1980s >> 1989 >> no-1022-october-1989

Monopoly comes to Russia

The task of refuting the claim that Russia is socialist becomes easier and easier as the hallmarks of capitalism there become more and more clear for all to see.

“British Admen Leading Russians to Market” headlined an article in the Sunday Times (6 August). The chairman of Delaney Fletcher Delaney agency and president of the Institute of Practioners in Advertising is organising a two-day seminar to teach Russians the latest advertising and marketing techniques. The seminar will be run by the Institute and the Soviet Videofilm Corporation, which is responsible for television advertising in Russia, and subjects will include consumer as well as business-to-business advertising. Although domestic constraints and the non-convertible rouble still cause severe shortages. Western companies are setting up agencies ready to compete in a potential market of 283 million people. Young and Rubican, Ogilvy and Maher, as well as Mercedes-Benz. Allied-Lyons, British Airways and ICI, are already there.

If there was any doubt left about Russia not being capitalist, this should have been dispelled by an earlier report in the Observer Magazine (23 July) that Monopoly is shortly arriving in Russia. No, not the state monopoly which in fact is slowly being chipped away, but the world’s most popular board game. You know, the one we’ve all played where, with “play” money, we’ve bought little green wooden houses or built red wooden hotels from the Old Kent Road to Mayfair, charging rent to other players unfortunate enough to land on our squares. To the 22 existing different language versions available in 33 countries, Russian is being added. As when the original American version was adapted for the English market in 1935, changes have been made. The street lay-out is that of Moscow. Mayfair has become Arbat, erstwhile habitation of Tsarist Imperial courtiers, just as Whitechapel Road here is Nagatynskaya Street in a run-down industrial suburb. The money is roubles and stocks and shares have become government bonds. Like their western counterparts. Russian workers will be able to play at property speculation and exploitation in their sitting-rooms while, in the real world outside where they have to sell their labour-power, they will continue to be exploited until capitalism—Russian or Western-style—is abolished.

Eva Goodman