KHABAROVSK: He was working the bar at the Pool Club in Khabarovsk. He introduced himself as "Vladimir...like our President." A colorful character, Vladimir spoke a mile a minute, joking constantly, and all I could understand after 5 minutes was that things were "f@cking awful" following the 1998 Russian default and ruble collapse. Once he slowed down, I learned he started working in bars in the late 1990s, while pursuing a degree in bio-chemistry. Like many Russian science/engineering students of that era, he didn't bother starting a career in science. But it wasn't just for financial reasons. "I understood that this [bartending] was my thing. I wanted to work with people and this was the best club." Vladimir has been serving up drinks at Pool Club for 15 years and knows the city's movers and shakers. "All the privledged youth used to come here. Now they own businesses, restaurants...they have become important people." Vladimir joked that he knows their secrets as well.
KHABAROVSK: Evgeny and his younger brother were touching up their new bar ‘Loft’ in Khabarovsk early on a February weekday evening. They had just held what they called ‘a pre-opening’ event a few days before, but still needed to do some work before fully opening.
The clean, simple bar had black and white portraits of Cubans on the wall. Small tables and couches were placed in various corners of the bar. Evgeny said his father made some of the bar’s furniture.
Jazz music played in the background. Evgeny says he likes Jazz and Blues and that his favorite musician in this genre is Karl Frierson….
Khabarovsk: Zoya, 23, was with her former dorm roommate at a new, ‘hipster-styled’ bar in Khabarovsk on a recent evening. Zoya grew up in Komsomolskaya, but like many young people from that town, moved to Khabarovsk to study. She worked for the tax inspection upon receiving her bachelor’s degree. Having heard so many terrible stories about the tax agency during my years in banking, I asked her about that job.