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Shopping and sushi in Putin's Russia

Thursday, Mar 01, 2012 - 02:39

Mar.01 - Living standards have risen in Russia during Vladimir Putin's 12-year reign but will the economy continue to grow as fast as during the sushi-years. Joanna Partridge reports

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Alexei Luntsov indulges in one of his favourite pastimes. He's a doctor and lives in the Russian city of Kazan, some 800 kilometres from Moscow. He likes going to the local mall, drives a European car and holidays in Europe - like many in Russia's middle class which has grown in the 12 years since Prime Minister Vladimir Putin first came to power. Alexei says Kazan's leisure facilities are incomparable with a decade ago. SOUNDBITE: Alexei Luntsov, Doctor from Kazan, saying (Russian): "Undoubtedly there is a tendency towards material possessions. This even dominates what young people want - they want things immediately." From shopping to sushi. The food is seen as symbolic of Vladimir Putin's reign first as President and then as Prime Minister - an era even labelled the "sushi years" by a Russian magazine. As Putin looks to become President again on 4 March, analysts are looking back at a time where the country's oil income has led to rising living standards - accompanied by rampant consumption. Although a generation of young, iPad-carrying, urban Russians has emerged - analysts say the gap between rich and poor has widened over the past decade. At 28 Nikolai Nikiforov is already Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Tatarstan of which Kazan is the capital. They've developed a local IT Park SOUNDBITE: NIKOLAI NIKIFOROV, TATARSTAN REPUBLIC DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, SAYING (Russian): "I think the project is really very important, especially as young people aren't confident about their future. We should make them believe that they can do it by themselves - and not by unloading railway cargo wagons or being car salesmen, but by creating IT companies." /// Doing research and development they can acquire patents and enter the global market." Mikhail Kishafutdinov founded a start-up called 123Apps, based in the IT park. SOUNDBITE: Mikhail Kishafutdinov, Founder of start-up 123Apps, saying (Russian): "In general, people who are doing Internet projects are not very interested in politics and they concentrate largely on their projects. I think I'm like that." The young, urban middle class who are becoming internet entrepreneurs have lives which differ wildly from many other Russian citizens. Despite some political apathy, it's largely well-heeled and well-educated young voters who make up the growing anti-Putin protest groups. Putin is widely expected to become President again. Even though his reign has seen huge economic growth in Russia - analysts warn this could flounder unless Putin commits to widespread reforms. And slowing growth would come as quite a shock to the sushi generation. Joanna Partridge, Reuters

Shopping and sushi in Putin's Russia

Thursday, Mar 01, 2012 - 02:39

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