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 Proletary-A Porcelain Stand on the Road Side

The road from St. Petersburg to Moscow.
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In Radishchev's day, Russians lived off what they could forage in the forests or grow on their small plots and sell along the road. Back along the highway little has changed. Stands offer berries and mushrooms, fresh milk, and homemade cottage cheese. Near the village of Proletary there is suddenly a line of tables stacked with really ugly porcelain. It's made in the local factory. We pull over.

Wrapped in a parka to ward off the spring chill, a 30-something woman called Nadya is clearly relieved to see a prospective customer.

"You're only the second to stop today," she says.

As she wraps up a purchase, Nadya explains that the factory is in debt. It can't pay wages and compensates workers with china that they then have to try and sell. Nadya was in shock and embarrassed the first time she had to stand on the roadside, but after five years she's more or less used to it. In winter she might clear $10 in a month. In summer she can make $50, but it's not enough to live on.

She says her family survives by producing most of their own food. They have a small garden and some cows. She realizes how absurd it all sounds. They are too poor to move away (no one would buy their apartment) and too poor to stay.

Long before Marx or Lenin appeared, Radishchev debated how to have an effective yet humane economic system. He had no answer and wrote: "I went to bed with an empty head." Nadya lives in the hope that an investor for the factory will miraculously appear.

Next: Chudovo-Cadbury Chocolate Company >>

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