The Monitor’s correspondent in Saratov reports that plans for President Boris Yeltsin to visit Balakovo, the second largest city in Saratov Oblast, have been abandoned at the last moment. Yeltsin was expected to visit the city to open a new furniture factory set up with Western European investment. Speculation in the region has it that the Kremlin took fright at the recent spate of media reports that Russia’s first officially licensed brothel will soon be opened in Balakovo. This is not, it seems, a project with which the president wants to be associated. The Monitor’s correspondent says that, while the oblast Duma is debating the possibility of licensing brothels in the oblast, no firm decision has yet been reached. It is likely to be some time before any officially sanctioned brothels are opened. Saratov insiders say they suspect the recent portrayals in the mass media of Saratov as Russia’s capital of sin are a smear campaign by rival Volga regions to keep Yeltsin away from Saratov and put a spoke in the self-promotion of Saratov’s ambitious governor, Dmitri Ayatskov. This is so reminiscent of the way things were done in Soviet times that ex-Kremlinologists will be rubbing their hands with glee.
Who Are the Middle Class?