Friday Rant: The Irony of Post-Soviet Conspicuous Consumption

Having grown up in the U.S. during the Iron Curtain era with its associated propaganda and capitalism vs. communism debate in college, the proliferation of extreme wealth among post-Soviet Russian industrialists provides a mixed fascination. Some members of the last generation who were raised under the old dictum " From each according to his ability, to each according to his need," are surely spinning Karl Marx in his grave. And they're also bankrupting their suppliers in a race for the glitziest yacht.

This morning's WSJ writes that "In the battle among Russia's billionaires for yacht supremacy, Roman Abramovich's upcoming 540-foot Eclipse may soon become the biggest, but Andrey Melnichenko's 394-foot "A" has become the most talked-about yacht on the seas." Melnichenko, "a 38-year-old banking, steel and fertilizer czar" had his "boat designed by Philippe Starck and completed in mid-2008 for more than $300 million."

With luxurious custom accoutrements too numerous to mention, it includes "a spiral staircase lined with scalloped, silver-leaf walls (the banister cost $60,000) [leading to] a door accessible by a fingerprint security system [and] opens to an all-white, 2,583-square-foot master suite wrapped in bomb-proof, 44-milimeter glass." Bomb proof glass? Small wonder, as "numerous companies involved in its construction went bankrupt, done in by the novelty of the project and the level of customization required."

At least Melnichenko retained the part about 'to each according to his need' -- "The boat costs over $20 million a year to maintain [and] filling the gas tank costs more than $500,000." You go comrade.

William Busch

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