The Meltdown

Barter's Back in Russia

The global recession has brought Russia back to the mid-1990s in at least one respect: Bartering has returned. The system rose to prominence during the Yeltsin era, when the money supply contracted and business owners relied heavily on barter chains to acquire goods when their weakened ruble wouldn't seal the deal. The New York Times reports the increase in swaps is tied to a government policy of devaluing its currency—the ruble has dropped from 23.4 to the dollar in early August, before the war in Georgia, to 36.2 to the dollar last week—and, according to some, partly caused by stubbornness among retailers. "Russians are so arrogant that they never cut prices," said a professor at Moscow's New Economic School.