Russia: Roses and Migrant Workers

Global Voices Online
Thursday, May 15, 2008

Russian photographer Oleg Klimov (translation of his travel notes from Russia's Far East are here and here) visited a commercial greenhouse outside Moscow and posted his observations (RUS) about a birthplace of the roses one buys in Russia's capital:

[two photos from the greenhouse]

Why is it considered romantic to give flowers as gifts? I went to [Podmoskovye], observed how they are growing roses there. It's easy. Dutch technologies. Expensive. The director is from Cosa Nostra or is representing it: black shoes, black jeans, black leather jacket and a black Beemer. The real owner is a deputy from the [Putin-led United Russia Party], still a businessman, but a future politician, too, or, more likely, both. Engineers and the agronomist are Dutch. The workers are [gastarbeiter, migrant laborers], and they have fewer rights and respect than Moscow bums from [Kurskiy train station]. And a corresponding salary - "whatever God sends down." One rose costs 30-40 rubles [$1.25-$1.70] at the [...] farm, and 130-140 rubles [$5.45-$5.90] in Moscow. Everything they produce goes to Moscow. There are not enough flowers. The business is flourishing and growing. Damaged flowers are sent to churches. For free. A way to atone for their sins, obviously. God is not at the market - won't notice the damage.

[Migrant workers] can barely speak Russian. They work almost illegally, and perhaps their status in the country isn't too official, either - but it's hard to find out. [...]

A woman from Tajikistan, whose hands are all covered with bruises from rose thorns, said to me in Russian: "I love flowers, they are hope." It was strange to see the silent and humiliated human beings - as if transfered from the Middle Ages - work next to the high-tech [equipment]. And I still don't understand why women like everything that has to do with slavery: diamonds, gold and flowers.

No comments: