Do #EmptyShelves Await Tomorrow's Russia?

Shopping in tomorrow's Russia? Images edited by Kevin Rothrock.

Shopping in tomorrow's Russia? Images edited by Kevin Rothrock.

As Russia experiences its worst currency crisis since the days of Boris Yeltsin, Russian consumers appear to be making a run on the stores, buying up whatever they can. 

At 2 a.m. Moscow time, December 17, photoblogger Ilya Varlamov reported on LiveJournal that people around Moscow were lining up at stores throughout the city, cleaning out vendors of various goods that are likely to cost more if the ruble continues to depreciate at the start of the workday. Russians are looking to unload their rubles any way they can—either by selling them for dollars and euros, or buying up electronics, groceries, and clothes.

Ordinary Russians appear to be in a full-scale panic, and they're naturally documenting the whole meltdown on Instagram and Twitter, using hashtags like #кризис (#crisis) and #ЧерныйВторник (#BlackTuesday). The ruble is crashing, but Russian Internet activity is soaring.

Varlamov writes:

Вы спите, а завтра с утра во многих магазинах будут пустые полки.

Пока одни бегут в обменные пункты скупать валюту, другие штурмуют магазины. Берут все, что не успело подорожать, в основном, конечно, технику, продукты, одежду. Люди спешат избавиться от рублей. В круглосуточных магазинах прямо сейчас стоят огромные очереди. Немного шокирующие фотографии сейчас люди публикуют в соцсетях.

Из-за резкого снижения стоимости рубля по отношению к другим валютам Россия в считаные недели превратилась в центр мирового шопинга. Процессинговые компании фиксируют рост транзакций по банковским картам нерезидентов в российских магазинах, да и сами ретейлеры говорят о притоке покупателей-иностранцев.

You’re probably sleeping now, but tomorrow morning you’ll awake to empty shelves in many stores.

While some people are running to currency exchange booths to buy up dollars and euros, others are storming the stores. They’re grabbing anything with a price tag that hasn’t yet skyrocketed (mainly tech products, groceries, and clothes). People are hurrying to get rid of all their rubles. The stores open 24/7 have had long lines all through the night. People have begun publishing some rather startling photographs on social media.

Due to the sharp decline of the ruble’s value relative to other currencies, Russia has in a matter of weeks become a world center of shopping. Credit card processing companies have tracked a spike of transactions by foreigners in Russian stores, and Russian retailers themselves talk about wave of consumers from abroad.

RuNet Echo has collected several of the photographs Varlamov highlighted on Instagram, translating their Russian captions into English.


A photo posted by Olga (@tishkina07) on

IKEA, Mega Belaya Dacha shopping mall, Moscow.

Ахаха, это моя новая любимая тефлоновая сковородка! Сегодня после работы отстоял двухчасовую очередь в М.Видео, чтобы ее купить. Там такой дикий ажиотаж! Народ, прекрасно понимая, что из-за грехопадения рубля буквально завтра утром цены взлетят вверх в два, а то и три раза, раскупает телевизоры и другую крупногабаритную бытовую технику, как горячие пирожки. #ЭкономическийКризис #ОбвалРубля #Ад #ЧерныйВторник #ЕвроСтоРублей #EconomicDepression #BlackTuesday #МВидео #Евро100 #Доллар80 #Очередь #Шоппинг #Shopping #Ахаха #Ahaha

A photo posted by Arkadiy (@arkadiymo) on

Ahaha, this is my new favorite non-stick frying pan! Stood in line after work today for two hours in MVideo to buy it. So crazy in there! People understand quite well that because of ruble's downfall prices will shoot up tomorrow morning, two or three times, so they're buying TV sets and other electronics like hot cakes.

#crisis #default #mvideo #crazypants #thisisrussia #dollar #shopping #line #sanctions #euro #emptyshelves

#кризис #дефолт #мвидео #дурдом #этороссия #доллар #шопинг #очередь #санкции #евро

A photo posted by Первая ДВЕРНАЯ ФАБРИКА (@roman_dveri) on

#crisis #default #mvideo #crazypants #thisisrussia #dollar #shopping #line #sanctions #euro


A photo posted by Александра (@aleksandranosevich) on

And you can't even see the end of the line from here, the line curls to the right and goes on in the isles.

Unbelievable scenes happening in MVideo. If not dollars, then electronics.

… I couldn't even imagine I'd spend five hours in an Ikea on Monday afternoon…

Решили съездить в #ikea

A photo posted by @stilet_designer on

We decided to go to Ikea.

Have sanctions scared everyone? Or is that what one buys as New Year gifts nowadays?

Some Russian Internet users have criticized those sharing photos of long lines at stores, saying it exacerbates Russia's crisis. One LiveJournal user, for instance, says it's just another attempt to spread panic among the public:

не понимаю в чем новость вообще. на календаре 17 декабря, последние годы эти очереди с безумцами в магазинах и пробки вокруг торговых центров – обычное дело для предновогодней истерии.

I don't understand what the news is. It's December 17, in the last few years these lines with crazy people in stores and traffic jams around shopping malls are a usual thing for pre-New Year hysteria.

Whatever the pressures of holiday gift-giving and Instagram-induced panic, it's hard to deny that Russian consumers have the common sense to understand the ruble's vanishing purchasing power. The rush to invest in dollars, euros, vacuum cleaners, jackets, food, and who knows what else all suggests remarkably low confidence in the nation's economy—confidence low enough to compel people to wait in line for hours at IKEA on a Tuesday night.

Kevin Rothrock assisted in the production of this text.


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