EDITORIAL: Summer time, but the Livin’ Ain’t Easy in Russia


Summer time, but the Livin’ Ain’t Easy in Russia

It’s summer time in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and that means just one thing:  No hot water.

Nearly half of all Russians in the city of Moscow will be forced to heat water on their stove tops if they want to take a hot bath, carrying pot after pot to the tub.

But the Muscovites are Russia’s rich, and lucky. Each of them will likely go without hot water for only a few weeks.   Travel farther away from the capital, and you’ll find many cities that will go without hot water all summer long.

As we reflect on today’s slate of editorials we can’t help but wonder:  What will it take for the people of Russia to realize that their government is a failure?  A plunging stock market, repudiation at a “victory” celebration, and cold showers are apparently not enough.

What would be? A new GULAG system, with tens of thousands being packed off to camps of doom?  Would even that be enough? There was no uprising when such things occurred in the time of Stalin.

Is Russia a nation of masochists?  Does it enjoy suffering, enjoy heaping it upon its innocent children, enjoy watching the nation collapse time and again?

Is this really how Russians would have themselves seen by the world?

77 responses to “EDITORIAL: Summer time, but the Livin’ Ain’t Easy in Russia

  1. If I understand correctly this hot water problem in Russia is of longstanding. Muscovites are well used to this. Things change for the better slowly in Russia and Russians do know this too. These problems may not lend themselves to easy solving as Russia is so poor. Let’s not carp!

    • They were well used to the GULAGs, too. No need to worry about stopping them then, right?

    • You sure understand it right the problem has been for quite a long time.

      It’s a shame, but it’s the way they work here.

      At least it’s very cheap – I pay around 100$ per month for my flat (electricity, water, planned house repairs, heating, toll-free landline, etc.)

      Can’t say if I’d prefer to pay, say, 420$/ month as my friends in Geneve do and have hot water for these two weeks…

      Perhaps that’s not right, really don’t know.

      This post puzzles me:)

      • If you are suggesting the average apartment rent in Moscow, the MOST EXPENSIVE CITY ON THE PLANET, is $100 per month, we have only one thing to say:


        • Could be true. He may be KGB

          • His friend in Geneva must live in a shack in the woods for $420 a month rent. This to me sounds unbelievably cheap for Switzerland; this price looks like it’s 1985

        • Voice of Reason


          When Dmitry says “I pay around 100$ per month for my flat (electricity, water, planned house repairs, heating, toll-free landline, etc.)” – he probably doesn’t mean rent.

          If he lived in Moscow in 1991, then most likely he owns his apartment:


          In general, mortgaging is not as widespread in Russia as it is in the West, since many Russians, particularly Muscovites, own their city apartments outright following the privatization scheme launched in 1991. At that time, 80 percent of the city’s apartments were owned by the municipal authorities. But the scheme, which until March 2010 effectively gives free ownership of those apartments to their registered residents, has seen the vast majority of Moscow apartments become privately owned, thus in part explaining the lower proportion of mortgage holders in this country

          • OMG:D

            100$ evoke so much interest:D

            Both 100$ and 450$ were about utility bills.

            Of course it’s’s not rent. Rent for my apartment could possibly be around 1000-1200$. That would be too much for me – I’d prefer to settle in another district also close to the place where I work, for 600-700$ instead of 1200.

            But I own the apartment, and have absolutely no need to pay rent.

            Yes, rent for my Geneva friends’ flat is about 1000 Franks too – but they are both Swiss, and had good aquaintances who found them this apartment.


            $100 per month is unaffordable to most Russians, who earn perhaps $400 per month. $100 should be the rent payment for such a person, not merely the utility bill. Your proposed rent is THREE TIMES the average Russian salary. $700 would be nearly double.

            • “$100 per month is unaffordable to most Russians, who earn perhaps $400 per month”

              And the latter number comes from?

              “Your proposed rent is THREE TIMES the average Russian salary.”

              You bet. They save for three months, live one, then again save…

              I’m not even going to go in explanations.

              You’re right. Every Moscovite knows that.

          • And what happens after 2010?

            Let me guess, the city will either charge astronomical rents or make people buy them at high prices?

            • Why buy rents?

              How can a city make you do something?

              What happens after 2010 with what?

              • From Voice of Retardations quote:

                But the scheme, which until March 2010 effectively gives free ownership of those apartments to their registered residents

                What happens when the scheme runs out, which it is supposed to do in March 2010?

                Will the Moscow authorities institute market rates?

                Will they sell of the housing?

                • “Will they sell of the housing?”

                  Perhaps they could have started to sell off the housing, if only they had an army.

                  “Will the Moscow authorities institute market rates?”

                  Well, they did actually – long before you were born. They instituted capitalism, communism, market and it’s rates. Before that, there were only night and day. Then came the Moscow authorities and started to institute.

                  BTW, until now nobody knows what were those “market rates” the Moscow authorities instituted. They became a thing-in-itself, known only by this name: “Market rates instituted by the Moscow authorities”.

                  But it’s promised one day a man will come who knows what are those rates. And why the Moscow authorities had to institute them. And, moreover, what do you apply those rates to. And who has to pay according to them for that. And to whom he has to pay for that to what the rates are applied.

        • $100 per month is total utilities, rents are much higher than that starting at around $700 per month for a one-room apartment (i.e. one room that serves as the bedroom/living room/everything else + a separate kitchen and bathroom)
          The only problem with those utility bills is that the services you are supposed to get for them are often practically non existent. For instance Dmitry mentions ‘planned repairs’ – those are usually limited to putting a fresh coat of paint on the walls in the common halls once a year. I don’t know what he means by a toll-free land line though, if it’s a telephone line I find it hard to believe they’re free, they’re relatively cheap but not free.

          • Ok, that was well after midnight, I was working till late and my English suffered:D

            Sure, a telephone line. Local (within the city) calls are free of charge. All included in the same 100$.

            “those are usually limited to putting a fresh coat of paint on the walls” – this might be the case with your managing company, but not true here where I live. Here they were changing the tiles on the outside walls of the house, renovating balconies and changing all the pipes within five last years – what I remember, and what had some direct impact on my quality of life.

        • Duffer, you failed to mention that was MOST EXPENSIVE CITY ON THE PLANET for foreigners.

          I.e. people that come here to use taxis instead of buses, eat in cafes instead of eating at home, and rent apartments in the city center instead of living in their own flat.

          So, how did you call it again?


          • Voice of Reason

            Yes, indeed. When I come on business to Moscow, I rent an apartment in the center, eat lunch at restaurants, and take taxis all day long. Still, it’s cheaper than in New York, where taxies are at least 10 times more expensive.

  2. Anyone in Russia with any money buys their own hot water heater (boiler) and never has to deal with the outages. That was my case, fortunately. However, it is indeed correct that a large chunk of Russia goes without hot water for days, weeks, and even months.

    A Russian told me a joke once that reveals their self-image: Russia has just taken over the world as victor of WWIII, they have hoarded all the gold, and they are the richest country on earth… but they still don’t have hot water every summer. (though she didn’t say it in the joke, I’d include bad roads myself)

    • Voice of Reason


      Speaking of Europe. My Russian wife told me how she and her parents spent several winter months in Europe while emigrating from Russia to USA in the 1970s and rented private apartments in Vienna and Rome. She was used to having centralized hot water in Moscow for 11 months of the year (except for the month of June when she was in summer camp anyway) and was shocked that apartments in Italy and Austria had no central heating and you had to use your own water heater.

      • What’s so shocking about having your own water heater, it gives you more independence from the very unreliable public utilities, plus those centralised hot water and heat supply systems are extremely wasteful, there are these huge underground pipes that run from the central heating plant to all the buildings in the surrounding area, as a result a large percentage of the heat simply dissipates into the environment and all that enormous wastage people have to pay for.

      • Voice of Reason

        Here in USA I live in a house, not an apartment, so I have a water heater (big one). But in all apartments that I have lived in USA, the heated water came in from the outside somewhere, probably from the apartment building’s basement. In large apartment buildings, you could take shower for 60 minutes and not run out of hot water. In small apartment buildings, it could run out in 15 minutes.

        • These new gas boilers they install here in new apartments they don’t just heat a limited amount of water in a tank, it’s a different design there’s some pipes running through them in a spiral wound around a gas burner, when you open a hot water tap anywhere in the apartment the gas burner is started automatically and the water gets heated up as it travels through the spiral pipe, so it’s simply impossible to run out of hot water with this sort of heater.
          My parents at their old apartment had an old water heater (it only provided hot water) which they bought back in the 1960’s, there you had to first open a hot water tap and then go and manually turn on the gas in the heater, but still the design was basically the same, a gas burner with a pipe wound around it in a spiral, so again they never ‘ran out’ of hot water, they just got it on demand as much as they wanted.

      • Now RTR, you previously claimed to be a Russian Jew with Ukrainian wife, from Odessa as I recall.

        What happened? Did she lose her figure having your children, and then in what seems to be your misogynistic style you traded her in on a new model?

        • Sunshine, did it ever come to your mind that Voice of Reason can be a Russian Jew, an Odessite, with a Ukrainian wife,

          And still live in the USA?

          • No Dimbo, I am calling him out that he described his “wife” as a Ukrainian previously, now he says she is a Russian. There is a difference between the two.

            He also previously claimed to be divorced, but staying in the US because of his children.

            • “There is a difference between the two”

              Perhaps she herself thinks otherwise? Or Voice of Reason does?

              But you, of course, are free to give any clues on methodology.

            • Voice of Reason

              My wife is a Russian Jew, not a Ukrainian. You are hallucinating as always, Andrew.

              • No, man, he just knows how to differ Russian Jew from Russian Ukrainian, and Russian Russian at a glance.

                Got some “hints and tips” brochure, I presume.

                Sounds like a real Polish Pole to me.

              • Well, you claimed previously she was from Odessa.

                Where is Odessa exactly?


                And you claimed she was Ukrainian in previous posts.

                You also claimed you were divorced as one of your previous incarnations.

                You also claimed to be a successful programmer from California, and now you claim to be a successful economist from California.

                Never mind Voice Of Retardation/ReTaRd/Michael Tal/Phobodunce/Arthur/Ostap Bender.

                We all know you are a compulsive liar.

                • Dear Pole,

                  She’s born Ukrainian. Born in Ukraine – they are Ukrainians. It’s their nationality.

                  How do I explain, they are Ukrainian nationals?

                  But she is also an ethnic Jew. It’s her Ethnicity.

                  Ethnicity is associating herself with some Ethnos, ethnic group, with cultural, linguistic heritage.

                  So one may well be a Ukrainian Jew and still be a US citizen, zrozumieć?

                • Voice of Reason

                  Andrew wrote:” Well, you claimed previously she was from Odessa. Where is Odessa exactly? Ukraine.

                  The only mention of “wife from Odessa” I could find is this:

                  Andrew // September 18, 2009 at 11:51 am
                  As for your articles, well MOST of the examples you give are for people (including your 1st wife) from Odessa, which is now part of Ukraine but WAS part of Russia until Khruschev gave it back. Now most likely they are ETHNIC RUSSIANS.

                  So, which is it? Russian or Ukrainian?

                  And speaking of your demagoguery, here is how you use the Haaretz article to prove that Israeli skinheads are Russians:

                  Andrew // September 15, 2009 at 12:07 pm
                  BTW, you are lying again, these guys are Russians through and through
                  Read the articles from Israeli sources, they say RUSSIANS, not Ukrainians.

                  Andrew // September 15, 2009 at 12:39 pm
                  All the Israeli media say RUSSIANS.

                  And yet, when I mentioned Yuri Kuzmin-Foreman, a world boxing champion and the same Haaretz wrote:

                  Yuri Foreman, a Russian-born Israeli rabbi-to-be

                  Jewish Daily Forward:

                  Foreman, a Russian Jew who grew up in Israel

                  you went totally crazy claiming that he was NOT a Russian Jew:

                  Andrew // May 2, 2010 at 7:50 am
                  No, he would still be a Byelorussian Jew.

                  So, what gives? Do you trust everything that Haaretz and other Israeli press says or not, Andrew?

                  Or are you saying whatever suits you at the moment: calling every bad a person “a Russian” and every good person “a non-Russian”?

          • I think you have a point here. He is probably an immigrant. He tries to prove otherwise, talking about “us Americans” and “us American taxpayers” all the time, but he tries too much.

            • RV, “born US citizen” does not equals to “born clever”.

            • Voice of Reason

              RV wrote: “He is probably an immigrant. He tries to prove otherwise, talking about “us Americans” and “us American taxpayers” all the time, but he tries too much.


              What RV is saying is that he thinks that naturalized citizens of USA are NOT Americans and don’t pay American taxes.

              What do you expect? He is hardly the brightest bulb in the garland. He doesn’t even know that USA is the country of immigrants.

              • Well, dude, anyway, hope you’re ok living there:)

                • Voice of Reason

                  I am more than OK. Northern California is a magnificent place to live in. Best climate, magnificent vistas, best universities, best food in America. The high-tech and science capital of the world. The majority of people here are recent immigrants, which explains the greatness of food. In a typical Silicon Valley company, 35% of engineers are Indian, 25% are Chinese, 10% are Russian (in the broader sense of ex-USSR), 15% other European, 5% are from USA, and 10% misc.

                  • Northern California is a magnificent place to live in. Best climate, magnificent vistas, best universities, best food in America.

                    I hate you:D

            • Definitely an immigrant.

              He claims to be Russian when it suits him.

              I guess he missed the bit in the oath of allegiance where he must give up his loyalty to Russia….

              I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.

              Like I said previously, he is not a real American, just another Russian export that acts as a Trojan horse.

              • You sound like the OoA reads:

                I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely hate any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen.

              • BTW, you may find this interesting:


                “[…] or a person naturalized as a U.S. citizen may not lose the citizenship of the country of birth.”

                Ends in “.gov”.

                • Voice of Reason


                  Different people interpret what it means to be an American differently. For example, many Russia-haters (especially in the Baltics and Georgia and in the American military-industrial complex) believe that the role of “real Americans” is to finance the Cold War against Russia with our sweat, and to provoke a mutual nuclear holocaust with Russia. They view President Obama as “a Kenyan traitor” and think they are entitled to prosper at the expense of hard-working American taxpayers. They think that when naturalized Americans take the Oath, they pledge to hate President Obama and other sane American leaders.

                  • What’s funny is that they need Putin:D Me, personally, prefers Obama for Russia. Wonder where do we get one, perhaps should check RUDN?:) Sorry for the racist comment :D

    • In most modern apartment blocks, those built in the past decade at least, they’ve been installing natural gas boilers in every apartment that provide hot water and heating, so the hot water supply is not an issue any more, you just pay for natural gas and running water and then you use the gas to cook food, heat the apartment and heat the water. It’s the old housing where people have to go without hot water several weeks every year.

    • I just have no space for another big thing in my bathroom:D

      Plus, we’ve renovated the flat recently, and I don’t want to start it all over with cutting and welding pipes, making sure the boiler would have enough power, etc.

      • In the new apartments space is not an issue, they actually install the boilers in a nook in the kitchen which is usually the size of a room in a Krustchuvka or Brezhnevka.

    • “Anyone in Russia with any money buys their own hot water heater (boiler) and never has to deal with the outages.”


      It’s done by a very little part of the population.

      If you look at the sales of boilers, most sold are big ones intended for dachas, not small ones for apartments.

  3. Personally I have no experience of this “communal heating system” I live in a country where this was never introduced (thank god).But speaking to those who still live with this “soviet heating system” they hate it, many describe it as “torture” it seems to be at a constant heat, in the height of winter it doesn’t generate enough heat leaving many to keep warm by adding extra layers of clothing, and during mild periods they are left too swelter, having to open doors and windows to let the unwanted heat out.

    Because of poor insulation 50% of the heat generated is wasted. Also this spiders web of piping is very unpleasant on the eye, I doubt the state will invest in a modernisation programme as it would cost 100s of billions of dollars; money they do not have, they will simple add this to a bulging portfolio of infrastructural nightmares they have yet to address,

    As for the water, well for god sake don’t drink it, you will understand this the first time you run a tap and find the water is a rather disturbing grey colour. In England we can drink tap water ….so be careful fellow Brits.

    • To be fair tap water isn’t grey everywhere, some places you can drink it, for instance in Smolensk, where the Polish plane crashed, there are districts where the tap water is pretty good, but then there are those where it really is grey as you describe.
      so if you are in Russia, you just have to check the quality of the tap water before you do anything with it.

      As for the centralised heating system, imho it must be allowed to die, if I were running things I’d just gradually provide people with subsidies to install autonomous water heaters/heating boilers in their apartments. Or perhaps property management companies could offer to install boilers in the basements of buildings or something. Because as was pointed out above, central heating is highly inefficient and inconvenient.

  4. Well I lived in Russia for a total of 5 years in some pretty far out places. A couple of points..

    A)1996 Voronezh hot water off for 2 weeks then reliable all through winter.
    B)Tomsk 1998 same thing no problem
    C)Moscow 1999-2002, every year no more than 2 weeks per region.

    The heating and hot water supply was always reliable and speaking to my Russian friends and students and it was never “torture”. Communal heating isn’t just a soviet thing and is being touted in the UK to be used with new power generating plants. The piping well sorry but it isn’t a spiders web, and I never drink water from the hot tap anyway…

    • Bob, it’s ‘torture’ during those two weeks.
      But it’s not the same everywhere.
      The building I live in at the moment is serviced by a separate rather small heating plant that serves only a handful of apartment blocks, so at that heating plant maintenance takes 2 days rather than weeks at the most, only they do it more frequently, like twice a year, once in the spring (2 days) and another two days in the fall, the rest of the time we have hot water without problems.

    • To sum up your post, Bob, Igor and RJohn sound like they overestimate the issue.

  5. Bob tells us …..and I never drink water from the hot tap anyway…I do Bob because I have a combination boiler which means I have one source of water, with mixer taps; turn it one way it comes out hot because the boiler kicks in, turn it the other way and it comes out cold, The gravity storage boiler systems I think you must be referring to are “old hat” in England combi systems are more fuel efficient and part of a drive towards a greener environment.

  6. Kavkazwatcher

    Hey – don’t forget with central heating in Moscow – not only do they lose heat, they leak too! Don’t you guys remember the sinkholes opening up (here’s one: http://englishrussia.com/index.php/2006/09/24/russian-roads-5/) due to hot water leaking out underground – and I still remember with horror about 8 years ago, a sinkhole opened up in Moscow, and a granny and little boy fell in and boiled alive, before they could be rescued.

  7. While we are on the subject of Moscow, I noticed on the list of world’s busiest airports, that Moscow is not listed even once in the entire decade (2000-2010) as being in the top 30.

    Why do you think this is?

    link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World%27s_busiest_airports_by_passenger_traffic

    • Um, perhaps you should try to sum up five Moscow airports for civilian aviation?

      Domodedovo +Sheremetyevo +Sheremetyevo 2 +Sheremetyevo C +Sheremetyevo D+ Vnukovo + Vnukovo 2 + Bykovo + Ostafyevo.

      Oops, sounds more like 9 airports to me.

      Perhaps one should add them one and one to get someting decent?

  8. The same goes for the list of world’s busiest airports by international passenger traffic.

    Moscow is not listed once on there.

    Hmmmm, wonder why?

    link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World%27s_busiest_airports_by_international_passenger_traffic

    • Domodedovo
      20.43 million passengers used the airport in 2008 (9% increase over 2007).

      Sheremetyevo 2 (international): In 2009, the airport handled 14,764,000

      Leader of WP rating: London Heathrow Airport 61,348,340 ▲ 0.6%

      It looks more like a KGB conspiracy:)

      • Been to Sheremetyevo, not a world class airport by any standards.

        Dirty, 1960’s style decoration etc. Useless staff, rude, unhelpful. Avoid!!

        Domodedovo on the other hand was clean, tidy, and quite friendly and helpful staff. I would recommend this airport if flying to or from Moscow.

        • Yes, Domodedovo is the quite a comprehensible and a good looking airport. May also try Sheremetyevo C or D next time. Or Vnukovo, if you want to have something less crowded. Sheremetyevo 1 and 2 were built, I believe, for Moscow Summer Olympics, and were not rebuilt ever since.

          • Nor was the olympic hotel.

          • Hotels prices were rocketing here through all 2000s, and now you just can’t find a decent hotel somewhere near to the center for less than 200-300$/night.

            But when a sq.m. of an apartment in the center may start at about 10 000 – 15 000$, 200$ per night seem to be quite a modest price.

            So you just live where you can afford to. And if you pay for yourself, it’s always better to stay at friends. Or rent an apartment – that’s surprisingly cheap, compared to hotels, but may be far from the center.

            In the city of 13,000,000 “far from the center” may really be “far”.

  9. Two words Dima…

    CIA conspiracy!

  10. Written by Michael Kozlovskiy:

    Yuri Foreman fought nothing but a string of “opponents” while looking for a way to become Jewish so Bob Arum would sign him. This was a relatively simple task, since the only ones who knew that Yuri Foreman is not Jewish are his close relatives who live far away from America and his coach, Michael Kozlowski, who Yuri betrayed once he started making money in professional boxing.
    The Judaism of Yuri Foreman is a big mystery to me. I lived in Israel for many years, and I know the difference between a Jew and a “goy” (non-Jew). In Israel, the Russian boy, Yuri Kuzmin, became Russian Yuri Foreman. In Israel, you can switch your name, but not your roots. He remained Russian did not become Jewish. But America is an amazing country: one day you are a “goy” the next day you are Jewish. It is like Don King says, “Only in America!!!”

    Now I understand why Yuri Foreman’s girlfriend (who later became his wife) told me many years ago that I am a great coach, but I don’t understand “show business.” It is clear to me now that she definitely understands show business, because I heard that she became jewish too.
    P.S Wikipedia states that his mother brought him to boxing because of antisemitism, both of his parents are not jewish, he escaped from Israely army, and from criminal case which is still open he can’t enter Israel. Mafia helped Yuri to become jewish, he is only jewish on paper.

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