Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollectionsTrends

Media : Publishers Reaching Out to Nouveaux Readers : Magazines rush to tell Russia's new rich how to spend their money tastefully.

January 25, 1994|BETH KNOBEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

MOSCOW — In the old days, Soviet magazines like Rural Life and Worker Woman offered readers such mundane articles as "Tips for Fixing Your Tractor" and "How Our Factory Fulfilled its Production Quota."

But today, there are Russian magazines with a very different goal: Telling the nouveaux riches how to spend their money.

Trendy Americans with money to burn, after all, have upscale publications like Architectural Digest, Vanity Fair, Connoisseur and Vogue--all full of articles and advertisements suggesting ways to spend copious amounts of cash.

So why not Russians, bent on catching up with their shopping after years of empty shelves?

"There are people here with a lot of money sitting in their pockets," Igor Grigoriev, editor of the new Imperial magazine, said. "It's suicidal to keep a lot of money around because you don't know what's going to happen here. The government could pass laws taking it all away.

"That's why we want to explain to Russians how to spend their money tastefully--what to wear, what perfume is good, which car is prestigious."

The appearance of publications like Imperial underlines how quickly some Russians are progressing toward a Western-quality lifestyle.

And how quickly capitalism is developing here.

*

While there is much hardship as Russia tries to reform its economy, BBDO, an international advertising agency, estimates that in Moscow alone there are also more than 10,000 Russians who make more than $100,000 a year.

And there are other wealthy Russians, particularly in 20 other Russian cities with more than 1 million population.

Russia's new rich include entrepreneurs who have started successful businesses and people working for foreign firms who draw a Western-size salary.

Some wealthy Russians--members of organized crime gangs, racketeers and smugglers stealing valuable natural resources--make their money through illegal means.

Among the new publications appealing to the rich:

* 4WD Live, a German magazine devoted to four-wheel drive vehicles, which launched a Russian edition last June. The glossy magazine, on sale for "hard" currency only, profiles the latest off-road vehicles from around the world.

* The weekly newspaper Inostranets (Foreigner) is "for those (Russians) who are leaving forever, those who are leaving for a while and those who are staying home," according to the paper's masthead. The paper's regular departments include "Work," "Tourism" and "Repatriation" as well as features on Russians living abroad.

* Most (Bridge) is a slick monthly business magazine that attracted intense interest with a list of the 50 richest Russians.

*

Two other magazines were created with the specific goal of educating Russians about conspicuous consumption.

Grigoriev's Imperial is the more ambitious of the two, covering business, fashion, travel and leisure. "Our magazine is for the beautiful people," the 26-year-old editor, who met with magazine editors in London while planning Imperial, explained.

"It's for people who drive BMWs, who buy clothes by Hermes and who wear cologne from Pierre Cardin."

Imperial's thick, glossy pilot edition, published in September, was like nothing Russians have ever seen. One article featured Hawaiian vacations. Another showed off collections of designers Christian Dior and Giorgio Armani. There was also an investigation into whether delicate Japanese bonsai trees can survive in Moscow homes.

The magazine's ads come from Western companies including Panasonic, Bose and RJR Nabisco. It even scatters English words, printed in the Latin alphabet, throughout its Russian Cyrillic text.

*

Grigoriev explains that Russian lacks the equivalents of such words as "style," "promotion," "contributors" and "features."

The price tag, too, is distinctly un-Russian. Imperial's first bimonthly issue, which is about to hit newsstands, will sell for $5 a copy, with 50,000 issues printed. Future press runs depend on the success of the magazine's agreement with BBDO, which plans a cooperative effort to fill Imperial's pages with snazzy ads.

Domovoi, a bimonthly similar to Imperial, was introduced last autumn by Moscow's Commersant Publishing House. Commersant, one of Russia's leading media companies, produces the pre-Revolutionary journal of the same name, which was revived in 1990 and is now considered must reading for Russians in business.

Rather than having to start from scratch, Domovoi will be given free of charge to Commersant's 25,000 daily subscribers. Domovoi draws much of its staff from Commersant, with which it shares offices in a refurbished school.

Domovoi, named for a mythical elf that allegedly guards each Russian home, aims to provide practical advice on how to spend money "to the greatest satisfaction," according to its pilot issue.

"The magazine is for the nouveaux riches. They got rich a week ago, a month ago, and want to know what to do with their money," Igor Svinarenko, one of Domovoi's editors, said.

Svinarenko added that Domovoi hopes to reteach skills that atrophied during Soviet rule. "We were a classless society. Under communism, no one ever needed to know, say, how to talk to a maid. But now our readers need to talk to their maids, and it's not clear how they're supposed to do it," he said.

*

Domovoi's 98-page pilot issue contained one article exploring the new suburbs popping up around Moscow, discussing the pros and cons of each new community. Another feature described Russia's growing New Age movement.

Readers also learned how to get a credit card from Russian banks that have started issuing Visa and MasterCard. A section called the "Yellow Pages" offered classified advertising.

Like Imperial, Domovoi has its sprinkling of English words, also often printed in Latin script.

Both magazines are printed in Finland, and neither seems to mind competition. Imperial's editor, in fact, says the two publications will complement each other.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|