Propaganda is Good for You

The place to be on a Saturday night!

ahhhhhJohnson’s Russia List, October 5, 1998

Russia’s Youth Dance Away Crisis

By Nick Wadhams Moscow AP

At the Propaganda dance club, manager Masha Maslyukova watched calmly as
her harried bouncers held back a line of young people pushing and shoving
to get in. It could have been a crowd of depositors frantic to remove
their money from one of the city’s failing banks. But the rumbling techno
music within — not Russia’s financial crisis — was whipping up this crowd.

‘I’ve got no fear of this club closing,’ Maslyukova said. ‘Whatever happens,
we will be the last one in Moscow.’

mmmmmRussia’s younger generation seems determined to keep partying
in the face of the country’s latest eonomic crisis. The crowds are still
turning up at many of Moscow’s popular dance clubs and casinos, though smaller
establishments are seeing a dropoff in attendance.

Under communism, Western-style clubs did not exist, or were secreted away
from the government’s eye and hard to find. Since the 1991 breakup of the
Soviet Union, discos, casinos and restaurants have sprouted throughout Moscow
and in other cities, creating an energetic night life. ‘We come here
to unwind,’ 23-year-old Anya Sidnenko shouted over the sound of blaring
music in Propaganda, located in downtown Moscow a five minute drive from
Red Square. ‘It’s better to go dancing than sit around moaning.’

The Propaganda crowd, young Russians dressed in the latest fashions, did
not seem at all affected by the crisis. They piled
into
the club’s steamy main hall or sat in booths on balconies overlooking the
dance floor, sipping cocktails and beer. Some casinos around the city
also said they were still doing reasonably well, though the crisis is less
than two months old and could get worse.

Still, the first wave of cutbacks has already hit. Some club and casino owners
said they were reducing their menus, laying off staff, cutting wages and
shortening their hours of operation. ‘Of course the crisis is hurting
us,’ said Janna Volkova, manager of the A-Club, a favorite spot for the
older-20s crowd. ‘Most of our clients are from the middle class, and they’re
the ones who are hardest hit.’

A
more somber feeling was in the air, Volkova said. ‘People are still
showing up, they’re just drinking more vodka,’ she said. ‘I hope we’ll
survive, but it’s just impossible to predict what will happen.’ Some
clubs have begun listing their prices in dollars to guard against the recent
swings in the Russian ruble.

As Saturday night gave way to Sunday dawn, a group of clubgoers agreed that
popular places like Propaganda, with a low cover charge and a young crowd
would survive, but their numbers would shrink. ‘Things are just super
right now,’ gushed 20-year-old Klara Tamnachuk, as she stood outside a club
to escape the heat of the crowded dance floor. ‘We’re relaxed … but only
while there’s money.’