Russia’s ruble has been on a roller-coaster ride, facing the second biggest drop in value of global currencies in 2014, then bouncing back this year with the highest rise against the dollar, euro, pound and yen.
Even tech giant Apple took time off from online sales in Russia due to “extreme” ruble fluctuations in December, when the currency tumbled 19% in a day due to a sell-off by nervous investors in Moscow.
The recent stabilization of the ruble at about 50 to the dollar has drained not only the country’s currency reserves, but also the sentiment of Russian consumers and businesses: Inflation remains at more than 16% and unemployment stands at 5.6%.
Russia’s middle class and the working poor are the ones paying the price for the economic downturn. An average 10% drop in real income last year and a jump in mortgage defaults and rising food and utility prices have made it difficult, to say the least, for people to make ends meet.
In the midst of this fragility, Mikhail Shlyapnikov, a farmer in the isolated Russian village of Kolionovo believes the answer to the woes of the cash-strapped Russian rural