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Published: October 3rd 2010
Today's afternoon is the town of Yaroslavl, one of the oldest towns in Russia, founded in 1010 (yep, just missed the millennium celebration). Today the city has a population of 650,000 working mostly with oil refining and rubber tire manufacturing.
The most amazing sight, in my opinion, was the Church of Elijah the Prophet. Built in 1650, this church has amazing frescoes, as Ernest's pictures capture I think. We listened to a male quartet sing in a small chapel that was really amazing. In addition, we were here on Friday, and as we had learned previously in our Russian tradition discussion, most weddings occur on Friday so they have the whole weekend to celebrate. As such, we saw several bridal couples and Ernest had to photograph them. Also, as a tradition, if the crowd yells "gorda" at the bridal couple, they have to kiss, which of course we kept doing. The bridal couples go all over town to local sites and have pictures made so we saw them everywhere we went. We also went to the Savior-Transfiguration Monastery founded in the 12th century and heard and solo bell concert where the guy played by the strings tied to his hands.
Before we reached Yaroslavl, we had another lecture on how things are different now since the Soviet Union broke up. We were able to ask several questions and here are some things I learned.
• There is negative population growth now. The government is trying to encourage at least 2 children per couple by giving a mother money when her 2nd child is born, but the use of the money is restricted to helping the child or the family circumstances so drug addicts aren't rewarded.
• Everyone is given general health insurance from their employer for use of a local clinic. However, for anything requiring complicated tests or surgery, you have to be on a waiting list and pay for the tests yourself. Paid insurance exists but it is very expensive since it pays for everything so not many have it. People have to pay for dental services and prescriptions at full price, except for diabetes or cancer drugs. Malpractice suits are not popular.
• Abortion is legal in Russia.
• Life expectancy is still low
• Apartment rent in Moscow is about $500-600 month for a studio.
• The average salary for labor jobs is usually higher than
skilled jobs. This is still a holdover from Soviet equalization. A teacher makes about $500-600 a month, doctors that work in the clinics about $500 while doctors in private practice about $1000 a month, but a bus driver makes about $800 month.
• Russia now has a homeless issue after the break up due to loss of free apartments for many, however, we only saw a couple in Moscow.
• It is not considered ethical to put the elderly in nursing homes. They still generally stay with family and the younger generation support them.
• At the collapse of the Soviet Union, shares of National properties were distributed to all people. However, the former Soviet leaders managed to grab up most of the shares for about half their worth. This is why there are so many new millionaires in Russia. Ernest and I saw several yachts and large river homes as we neared Moscow.
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