After 15 years of tumultuous change in Russia, Moscow is booming and
parts of the city give the impression that they are part of the West.
Tverskaya Street, the capital's principal artery, is filled with
strollers, late model cars and outdoor cafes. On Novoslobodskaya
Street, coffee houses are filled to capacity and consumers crowd the
new "Friendship" Russo-Chinese shopping center. Everywhere, restored
buildings reveal the beauty of Moscow's 19th-century architecture
and, at night, the illuminated façades of the buildings and gleaming
cupolas of the Orthodox churches create an atmosphere of dynamism and
On July 31, 2002, a milestone of sorts was reached with the
announcement by Vladimir Sokolin, the chairman of the State
Statistics Committee, that Russians' living standards had returned to
the level they had attained before the financial crisis of August
1998. Sokolin said that the real cash incomes of the population in
June 2002 exceeded the August 1998 figures by 5.4 percent.
The atmosphere of the Moscow streets, so stunning in contrast to the
uniformity and shabbiness of the communist era, has evoked the
enthusiasm of Western observers. Michael Binyon, a correspondent of
The Times of London, wrote that, "Many Russians have never had it so
good." Leon Aron, a biographer of Yeltsin, wrote in The Weekly
"The produce shortages and ubiquitous lines of the Soviet era have
been forgotten. Fresh and delicious food is available everywhere. For
the first time since the 1920s, Russia not only feeds its people and
livestock but is a net exporter of grain."