These are photos that were taken at the turn of the ages in Russia. Early 1990s – when the old Communistic way of life suddenly ended and people found themselves in the new reality. Some could adapt, some couldn’t, some hate those times, some love them.
In the Russian Far East – in cities like Vladivostok and Khabarovsk people started importing lots of used cars from Japan, it didn’t matter that the steering wheel was one the different side. Hundreds of buyers and resellers lined up in the port of Vladivostok to buy a cheap Japanese car.
There was an influx of young abandoned kids who appeared on Russian city’s streets trying to survive any way they could.
Boris Yeltsin, the president at the time. Here is he practicing shooting a Nagan pistol. If you didn’t know – Boris Yeltsin was missing a few fingers on one of his hands. It was the result of an accident in his youth. It didn’t stop him from becoming the president.
Boris was meeting Bill, and Bill was laughing at Boris as Boris was not always sober during these meetings.
The roughest times were, of course, winters. People had to adapt to the new “free market” realities with little support from the state.
Some could adapt very well. The first casinos appeared, the first Coca-Cola billboards and the first cigarette ads on Soviet, now Russian, streets. Gypsies – the ladies in the scarfs – moved into towns to fool and trick the gullible commoners.
Young girls started to appreciate the simplicity of the free market too, selling Matryoshka nesting dolls, and not only Matryoshkas, with ease.
The first Mickeys arrived in Moscow, too. They had never been seen before, and were a good attraction for kids of all ages.
Often they were used to trick customers into purchasing not only children’s goods but anything, like Marlboro cigs. Whole Marlboro kiosks appeared too, selling cigarettes and booze. Copyright was not an issue back then.
Every old Soviet landmark seemed to be branded now. This street clock was now “West”, old Soviet or even Russian buildings now bear a SANYO or Candy ad.
Kids are always kids and can still find fun even when their parents struggle to survive. Like catching an old bus and sliding across snowy streets that are not cleared of snow because young municipalities also struggled to survive.
New heroes emerged in Russian societies.
And common people were often shocked by the new truths opening up to them. It seemed that nobody cared about them but themselves. With median pensions and salaries approaching $200 per month it became really challenging to accept all this.
Meanwhile, a new kid’s culture emerging around the country. Rappers, break dancers, skateboarders – everything that had been lacking in the USSR was now all around, with MTV spreading the culture to the masses.
“Freedom”. Here it is.
Bill and Boris still meeting, still with happy faces, but behind closed doors and windows.
Because the reality outside was still far from beautiful.
With hungry kids outside, and with Russian people fleeing Chechnya and countries like Uzbekistan and Tajikistan because of racial hatred after the collapse of the USSR.
But Moscow seem to start blooming. First with western food chains opening their doors with banners in the Russian language, which seems bit odd and awkward.
And yes, young girls started to appreciate the ease of trading in the free market.
Meanwhile, the first Russian tourists start to freely explore foreign countries. The capitalist world, who had never seen Russian people en-masse before, started hiring Russian speaking shop assistants at boutiques and jewellery shops.
Some Russians learn the benefits of the smuggling business.
And all across Russia young people started forming criminal organizations, to oppose the first “successful” businessmen and to try to get their cut from their pie.
It was easy to get a gun in Russia at that time.
Meanwhile, elderly Russian people were left with a $100 – $200 pension payment each month and had to sell their belongings to somehow try to survive.
And youngsters had to survive as well, with one difference – kids never stopped appearing.
Russian pop stars were partying with people who later would be called terrorists and hunted down and killed.
The racketeering business seemed to be pretty profitable. Though here and there they were getting killed, their cars were getting blown up, or they had to flee the country.
Central Russian streets at the time were often a mess. People were trying to sell, buy, rob, steal or just wander around.
And only the politicians seemed to be happy and undisturbed.