Archive for March 8, 2008

Barter, Exchange and Recycle in FSU

           Backytgul had mentioned earlier that the whole Soviet “nation was in the same coat,” she added, “And in the end of USSR, of course, there were scarcity, because no work, no salary, no money and then began ‘barter.’ People just exchange clothes for food or food for clothes.”  Elvina wrote similarly: “If any deficit product appeared in stores, people bought it not only for themselves, but also for their relatives and neighbors.  Such products such as gum, vodka and jeans could be used as substitutes of money and valued very high because of shortage of these products.”  Marzhan had a girlfriend whose father was an enterprising man after he was presented a pair of ADIDAS [tennis shoes] during USSR time.  Apparently, she wrote that he resold the shoes and bought tiles for the roof of his house.
           Besides jeans being a hot commodity, shoes were also, according to Azamat.  He wrote:  “my parents told me that it was too hard to buy…shoes, they took two sizes of shoes, and then were looking for people that bought also not their size.  So, they were changing clothes and shoes for their size…”  Lyudmila wrote about the “awful deficit of shoes and boots, which is extremely important in all seasons.  And if someone saw a pair of shoes in shop, occasionally, they bought, no matter of size.  And sometimes people used shoes smaller or bigger than their actual size.  Or they exchanged with someone, who also got pair of shoes of irrelevant size.  And shoes were used for decades till they went to pieces.”
           Aigul wrote specifically about her mother’s dilemma with clothes being that she was the youngest and four older sisters.  She used the phrase “chain to chain” which means that her mother was on the receiving end of many hand-me-downs from her older sisters.  By the time the clothes came to her, they were all worn out.  Aigul stated, “nowadays no one wears her sisters’ clothes.”Yekaterina wrote that when she was only 1 years old clothes were bought for her in advance, in fact, “my parents and grandparents bought clothes for a 14 year old.”  Askhat had a similar story when he was a child in a family of four.  He remembered one holiday when his parents went to buy T-shirts and there were only a few sizes.  “And for me all of sizes was big and we didn’t buy anything.  All three months, I wear only one, my favorite T-shirt.”
           Yekaterina confirmed that “when her mother was small it was very hard to buy good child clothes, and only because my grandmother was working in “sourpechat” she change books on for good child clothes from China.”  Children’s clothes were very difficult to find in 1988-89, Alua said her parents “paid extra 100% over the price to get that clothes.  And all children were wearing the same clothes.”
           Malika reinforced this statement that “everyone wore almost the same clothes, no one could be different.  There was also a shortage of soap, shampoo and cosmetics.  For example, the only good and expensive perfume was the “Red Moscow” and perfume from France was a dream for all women.  Even fur was very expensive and lack of it.”  Aliya wrote what her parents told her about the deficit: “there were just a few things on the shop’s shelve.  I there will be (for example) soap in the shop, people are trying to buy as much as they can, because they don’t know when it will be available next time.  There was a strong deficit in almost everything.  Usually everyone bought products from their friends.”
           Finally, Natalya added about the recycling that was common back in the Soviet era: “My parents told me that they used to wash plastic bags to use them again, because there was almost none.  Even sausages and bread were sold without packing, so people had to have it on their own.”

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