Hold On, Tovarich, Here Comes Hyperinflation

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After a spectacular devaluation and default, what's a country to do? The answer from Russia's new central banker, Viktor Geraschenko, is to print money, and lots of it. Printing presses are said to have been rolling for days, cranking out billions of nearly worthless rubles. Just how many have been printed is a state secret, but Boris Nemtsov, the 38-year-old (recently retired) deputy prime minister, puts the figure at "between 9 billion and 12 billion rubles" (some $600 million to $800 million). Officially, the central bank only admits to printing "less than 1 billion" rubles. But a former bank official fears that as many as 50 billion rubles will be minted in a vain attempt to reflate the economy. A far likelier result is hyperinflation. Inflation has already rocketed to 67 percent since the Aug. 17 devaluation, and is forecast to hit 290 percent by year's end.