Let Them Eat Cowberries
Arvamus 28 Jan 2011  EWR
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An enterprising teenager decides to see for himself if a human can survive on the official minimum food budget in Russia.

Galina Stolyarova, Transitions Online
ST. PETERSBURG | In an old Soviet joke, three elderly women go to the doctor. All have the same complaint but they enjoy very different incomes. When the first woman, the wealthiest, tells her story, the doctor asks what her income is, and then suggests eating plenty of fruit and vitamins and recommends a trip to a seaside sanatorium. The next one, who has an average salary, is told to cut meat, sweets, and fatty foods from her diet. When the doctor examines the last one, who survives on a tiny pension, all he can prescribe is lots of fresh air.

It is an open secret that the cynicism of the Russian authorities today is no less than that of the doctor in the joke. And a 17-year-old Yekaterinburg high school student, Vitaly Nikishin, has embarked on a crusade this month to expose this cynicism to the world. He has launched a popular blog where he recounts his attempt to survive for a month on 2,632 rubles, or $88 – the sum calculated by his regional government as the cost of the monthly “minimum consumer basket.”

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