The eXile presents a new feature column which takes us directly into the world of the sons and daughters of Russia's elite. "Optimists" in the West have often pinned their hopes on Russia's youth, the idea being that once the generations raised in the Soviet era are finally replaced by those raised in the "free" era, Russia will finally join the family of civilized, liberal, middle-class nations. Our correspondent, Vika Bruk, is currently a college student studying at a well-known, elite European school.
The first couple of days in college were a bit of a shock for me. Although I have studied at 4 different schools in Europe prior to college, all of which were considered very posh and pretentious, I have never come across such a large concentration of rich Russian offspring before. After the Japanese students, they are the biggest minority. It probably has something to do with a fact that this college is so expensive even by English standards; we are all supposed to feel specially-blessed by god himself. So it is easy for the type of Russian who is "sick-of-that-scum" to feel at home here -- because they can feel exclusive, even by Western standards. And of course, as one of the Russian girls once said to me, she is glad "there are no niggers in our college," since she "can't tolerate the smell of rotten eggs."
There is very little variety among the Russians. Most of these people have already been living in England for a couple of years, graduated from Harrow, Rugby or Eaton, where they started imitating posh English intonations, which creates a funny sound when combined with a typical Russian "vots zys?!" Their fathers' source of wealth has something to do with either oil, gas, banking or construction. Their families live in Moscow or are about to move there from a resource-rich Russian province. I asked Tanya, who's always perfectly tanned, where she lived.
"Moscow," she said.
"And where in Moscow?"
"Ryazan," she answered.
However, there are few bizarre exceptions, like people from Uzbekistan or Minsk. I wonder what there is to steal over there?...
Their ambitions normally lie in the business area. Particularly for elitny young Russian males, the usual life plan sounds like this: getting a degree in economics and management, going back to Moscow, and taking over daddy's business. With girls, a popular choice is interior design for some reason. A blonde tanned interior stylist looks very appealing next to an investment banker, I guess.
Blond blue-eyed Nastya from Kazan got very attached to me from the very first day. Her dad supplies the whole of central Volga region with bricks and cement, and from the profits he supplies his beloved daughter with piles of cash.
"My father is my ideal type of man," says Nastya.
Like most Russian girls in my college she keeps her daddy in mind while searching for a potential husband: "I could never respect a man who doesn't have a decent income and can't provide a decent life for his wife."
The word "decent" is her favorite word and is usually associated with golden credit cards and the infamous Gucci heels: "Look at these shoes!" says Nastya, flipping through my Vogue. "They have furry heels! Takie prikolnye! I should buy them. However... Can you imagine, I'd walk out in them, and the fur will get dusty! But they are so chic..." Over the next 10 minutes Nastya discussed the utility or lack thereof of a pair of furry stilettos. Next Monday she appeared at schooling wearing them to her fine art class.
Her favorite fun thing to do is to go shopping between classes with other Russians. In fact shopping is what defines their lives. The purchasing habits of Irina, daughter of some big Russian banker, have turned her into a kind of a school legend. Literally every single day she shows up with a fresh bundle of shopping bags with various designer names on them. It is a great mystery to everybody in our school where she was getting these bags of designer clothes from, since there is only one designer boutique in our college town, all of whose profits depends on wealthy young Russians anyway.
Irina is known to be the richest and the most careless of the whole bunch. She is admired and secretly envied by her friends, as her money spending is on an entirely different level. For her 18th birthday she rented out a popular college town bar for Friday night with free drinks for all the guests. Since then, everyone considers Irina to be the most desirable friend one should have. Nastya, for example, considers her a role model: "You know I respect her because I take one look at her and I can tell -- she is richer then me. But she doesn't mention it really. And her style is just so chic."
In a crowd of college kids you can always spot these Russians by their already- mentioned "chic style," which usually includes a pair of Gucci heels, tight Dolce & Gabbana jeans with a diamond thong sticking out, mid-riff bearing top and a pair of hoop earrings. The more bling-bling, the better. Even Nastya's teeth sparkle with 3 perfectly fitted diamond incrustations. No wonder that being mistaken for a high-class whore by less fashion-conscious Brits is something that happens to them a lot; apparently it is almost like a point of pride, like: "I was mistaken for a whore twice today." "Oh what a loser, it's my fifth time tonight."
For such a closed-up community, there is a lot of competition going on, and it's not just about looking as easy and flashy as possible. During the freshmen's week we witnessed a designer bag competition, where Tanya Krutakova from Ryazan came as the ultimate winner by managing to flash a new bag every day for two weeks, starting with a spring '04 Dior saddle and finishing with a classic white Louis Vuitton Mourakami.
Despite all the effort of the Russians to appear as Western as possible by changing their accents, table manners or in rare cases even sacrificing their beloved golden Cavalli loafers for a pair of more humble looking Ted Bakers, most Brits are still suspicious of them. Russians are being gossiped about as mafia and homosexuals thanks to the Russian guys' lavish dressing style. It is hard for English kids to match up to Russian money-splashing levels, as England's rich and famous parents are far from being as generous with their young as Russians' parents. For the English, money and background are never as obviously shown; it is almost rude to exhibit what you have. Children of the world's most celebrated people take the bus to school and waitress in bars. Every morning there are long lines of taxis driving towards the college building, every one of them loaded with a sleepy, garishly-dressed Slav inside.
As much as they like Britain, the majority of young and rich Russians are planning to return to their homeland. Most have little interest in politics, and to English people they seem shockingly ignorant about terrorism or any Russian news. In fact, only a few seem to have a good idea of what the country they will soon be possessing is actually like.