Staunton, August 14 – Often it is the smallest things that speak the most to people. One of those nominally small things that is casting a shadow on how Russians view their country and its economic problems is the return of something most thought they had dispensed with along with the Soviet Union 25 years ago – the absence of ripe bananas in the stores.
As Moscow commentator Aleksey Roshchin points out, in Soviet times, “there were never any bananas available except for green unripe ones” – and those were rare enough that many Soviet citizens had never seen a real banana and were prepared to stand in long lines to get even those (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=57AE1A14353E8).
In the USSR, people greedily bought the green bananas and then took them home to “ripen” for a week or two, often putting them in dark and hidden places where children and adults too would look in each day to see if they had turned yellow and thus were fit for consumption.
Then, suddenly “beginning in 1992,” Roshchin says, “bananas began to be sold ONLY if they were yellow and ripe.” That became a symbol of bigger changes and greater hopes: After all if bananas were readily available and sold yellow and ready to eat, then it seemed that much else was possible too.
But things haven’t worked out with bananas or with anything else. The commentator notes that last week he again could find only green bananas to buy and consequently has to wait for them to ripen just as he did 35 to 40 years ago.
However, Roshchin adds, to his eye, they aren’t quite as “desperately green” as they were in Soviet times,” although he implies that that too may only be a question of time.