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    The curious case of the Gucci boots and the disappearing kiosk

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    The war against street stalls in Moscow is over, but if you think the good old days of kiosk commerce will be back any time soon, you've got another thing coming.

    The war against street stalls in Moscow is over, but if you think the good old days of kiosk commerce will be back any time soon, you've got another thing coming.

    The following is a true story told to me by a friend during a time that shall go down in history as Bye-Bye, Kebab.

    It was a time when Moscow's new mayor Sergei Sobyanin was making a big kebab - sorry, hubbub - about getting rid of most of the legacy of his predecessor, Yury Luzhkov.

    One particular aspect of his legacy was kiosks, the secret mechanism behind Moscow's booming economic market. Having first appeared in the early 1990s as living symbol of the late Boris Yeltsin's economic reforms, they grew both in size and stature during Vladimir Putin's presidency. Half-way into President Dmitry Medvedev's tenure, their influence had been showing no signs of abating. Until recently, that is.

    Small wonder, then, that when Sobyanin launched a crusade against the kiosks last week in a bid to touch up the capital's image, hot dog- and kebab-lovers raised alarm. And they were not the only ones. For it was not just fast food that Moscow's kiosks supplied, oh no; they sold everything a man needs, and more: stationery, clothes, cars, spouses. Everything.

    But I digress. Here's the story: an attractive young woman attracted to an attractive well-off young man gets a pair of high-heeled knee-high Gucci boots costing a modest $1,500 for her birthday. They are a tad tight but she loves them all the same, seeing as she can show them off to her less well-off friends and would-be lovers. She enjoys herself. She's happy.

    Some time passes, she gets more clothes and shoes from her boyfriend. Her less well-off friends envy her. She enjoys herself. She's happy. Some more time passes, and she has to have her high-heeled knee-high Gucci boots repaired, because this is what time does to boots - wears down the heel, rubs off the shine, frays out the magic.

    Now, her being a businesslike little lady when it comes to paying for things herself, she decides to take them to a shoe repair kiosk outside her metro station, the cheap and cheerful kind of kiosk you'll find outside any metro station in Moscow. Until recently, that is.

    She hands them in, the cobbler says to come for them the next day, she says no probs. Except when she comes back the next day, it isn't there. The kiosk, the cobbler and the $1,500 boots have all gone. Sobyanin's men had got there first.

    She had shattered several windows at a nearby kebab stand before police arrived, witnesses said.

    The kebab stand was removed two days later.

    It's like that. It's always been like that. Things come and go. Some people say the kiosks will be back before the year is out, but I doubt it. It's not the end of the world, of course; but it is certainly the end of an epoch, the epoch of the kiosk.

    Oh, and I'll tell you who came out well in the end: the cobbler's wife.

    The views expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

    MOSCOW, November 18 (RIA Novosti, Alexei Korolyov)


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