Kiev notes

The city has some of the best Soviet war memorials, noting that the text at the main Babi Yar monument does not in fact refer to “Jews.”  The museums are much better than expected, with at least five worthy of a visit, including the National Museum, the folk art museum, Scythian gold museum, and Russian art museum, and the Khanenko museum.

I am underwhelmed by the economy here, and Kiev is one of the least bustling national capitals I have seen, especially for a country of its size.  The distribution of stores and commercial ventures is so thin as to remind me of some parts of San Francisco.  Yes, this is August but still the streets feel empty, even in the center of town.  Maybe especially in the center of town.  The earlier Soviet infrastructure has not been built over, and the basic outline of the city does not yet feel “post-reform.”

Poland and Ukraine had about the same per capita gdp in 1992, but now Poland’s is three times higher.  Even Russian wages are twice as high.  The Ukrainian economy has shrunk 17.8% since 2008, and that is not even counting the loss of territory, which still counts statistically as part of Ukrainian gdp.

Markers of the new, post-2014 Ukrainian nationalism are seen frequently, and the use of the Russian language is actively discouraged.

There is a brand or chain of Karaoke parlors called “MAFIA Karaoke.”

Unlike some parts of Moscow, there are few signs of a rip-off culture here with respect to tourists. The citizenry is unfailingly helpful when possible, though short answers are hard to come by.  People in random encounters seem quite willing to give all sorts of (wordy) advice as to what you should be doing and why.

Japanese restaurants are more common than Chinese.  After Italian, there is not much culinary diversity to be seen, but the Georgian restaurants are among the best in the city.  As for a single recommendation, Kanapa [Kanape] for “nouvelle Ukraine” would be my clear first pick, and it is on a picturesque street with many folk art stalls.

If two people each order bottles of mineral water, they will not open one bottle for each person.  Instead, they induce you to first share the first bottle, and then the second, in sequence.  Thus the water is not efficiently conserved.

It is remarkable how many different restaurants serve their chocolate ice cream with a basil leaf on top.

Comments

Please explain the point about the water being "not efficiently conserved"? Opening bottle sequentially seems logical to me. Perhaps the two people will go through an odd number of bottles and have less waste. Also, the water remains fresher and colder while sealed.
I also like the social aspect of sharing the water with each other.

Agree, typical wasteful American attitude that there shall be two bottles of Mineral water. Share one, if you want more, get another. Simples

'they induce you to first share the first bottle'

Really wonder who the 'you' doing the inducing really is - the restaurant staff or the people he is sharing a meal with. And if Prof. Cowen actually considers adapting to local customer something that needs inducement.

But in all fairness, a lot depends on the size of the bottle. Two .2 l bottles being opened in sequence does seem a bit odd. A couple of people ordering two .7 l or 1 l bottles, intending to share the water and save a bit of money is certainly normal enough, if perhaps not typically American.

The shared water becomes a "commons," subject to attendant tragedies.

Yeah, especially if the mineral water is sparkling rather than still. Flat mineral water is gross.

As son as you open the bottle, the water starts losing gas. Sharing each bottle is efficient.

Often Tyler puts in these distortions of logic to keep us, the readers, on our toes.
Tyler is having fun.

See below for another one of Prof. Cowen's 'distortions,' though not of logic.

"Poland and Ukraine had about the same per capita gdp in 1992, but now Poland’s is three times higher."

I see Poland is ranked No. 45 in economic freedom by Heritage Foundation while Ukraine is ranked No. 150. Just out of curiosity, which country would rank higher in terms of convertible currency, stable prices, private property rights, and enforceable private contracts? These factors seemed to be the ones emphasized by economists in the 1990s [https://www.nytimes.com/1991/10/27/business/three-whiz-kid-economists-of-the-90-s-pragmatists-all.html].

An even easier filter to encompass your 4 variables is which one is a member of the EU and which one is not?

C'mon Prior, the economic freedom indices have very good correlation with economic growth, as good as anything in this world. There's no mystery here.

Why suggest EU membership has superior explanatory power? EU membership has almost zero correlation with economic growth; if anything it's mildly negative. The EU share of global GDP has been steadily sinking for 40 years. It's even been shrinking relative to the basket of other rich countries, so it's not just catch up growth making the EU look bad.

'Why suggest EU membership has superior explanatory power?'

Not superior explanatory power. First, all of the conditions listed (you know, covered by this - 'to encompass your 4 variables') are minimum requirements for EU membership, and are then enforced both at the national and supranational level.

'EU membership has almost zero correlation with economic growth'

Entering the EU as a poor nation is very much associated with economic growth - just ask the Irish. The EU structural funds are not precisely trivial - you are welcome to read about the current ones here - http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/en/funding/

'The EU share of global GDP has been steadily sinking for 40 years.'

As has America's, depending on your opinion of PPP. China's rise is quite notable.

And of course, Poland had unfettered access to a much larger free market area than Ukraine. Luckily, with Brexit, we will get another case study involving the reverse. Particularly if Brexit is a hard one, we will all enjoy the chance to see what happens when a nation leaves a large free market area to go out on its own.

We agree that the EU tends to sustain levels of economic freedom. We disagree on how much it generates those in the first instance.

"Entering the EU as a poor nation is very much associated with economic growth - just ask the Irish. The EU structural funds are not precisely trivial "

But staying in it as a rich nation is very much less associated with economic growth. So the net effect is actually negative, as I stated (which is what we'd expect with structural fund transfers).

"As has America's, depending on your opinion of PPP. China's rise is quite notable."

Once again I anticipated and answered your argument before you even made it. EU GDP has been multi-decadal falling even against the "rich basket" of countries; that is, taking China and the "catch up growth" brigade out of account. EU membership genuinely seems to have a mild negative effect on growth under basic controls.

'But staying in it as a rich nation is very much less associated with economic growth.'

Poland is not a rich nation.

'EU GDP has been multi-decadal falling even against the "rich basket" of countries'

How are we measuring growth? Poland's growth looks pretty good compared to Ukraine's over the last generation, for example, even if less stellar than that of China or South Korea. America's growth? Well, its stock market, and its advertising and data selling networks seem to be doing quite well. Its car or machine tools industries - not so much. I would quote from the Wang process knowledge article concerning industrial robotics, but the apparently, that is beyond the bounds here.

Now you're doing the normal "change the subject / change the claim" dissimilation routine, Prior. I'll pass.

It's worth noting that at any given time now there are probably more than two million Ukrainians working in Poland (less in the cities in summer it seems).
Poland isn't rich but it's richer than Ukraine with a language that's easy for Ukrainians to become functional in quickly. The culture is a little less similar but not extremely alien.
This is a case of mass migration causing relatively few problems so most people aren't much interested in it.

....And incidentally, most countries of eastern Europe liberalised their economics BEFORE becoming members of the EU.

I suppose you might argue that the EU helps raise or sustain basic economic freedoms, but the statistical evidence for such a claim is thin.

'liberalised their economics BEFORE becoming members of the EU'

It was a requirement for becoming a EU member - of course they did.

Yes, agreed. But many were liberalising anyway.... I'm not seeing great prima facie evidence that the EU caused or sustained such liberalisation.

If we wanted to establish the EU as promoting economic freedom, we'd need to check the trajectories of countries with equivalent income who did, and did not, join the EU.

I'm feeling nice today; I suppose I might grant that the EU promotes a good (by global standards), but not exceptional, level of economic freedom. But tends to inhibit countries from achieving the highest scores with its protectionist corporatism and social democratic baggage. That is, EU membership to some extent "locks in" existing achievement. Happy?

'But many were liberalising anyway.... I'm not seeing great prima facie evidence that the EU caused or sustained such liberalisation.'

Of course not - after all, Brexit is all about enjoying all the benefits and privileges of being a non-member of the EU. Strangely, though, former Soviet vassal states seemed eager to join the EU, for whatever reason.

I guess it's relative. Much as I dislike Brussels, the EU is clearly a lesser "evil" than the Soviet Union or successor Russian regime. If you had to choose one or the other...

And to be fair to Poland circa 1990, the EU of 25 years ago was not as onerous or dysfunctional as the one today, especially from the East European perspective. Now, however....

Every post-communist country in eastern Europe liberalized its economy. They had no choice. They couldn't exactly move in the opposite direction. They were already up against the hard limit of how much collectivism a society can sustain.

> Unlike some parts of Moscow, there are few signs of a rip-off culture here with respect to tourists.

I wonder what you're referring to here. I just got back from Moscow and noticed surprisingly little ripoff culture. The only bad experience was a single taxi that tried to charge a different price than the pre-negotiated fare at the end of the trip. Otherwise using Yandex for taxis made that situation easily avoidable.

I too was surprised by this comment, maybe an old experience? Moscow has changed a lot in the last 15 years, it used to be common for foreigners to be asked for bribes by the police, now this almost never happens.

It's been about 10 years since I've been there, but it was typical for foreigners, Americans especially, to be charged one price, and Russians another, much smaller, price. Of course, a lot depended on what you were purchasing, and where. The standard retail stores would charge everyone the same price. Although, the retail stores near Tverskaya, where there was a hub of expat workers, would charge considerably more than, say, stores near Mendeleevskaya. I found this pattern even more pronounced in other cities. When I was a single tourist, or part of a small party, I would pay Russian level rents for my apartments. When there were a large number of expats seeking apartments in an area, regardless of supply, the rents would suddenly escalate several hundred percent. I experienced similar results for service work, except I got the higher price then if I was the buyer, whereas if I let the Russians in my party do the buying, they would get the better price. And what that price was would depend on WHICH of my Russian compatriots was doing the buying. However, MOST of the expats I knew were completely unaware of these pricing differences.

My buddy has a Mexican wife. He has to stay away from her when the haggling starts when they are visiting Mexico or she wouldn't get the local price.

'The distribution of stores and commercial ventures is so thin as to remind me of some parts of San Francisco.'

Possibly like this area? - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richmond_District,_San_Francisco

This was one of the oddest statements in this post. Why compare it to part of a city? It's probably true for parts of just about every city. But like you suggest, if you are going to compare it to part of a city, at least name that part.

Least bustling?

The city may be too large for the current population, which has been falling since the 1990s.

Kiev native here. In reality, the population of the city has multiplied since 1990. 2x-3x times.

the author's comment about "least bustling" is weird. He saw the central part on Saturday morning, I guess.

Well, maybe if the central part was the central business district. London's square mile (financial centre) is quiet on a Saturday morning, though other nearby parts are packed.

Prof Cowen's been to a lot of Capitol cities (more than you?). I'd tend to take the observation seriously.

Kiev's population is 3-million+. I'm in the center right now. I was in Boston, MA, for example, and Boston's downtown was a quiet village comparing to what I'm seeing. Actually I wish it was much quieter and less crowded here.

Boston has a population of ~500,000 people.

Oh, thanks.

So, where the impression of a quiet place comes from?

"It is remarkable how many different restaurants serve their chocolate ice cream with a basil leaf on top."
Are you sure it was basil and not mentha? Mentha goes very well with chocolate.

Interesting - and this link at least seems to suggest a certain similarity in appearance - https://www.ebay.com/b/Mentha-Herb-Seeds/42215/bn_73817619?_pgn=4

Guess Prof. Cowen did not try the chocolate ice cream himself, possibly because it was not dark enough.

Exactly. That is what I thought. Mint.

"Guess Prof. Cowen did not try the chocolate ice cream himself, possibly because it was not dark enough."

Well, either that or there were too many attractive women eating it :-)

Kiev native here.

"the streets feel empty, even in the center of town", did you visit the central part on early Saturday morning? It's actually crowded there. Are we talking about the same center of the 3-million+ "town"?

"The distribution of stores and commercial ventures is so thin as to remind me of some parts of San Francisco"

because Kiev has many malls, including huge ones, where locals buy stuff instead. Those stores in the central part are not usually used by locals, mostly visitors.

the comments above said everything about the water bottles already.

Chocolate is not served with basil. It's mentha.

+2.

I am now amazed that Tyler messed up Basil / Mentha with chocolate. In all his travels, has he never seen this pairing before?

Bonus point: I'm also amazed that US English speakers use a different word for "mentha", it's "mint" to us Brits (we recognise 'mentha' - but it is only used in a medicinal rather than food context!)

I'm also amazed that US English speakers use a different word for "mentha", it's "mint" to us Brits

They don't. Here in the U.S., those are mint leaves (and 'Volodymyr' says he's a native of Kiev, not an American). But you can continue to be amazed about crisps, chips, cookies, and biscuits ;)

It is "mint" to Americans too. This is the first time I've ever heard the word "mentha. "

But you still inexplicably drop the h in herb!

Just using the lower class pronunciation of the word. Don't need no aristocrats telling us 'ow to say things. :)

Yes, and you still inexplicably drop the final r in every word that has one, so...thea you ahh.

Do you mean to say that the principal dining advisor on this blog can't tell his mint from his basil? Even with the handy clue that it's served on choco ice cream?

I know, the mask slips just a little, and the illusion is ruined!

Next we find out this whole "Tyler - economics prof" act is some brilliant Scott Adams creation.

I'm told that Ukrainian chiropody is rather good. So buy your tootsies a treat, Mr Cowen.

I have to wonder about Tyler's perceptions of economic activity. The major industrial areas of the country are, I believe, among that "lost" territory. Which was predictable at the start of the conflict. I would guess that the economic base of Ukraine is now more similar to Moldova, and they will continue in poverty for decades to come.

many regions of Ukraine, including Kiev (shoud be "Kyiv" as correctly corrected in the comments here) already have GDP larger than they had before the war. Overall country's GDP is expected to catch up in a few years. Which, given the difference in the comparison (old stats together with occupied territories vs new stats without occupied territories) would result in a substantial improvement for territories free from Russia's occupation comparing with pre-war time.

Should be Kyiv, not Kiev. Kiev is a Soviet version of the city's name. Guys, Ukraine is as long as 27 years not part of the Soviet Union... and you still stuck in the past.

"Ukraine is as long as 27 years not part of the Soviet Union... and you still stuck in the past." Seems like part of Ukraine is still stuck in the Soviet Union.

That's true unfortunately, but it gets out of it step by step. And #Kyiv_NOT_Kiev is one of those steps. The city itself and its citizens are transforming, and they deserve to be named properly

I'm a citizen, I want it to stay Kiev forever. Wasn't enough time and effort was spent in idiotic renamings? I'm sad to hear my neighbors still havent moved past the cargo-cult of thinking that renaming things changes them.

Reminds me of how the doll of the previous president sitting in a cage on the main square made people happy and freaking content, while that same criminal ex-president is living free somewhere. Nevermind, let's do more voodoo magic!

Holy shit, my dear compatriots, sometimes I just hate your dumb guts.

The goverment forces my name to be spelled SERHII in my foreign passport. I don't think a single person ever spelled the name that way before. Fucking retards.

Did I ever say you cannot live in "Kiev"? As an individual you can spell your own name as you wish, it's your right. You may also say you live in Kiev, up to you.
But when the city's name is used in publications, Kyiv or Kiev is not about preference, it's just right and wrong spelling. Not more, not less. And it's not about renaming (why would we rename it, it is Kyiv for more than 1500 years), it's just a mistake that is done quite often unfortunately.

Searching for text on a page or filling a form should not involve trying multiple spellings (and there are always Kyyiv and Kyiw options as well). The most common spelling is Kiev, the other spellings should be killed, end of story. You can live in "Kyiv" privately in your head, don't impose inconvenience of your party line on others.

The most common does not mean correct. For people who want to use a correct name of the city "Kyiv" is the one. If you are comfortable with using incorrect but more common (for now) legacy translation - up to you.

>I am underwhelmed by the economy here

Gee, maybe getting invaded by Russians, and fighting them for years, put a dent on spending.

I realize that happened during the Administration Of The Lightbringer, but that doesn't mean you are forbidden to bring it up any more.

This hurt the Ukrainian economy too - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russia%E2%80%93Ukraine_gas_disputes

Basically, the Ukrainians managed to act in such a fashion that they cut themselves out of being a transit country for Russian energy flowing to the EU.

Strangely enough, neither the EU nor the Russians seem to be bothered by eliminating a source of such shortfalls in delivered energy passing through Ukraine. German reporting at the time pointed out that after meters were installed that the EU and Russians both trusted and could inspect (the Ukrainians were pointed excluded from this arrangement), the amount of energy being delivered to the EU accurately reflected the amount of energy being supplied by the Russians, as compared to previous notable shortfalls. Which the Ukrainians tended to blame ever so conveniently on everything except themselves.

(Yes, a complicated subject, and there is no question that the Russians were using energy to further their own interests - but at least in the EU, there was also no question who was using gas without paying for it, and it was neither the Russians nor the EU).

"the Ukrainians managed to act in such a fashion that they cut themselves out of being a transit country for Russian energy flowing to the EU"

You should probably reread that Wiki article once again, you got it wrong. As of today, Ukraine stays the #1 gas transit country. This #1 position has been staying since independence, never broken. There are attempts by other countries to change this for the future, but you're talking about the current situation and the past.

'As of today, Ukraine stays the #1 gas transit country. '

This is from that article, in its opening - 'Russia plans to completely abandon gas supplies to Europe through Ukraine after 2018. Gazprom has already substantially reduced the volumes of gas it transits across Ukraine, and expressed its intention of reducing the level further by means of transit diversification pipelines (Nord Stream, Turkish Stream, etc)'

Obviously, what is intended and what happens are two different things, and it is not that the Soviet era pipeline network is going to be ripped up. Further, Russia is just one of the suppliers of natural gas, though it is fair to say that Russia is in a dominant position regarding such energy supplies in terms of controlling the market.

Nonetheless, as noted above, major infrastructure is intended to bypass Ukraine. Here is some information concerning Nord Stream - 'Nord Stream (former names: North Transgas and North European Gas Pipeline; Russian: Северный поток, Severny potok) is an offshore natural gas pipeline from Vyborg in the Russian Federation to Greifswald in Germany that is owned and operated by Nord Stream AG. The project includes two parallel lines. The first line was laid by May 2011 and was inaugurated on 8 November 2011. The second line was laid in 2011–2012 and was inaugurated on 8 October 2012. At 1,222 kilometres (759 mi) in length, it is the longest sub-sea pipeline in the world, surpassing the Langeled pipeline. It has an annual capacity of 55 billion cubic metres (1.9 trillion cubic feet), but its capacity is planned to be doubled to 110 billion cubic metres (3.9 trillion cubic feet) by 2019, by laying two additional lines.'

And when that doubling is complete, Nord Stream will provide more gas directly to Germany than all the gas that transits the Ukraine, at least according to this source - https://en.interfax.com.ua/news/economic/474366.html

That Ukraine continues to be an integral part of a Soviet era pipeline network designed to provide energy to Eastern Europe is beyond dispute. That a country like Germany prefers to build new pipelines than rely on Ukraine for gas deliveries is also pretty obvious. (The Poles really, really don't like this, it should be noted - for several reasons.)

"The citizenry is unfailingly helpful when possible, though short answers are hard to come by. People in random encounters seem quite willing to give all sorts of (wordy) advice as to what you should be doing and why."

If I had any suspicion that your travelogue was made up, and that you had not in fact visited Kyiv, this observation alone would prove you were being truthful.

We can't shut up. Ever.

Basil as a component is currently quite trendy around continental Europe (at least), including very much for ice creams. (Mostly seen as basil or basil-lime or something similar flavored ice creams)

The fancy-ish restaurants I've visited in Kyiv seem to me to be exactly the types of places which would be quick to jump on the basil bandwagon.

As for the quietness of Kyiv/Kiev, it's very much true - easy to notice if you've been to other 3m+ cities around the world. I suspect that the reason is that Kyiv, like many ex-Soviet cities, has a fairly small central area (some 400-500k inhabitants in Kyiv, if I'm not mistaken), with the rest of the population living in the "bedroom" suburbs which tend to be rather far from the city center. I assume that this structure leads the suburb inhabitants to conduct more of their daily activities in "islands" closer to the suburbs, e.g. in the malls Volodomyr mentioned.

And of course, economics is important, I have visited Kyiv few years before the conflict and soon after the conflict started, and the drop in traffic was remarkable.

Visiting Kiev last year, I remember being astonished at just how many coffee stands there were. It seemed as though you couldn't walk more that 50 metres without passing a booth offering extraordinarily strong expresso.

Kiev is a beautiful city. I wish I can visit one day.

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