Although this past week’s currency crisis marked the worst fall for the ruble since Russia defaulted on its debt in 1998, no one was waiting in bread lines or starting a run on the bank. Instead, anyone with any cash at all went on a buying spree. Long lines snaked through Ikea branches around Moscow into the early hours of Wednesday morning as people picked up furniture, bedding and other household goods at what had suddenly become bargain-basement prices. Crowds of eager buyers emptied shelves of computer monitors and snapped up flat-screen televisions at consumer electronics chains.
People were purchasing refrigerators, washing machines, cameras—anything that was less likely to lose its value as fast as the plummeting ruble. Cars in some dealerships were being sold at 30 percent to 50 percent above the recommended retail price, yet “people run and bring their last money,” one social network user wrote.
“Yesterday the line for the cash register was to the other end of the hall,” Ravil Daizrakhmanov, an employee of the consumer electronics store M.video, said Wednesday. “They were buying very expensive tech products.”
The ruble has lost over half its value this year as falling oil prices and Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis hit Russia’s energy-dependent economy. But a drop of 10 percent on Monday and another 10 percent on what has come to be known as “Black Tuesday” further shook consumers, undermined investor confidence and revealed divisions among the country’s elite on how to react. Nonetheless, Russians’ approval for President Vladimir Putin has remained sky-high.
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