When I was very young, Russia was this “grey” and “evil” entity. Having lived in countries mainly under the influence of the west, this is no surprise. The impression was that the government is not very good for the people, as in, not very democratic.
However this is my third or fourth time to Russia, and what I discovered has changed how I think about countries and governments in general.
The first thing that shocked me was how popular virtual money is. When you are in the wallet business, you learn that in Russia the most popular valid form of payment is “Webmoney” but the reality is that many russian companies have wallets! What really matters, is that you can walk a short distance from your home and convert your real cash to virtual cash, with which you can then pay for services online. For that, a rampant network of money collection terminals exists, with fierce competition in some areas. The machines only take money, and produce a receipt.
In some apartment buildings the machine is in the lobby so you can go downstairs in your PJ’s and convert money to virtual value without braving the elements (visualize the Moscow winter to realize how practical this is!).
What makes this business thrive in Russia and Ukraine? What is the government doing or NOT doing, which allows wallets to be so popular? Is it the lack of trust in Russians banks? Is it some Russian cultural trait?
I welcome your feedback on this one.