Do the Russians ’launder’ their money?

I remember listening to the interview with the chief manager of IKEA in Moscow talking about the changing consumption habits of Russians. He said that if a couple of years ago the Russians made just occasional careful purchases and thought twice before buying, now they are literally sweeping off everything from the store shelves.

Yes, consumption is booming, I agreed and decided to find out what is actually being consumed in Russia. By googling ‘consumption habits in Russia’ I got the collocation list topped by ‘alcohol, fruit and fish’ consumption followed by ‘household, metal and cosmetics’. A very telling picture, I thought and decided to compare the results with the Russian search engine Yandex.

It took me a while till I could come up with a suitable equivalent for ‘consumption habits’ in Russian. It seems that the Russian language has not yet developed a fixed expression to describe this phenomenon of social life that was completely foreign to the Russian life style until recently. Finally, I made up my mind for ‘rossijane tratjat den’gi’ (‘Russians spent money’), which seemed to me the most adequate substitute for consumption habits. The top hits here were ‘vacations/celebrations’, ‘refrigerators/house appliances’ and ‘food/clothes’. With a bit of imagination and knowledge of the Russian reality you will get a clear correspondence between these results and those from Google.

There is something else about Russian consumption habits that both Google and Yandex agree on: Russians would spend their money rather than save it. Russians do not believe in banks and other ‘virtual’ long-term investments and prefer to put their earnings in something more real, visible and tangible. The Russians with higher incomes purchase real estate (London and Prague are the top favorite locations) as well as cars and household appliances (preferably made in Germany). The Russians’ affection to technical innovations has been growing enormously in the recent years. According to the latest survey results, Russians spend two times more on the home appliances than an average citizen in any other country! They are already ahead of Europeans in the number of purchased washing machines and mobile phones! Above all, they even keep up with the Germans in beer consumption!

So, is this consumption lavishness a part of the Russian ungrudging nature or just a consequence of the opening global markets? Whatever it is, it seems that the Russian speakers will soon have to come up with a new term for ‘consumption habits’. Any ideas?

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