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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The Neo-Soviet Verbal Clamp-Down Begins

"All government officials must pronounce only the word: ruble!"

-- Ultranationalist lawmaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky

The Associated Press reports:

Russian lawmakers gave tentative approval Wednesday to a bill that would ban cabinet members from using references to the dollar or euro in public statements, a law that is meant to boost the cachet of the ruble. Members of the 450-seat State Duma, the parliament's lower house, voted 384-0 with one abstention in favor of the proposed law. The rest of the lawmakers did not take part in the voting. The bill seeks to oblige government ministers and their subordinates to state the value of various goods and services only in rubles and to avoid converting them to dollars and euros, as is common practice in Russia.After the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, hyperinflation hit the ruble and the U.S. dollar and German mark became the currencies of choice for most anything worth buying. By the late 1990s, Russia had banned transactions in those currencies, but hard-to-enforce rules meant businesses still routinely listed their prices in dollars or marks _ or later, in euros.The move comes against a backdrop of oil-driven economic growth that has lead Russia to seek to make the ruble fully convertible by removing the remaining restrictions on currency movement as of July 1. Market watchers say a demand to price only in rubles is fair, and the process is already under way. Some Russians, however, find the proposed measure uninspiring, predicting it would make official presentations virtually unintelligible as speakers wrestle with zero-laden statistics. For instance, an official mentioning Russia's swelling oil fund, which currently stands at $55 billion or 45 billion euros, should give the unwieldy figure of 1.5 trillion rubles."We agree that the problem of 'dollarization' of the country exists, but the question is what is the cause and what is the result," said Oleg Smolin, a Communist lawmaker in the Duma who did not vote on the bill.

La Russophobe dares to wonder what words Russians won't be able to say next. She also wonders what the penalty will be for saying "dollar" without permission. She doesn't think there are enough prisons to hold all the Russians who might be inclined to say such a word, so Uncle Volodya better get busy building Gulag Archipelago II real fast.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would like to point out that the law applies only to government officials, not all Russians. You will not be taken to jail for saying the word "dollar", I can assure you, unless you work for the government and you speak on TV. Actually, I have heard politicians and media presenters use the word a lot of times after the bill was passed, and none of them were later reported to have gone to prison.

The reason this decision was made is probably becuase lots of people in Russia have been using dollar and euro equivalents when talking about prices, and it has become quite annoying, because one feels that one is not in Russia - an independent country with its own currency - but in an occupied territory that operates in foreign currency. When officials continually operate in dollar and euro equivalents, the feeling is augmented, and becomes a little disturbing. Can you imagine American officials talking about American economy using phrases like "millions of Euros in the agricultural sector", or "millions of rubles in the system of education"?

I hope that now the reasons for passing this bill have become a little clearer.