These are dizzy days for Moscow's yuppies, who have grown used to big salaries, often paid in dollars, from the banks, foreign firms, real-estate companies and other businesses that rode the wave of the capital's recent boom years. Many of these people are so young that they have known nothing but well-paid, white-collar jobs.
By the middle of last week, Moscow was in a mad spending spree. "People were buying everything," said Aras Agalarov, president of Crocus International, which owns a chain of 70 stores across the city, from a giant household store on the outskirts to chic boutiques scattered around the center.Cars, real estate, washing machines, jewelry, stereos - everything was getting swept by splurge spenders looking for ways to park their money before the ruble goes down any further. The giant AvtoVAZ factory in Togliatti, in southern Russia, reported it had emptied its inventory of the latest model of Zhiguli, the Fiat look-alike that had been the staple of the Russian car market before the recent flood of imports.
Real-estate brokers in Moscow reported a rush of buyers looking to snap up new apartments and small dachas, or country houses, at something approaching old prices. According to newspaper reports, real-estate prices have already jumped 25 percent in Russian ruble terms, and where they will land at the time buyers sign their contracts is anybody's guess.
But many vendors of luxury goods simply shut their doors last week, waiting to see which way the ruble will jump and whether to raise their prices by 10, 20 or 30 percent.
Agalarov, who is also vice president of the Moscow International Business Association, chose another route. He stayed open, and sold at his old prices - which brought a wave of customers, buying at twice their normal rate.
"It was like having a big sale," Agalarov said. "It was the end of the season anyway, so we already had marked goods down by 30 percent. The government just went and added another 50 or 70 percent to the discount, that's all."