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Russia: Communist Garage Sale

1 minute read

Can capitalism take root in Russia? Well, it depends on what you’ve got for sale. There are few consumer goods available, but selling symbols of the discredited past seems to be a booming business. The West African People’s Republic of Benin, bucking the worldwide trend, is said to have paid $75,000 for a statue of founding father Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. The ZIL limousines of the former leadership are on the block at as much as $10,000. Old government telephones made of semiprecious metals can reportedly be had for $400 each, complete with anti-bugging devices.

Everything from technology to tours has a price tag. A visit to KGB headquarters that would once have chilled the blood now costs $30 a head. An interview with the former head of Soviet intelligence is offered for $600, and the space program’s director of mission control is available for $200; $1,000 will buy time with a prisoner on death row. The Defense Ministry charges $1,500 for pictures of nuclear sites. And low-grade classified information can be purchased from a Yekaterinburg firm that specializes in defense enterprises; both ex-Soviet and foreign clients may buy.

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