Reply To: Russia. People from the 90s, tell us what it was like, really?

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“On the very eve of the new 1990, I received a three-room apartment.

How I got it, well… those of us on the waiting list *people were put on a waiting list to get housing, for free, from our then state* were invited after work to the factory bus, that brought us to the construction site. It’s evening, it’s already dark. There are trailers, tanks with mortar, bricks and all sorts of construction details. There are unfinished walls, street lights squeak and sway in the cold winter wind.

They say:

Here we are building a house for the factory workers. But the builders are not paid money, so they run away and we have little real prospect of completing this house. Therefore, tomorrow we will distribute apartments (whoever does not want this, those can refuse) and everyone will complete the apartment on their own. Don’t worry – plumbers will sometimes call on the object, electricians, carpenters – they will help if needed.

On the first day off we went to build an apartment. In the half of the house where I was given an apartment there were already windows, the floor was filled in and the walls were plastered. In the other half, the construction site was at the level of the second floor. First of all, the doors were dragged from the heap in the yard, then little by little everything else. Whitewashed, painted, glued the wallpaper. I had to learn how to plaster, lay linoleum and do the wiring. The construction went on for more than half a year, in August they “passed the keys”, that is, water taps and parts for the gas stoves. Electricity as well as gas was not yet available. The security were removed, so several “volunteers” were left to spend the night and keep an eye on, so that nothing is stolen.

We sat on a bench, drank vodka, went to bed.

In the morning we get up – in Moscow there is a State Emergency Committee and tanks on the streets …

And then – democracy came.

The factories were still working, but the salaries were no longer paid. At the factory where I happened to work, I could get fire extinguishers, blowtorches and rubber hedgehogs instead of the salary, it was time to go to work for a bowl of soup.

Yes, yes, the director ordered (with deduction from salary) to feed all the workers with lunch in the factory canteen. Many wrapped up the meatball and carried it to the children.

In the event of a successful barter, the factory sometimes handed out food to the workers – sometimes a sack of flour, sometimes a sack of barley, or even a sack of pasta.

The dacha was great support (dacha, well 6 “hundreds” of land *a hundred of land is 100 square meters=1/100 part of a hectar. Standard russian individual land site was 6 hundreds*) on which potatoes, marrows and cucumbers grew. It was then that I first tried pies with pumpkin. And it was still a bearable life – we didn’t faint of hunger (as happened with teachers, doctors and pensioners).

A colleague quit and started his own business. He opened several round-the-clock kiosks with mandarine fruit, sneakers, and counterfeit vodka. Looking at the poor hard workers, he thoughtfully uttered “We must know how to live.”

But the newly-minted businessman had a conflict, either with a “roof” *thugs or policemen patronizing business for tribute*, or with suppliers of oranges and counterfeit vodka. Him and his wife were found “without signs of life”, but with traces of torture in a local lake. The bodies were wrapped in barbed wire. They searched for their daughter (a girl of about 10 years old) for a long time, but she was never found.

A classmate who was selling in a night booth was burned alive by some thugs along with the booth.

A classmate who lived in Sumgait with his wife and two children perished in the fire of the Karabakh massacre. A neighbor received a coffin with her son’s body from Chechnya.

The streets were filled with substance abusers and drug addicts, syringes scattered around every corner. After the “dry law”, counterfeit vodka under the popular name “chicha” and alcohol “Royal” poured onto the shop counters. Every day on TV there are explosions of businessmen, murders, advertisements of “Rasputin” vodka, all sorts of “MMM”, “Vlastelina” and other “RDS” *financial fraud companies like network marketing etc*