"New Russians" number approximately 300,000 in Moscow, 150,000 in St. Petersburg, and about 2 million in Russia as a whole, according to experts of the Russian Academy of Sciences Sociology Institute. Russia runs against the tide, they report. In most advanced industrial countries, affluence tends to go hand-in-hand with educational level. Not so in Russia, where the better educated a person, the more likely he or she is to earn a modest salary. The chief determinant of wealth in Russia today, the experts claim, is the position an individual occupied when the Soviet Union collapsed at the end of 1991. Those who were in power then — whether in the Communist Party, in regional government, or in industry — make up the bulk of Russia’s contemporary nouveaux riches. (9)
Certain things have changed, however. While Soviet leaders took care to hide their life-styles, "new Russians" favor conspicuous consumption. Privileged access to scarce goods mattered more than hard cash under communism, whereas Russian society today is sharply differentiated by income. In 1992, the richest members of society earned four times more than the poorest. Three years later, the decile ratio (the ratio between the earnings of the top and bottom 10 percentiles of the population) had increased from 4 to 15. According to economics minister Yevgeny Yasin, the gap between rich and poor decreased slightly during 1995. Yasin announced last week that the decile ratio fell from 15 to 13 last year. (10)
Yeltsin Lays Last Stone in Moscow Cathedral.