spent in Moscow moving from the Jürgen Teller Gallery to the Murakami Gallery, dancing at music festivals where international bands compete against the best European concerts,” Fedorova recalled. Western fashion directors were marveling when I took them on a tour of the city, commenting on how “modern and modern” the city was.

“Moscow is gone now,” she sighed.

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