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Over the past five years, the number of people referred to as the middle class in Russia has doubled
According to the data of the All-Russian Centre for People's Living Standards, there are 13 million of them in Russia now (8-9% of the population). The dynamics is impressive indeed. However, the data presented by psychologists and doctors overshadow this economic gain: the Russian middle class is prone to suffer from all kinds of fears and thus lose health very rapidly. This is the cost of prosperity. "The middle class are dependent people," comments Olga Makhovskaya, specialist from the Institute of Psychology of the Russian Academy of Sciences. "The main problem uniting most of them is the fear to lose their status. Neither wealthy, nor poor people are afraid so much of losing their jobs and status." "I would not wish to lose my present job. Firstly, nowadays we can secure our social guarantees only by work. Secondly, I am used to a certain life-style. I am doing my best to secure the status I have gained with such difficulty," admits the auditor Tatyana Shishkova, a 29 year- old Moscow resident. She is a typical middle-class Russian, a married woman with a good education, a monthly wage of $900, an apartment, a country house and a car. Tatyana does not deny herself anything: she buys new household appliances, goes abroad twice a year for holidays, likes to go to restaurants and a fitness club. She spends more than a half of her wage on shopping and entertainment. "Hostages to their status and consumption", "slaves on the galleys they condemned themselves to," - this is how Olga Makhovskaya characterises the middle class. "I hold on to my job, even though I realise that, to a certain extent, we are just cogs in our company's machine. We are zombied by corporate tasks," Tatyana Shishkova says. In Soviet times, a person's private interests were sacrificed to the state, and now they are sacrificed to the employer. Being accustomed to the "command game", middle-class Russians often find themselves at a loss in a situation which requires to make an individual choice. A new-type, "non-Soviet", collectivism cultivated by employers often prevents them from thinking independently and is sometimes leading them to a loss of guidelines in life. "Sometimes I think that I am nothing without my job, that I am helpless," Tatyana Shishkova complains. "In their career-seeking zeal, my colleagues are pitted against each other," says Maria Chayeva, a bank employee. "Contacts with my colleagues cause allergy. It is not far from the persecution mania. You live in constant fear and do not trust anybody." Even corporate parties do not remove tension. "The attendance is obligatory," Maria explains adding: "Work takes up all the time, even that which should be given to the family. We are not our own masters. However, nothing can be done about this." Most people belonging to the middle class work at offices. Psychologists say that they are in a constant state of tension. The reasons are as follows: constant concentration of attention and stress, the feeling of anxiety, the open-ended working day at the computer and minimal physical activity. "I am chronically tired and therefore drink too much coffee. My eyes often hurt, I have headaches and back pain. I am always irritated," Maria Chayeva complains. Among typical "office ailments" the doctors name gastritis, ulcers, unstable blood pressure, heartbeats and fainting fits. At the same time, middle-class Russians tend to visit their doctors less and less often. "In new economic conditions, health plays a certain role. Getting ill means losing a job in many cases," comments Tatyana Dmitriyeva, director of the State Research Centre of Social and Forensic Psychiatry. Meanwhile, the money race is gaining momentum. A poll conducted by the Institute of Comprehensive Social Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences showed that over 75% of the respondents would like to be independent, not just belong to the middle class.
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