Russia: Looking Into the Abyss

Real hunger and fear of a coup stalk the citizens of St. Petersburg

The bright sun of a northern winter can still turn the palaces and churches of Peter the Great's city into a feast of visual elegance. But beneath the sparkling exterior, the mood of the city's 5 million inhabitants is as frigid as the ice piled up in the Neva River. Slowly, less dramatically than during the 900-day siege by the German Wehrmacht in World War II, St. Petersburg is experiencing real hunger.

The city's scarcities became serious six months ago, say city officials, after the neighboring, newly independent Baltic states had already lifted their own price controls. That had led to...

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