Friday, December 03, 2004

On The Mark -- Reporting from Russia III

Voronezh -- The legend behind this city of about 1 million is that when Peter the Great decided to build his navy here he shipped in beautiful women throughout Russia to keep the sailors and ship builders happy. They say that the secret for beauty is now in the water. All I can report is that there is a lot of truth to this legend.

In America, due to the power of advertising and mass media, we marvel over the beauty of Russian women tennis players, for example. Here, in Voronezh, they would only blend in. Every street is like walking down a runway for models. And they take fashion very seriously. I was told before I arrived here that I would never see women the same again. I was quite skeptical; I live in Southern California, after all. But I can happily report that there is no exaggeration in this boast.

Drinking green tea (and vodka) with some of the citizens of Voronezh I've learned some new perspectives beyond what I've reported in earlier reports related to economic and social conditions. While dining in the half-full Pushkin Restaurant last night (a delightful meal with first-class service and live entertainment), one person told me that during Soviet times one would have to make a reservation weeks in advance to a restaurant like this.

Food and vodka was cheap. Today there's plenty of food and drink, but there's no money. In Soviet times, there wasn't a lot to choose from regarding products outside of Russia. Today there are a lot of choices, but no money to buy them, she said. In comparing past times to today, another told me that, during Soviet times that not only did most people not do much planning for their specific days, they also didn't think about the future. Everything was decided for them. Today, surviving the future is mostly all one thinks about.

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