This slideshow requires Adobe Flash Player 9.0 (or higher). JavaScript must be enabled.


Russian Economy

Photographer: Sergei Chirikov


Soligalich is one of the smallest towns in Russia with its 6,000 residents. It is situated 600 km northeast of Moscow and is the district center of Kostroma region. The first written data about this town goes back to 1335, as an already existing settlement with salt production. During several centuries of its early history it was a border town, defending Moscow State from eastern enemies-tatars and later even from western, Polish-Lithuanian invaders. Salt production ended in the 19th century and Soligalich lost economic meaning, but nevertheless it remained rather successful. The real disaster happened in 1917 when the Bolshevic Communist revolution destroyed all the beauty of its multiple churches, monasteries and manors of ndustrialists and businessmen. The results of this social tragedy are still visible in ruined churches and total poverty. A monument to Bolshevic leader Vladimir Lenin remains on the central Red Square.


Now the market economy transformation threatens Soligalich, a typical small Russian province town. The main threat is depopulation. Soligalich has almost no industry or modern service sector. There are only a felt boots workshop, a small cheese-milk factory, a bakery, and some lumber cooperatives. The felt boot production workshop shows Russian tradition going back centuries, but also symbolises Russian economic backwardness.


The boot workshop was created in the 60's. It always has been a safe business in Russia, because many people in villages prefer to wear them for winter. The price, about 20 euros, is very reasonable for a hand-made production and affordable for poor people. The small factory provides jobs for about 20 people, whom paid around 120-200 euros monthly. Much depends upon sales.


The factory uses only natural raw wool of so-called Romanov sheep. Manufacturing takes a couple of days and is mostly done by hand. It starts from preparing wool leafs from raw wool. Then a special machine helps to makes non-woven wool fabric into rolls. The workers make a stocking of a future boot, which is several times larger then a boot. After boiling, it subsides to normal size and becomes denser. Following the boiling, another worker gives shape to the boot inserting a shoe-tree. Drying is the final stage. The boots are ready for sale.


The future of such small but very important towns depends on economic and policies of the Federal government, because regional authorities have no resources to support financially non-effective economic entities. The fast transition from a socialist economy to a market economy carries some risks. For the present, local producers maintain their traditional activities in small towns, waiting for the government to offer them a better future.