By Colton Powaski
By the week of November 6th, 1991, the Soviet Union existed only nominally. Articles about economic issues and anxieties dominated headlines. The headline on the front page of the November 10 English-language Moscow News reads “Rouble is Rubble” and expresses concern about the economic prospects of the country. The picture below the headline depicts a young boy playing with rubles, with the caption, “even kids can print it.” Inflation appears to be a significant concern of Soviet citizens at this time, and rightly so.
Economic coverage continues on page four of the Moscow News, with an article titled, “Only the Dollar Stays Ever Green.” This article addresses interest among Soviet citizens surrounding prices of goods. “The tidal wave of roubles has already submerged two Moscow’s major department stores and paralysed the Central Market, where eggs sell at 25 cents and have no small change,” the article reads. An opinion piece directly below this article titled, “Freedom Demands” includes many short articles by businessmen. One of these sections by Tobobank board member Boris Sergeyev predicts hyperinflation should economic liberalization occur as is expected. He writes, “If the reform is carried out according to the plan: liberalization of prices and wages plus the indexation of incomes, we shall most likely be sucked into a whirlpool of hyperinflation.” He calls for state programs to be open to commercial bank competition. Another section by James Niel, the vice president of Business International in London writes, “It is quite obvious to the Western world that the Soviet Union is entering a period of hyperinflation.” Neil predicts, “judging from his statement, Boris Yeltsin would like to turn to monetary shock therapy.” This collection of articles almost unanimously predicts hyperinflation and economic hardship for Russia in the coming years.
Even the page devoted to sports captured the economic worries. Page fourteen of the Moscow News includes an interesting article about Soviet football titled, “Champions on Sale.” This article discusses many Soviet footballers leaving Russia to play abroad. The article specifically focuses on the recent champions, CSKA Moscow, which was the official club of the Soviet Army. The club lost many key players to foreign clubs in the past season, and manager Pavel Sadyrin expressed concern about the future of the team. Sadyrin stated, “I’m not even particularly happy. I think the team will fall apart.” In fact, Sadyrin himself received offers to manage clubs in Europe, but chose to remain at CSKA. The end of the article mentions that firms were beginning to buy and invest in football clubs. This was a new phenomenon in Soviet football, as historically clubs had been affiliated with state enterprises such as the Soviet Army or the Ministry of Transportation. However, liberalization of the Soviet economy allowed for large business firms to purchase clubs.
Clearly, massive economic changes were unfolding in early November of 1991. Hyperinflation was beginning to impact the Soviet populace–an occurrence they would have to endure throughout the 1990s. Economic changes even began to impact sport, with many Soviet athletes leaving for more lucrative opportunities abroad and large firms beginning to purchase football clubs and run them as business ventures.
Colton Powaski is a junior majoring in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies and International Studies.
Gorbunov, Alexei. “Champions on Sale,” (1991, November 10). Page 13. Moscow News Digital Archive. Retrieved from https://dlib-eastview-com.proxy.lib.miamioh.edu/browse/doc/49796422
Only the Dollar Stays Ever Green (1991, November 10). Page 4. Moscow News Digital Archive. Retrieved from https://dlib-eastview-com.proxy.lib.miamioh.edu/browse/doc/49796422
Rouble is Rubble. (1991, November 10). Page 1. Moscow News Digital Archive. Retrieved from https://dlib-eastview-com.proxy.lib.miamioh.edu/browse/doc/49796422
Sergeyev, Boris and Neil, James. Freedom Demands (1991, November 10). Page 4. Moscow News Digital Archive. Retrieved from https://dlib-eastview-com.proxy.lib.miamioh.edu/browse/doc/49796422