Times are tough, it seems, even for Russian millionaires, TIME’s John Wendle reports.
These days, Russia’s wealthy can’t always get what they want. The country’s once soaring economy is in freefall — growth, which averaged 7% over the past five years, could drop below 2% in 2009 according to economists — and it’s taking the rich down with it.
Not that long ago, Russia was the poster child for unfettered wealth and freewheeling consumption. Now, with the stock market down more than 70% in the past year and the ruble feeling the strain, the nation’s high earners are a little less quick to put their hands in their pockets.
At the Moscow Millionaire Fair late last month, even the glare off the hood of a $250,000 Wiesmann MF4 supercar could not blind a visitor to the fact there was far less interest on both sides of the cash register. A glitzy show designed to part Russia’s well-to-do from their cash, the fair is usually spread out through three halls in Moscow’s Crocus Expo exhibition center — this year, it only took up two. With fewer vendors and wider aisles between the stands, the small number of visitors seemed even more sparse. “There are much fewer people this year,” said Dzhasur Madzhidov, a carpet salesman with Persian World, a Tokyo-based seller. Normally, “we would have sold everything — even the carpets off the walls.”
It’s hard to feel too sorry for this group. Then again, the millionaire’s customers aren’t, for the most part, millionaires. And the average Russian will likely feel much more pain than having to delay the purchase of an exotic automobile.