Produced and edited by Margot Tiounine and Richard Topping
You can enable subtitles (captions) in the video player
HENRY FOY: The humble cabbage-- here in Russia, it's something of a cultural icon alongside the Orthodox Church and Tchaikovsky. Empires may rise and fall. Revolutions come and go, but the cabbage endures from borscht to side salads and everything in between. As Russians have remarked for generations, [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. Today, it is a critical economic indicator too. Cabbage prices rose by almost 80% last year-- the most startling in a slew of price increases that have left a dent in spending money for Russian households and left shopping bags feeling that a little bit later.
DMITRIY DOLGIN : Some products see increased demand from lower income household categories at a time of financial strain. So they might reflect some increase in poverty. Generally, the types of products, such as cabbages, carrots, beetroot, potatoes, they are goods that normally see increased demand at times when population is downshifting.
HENRY FOY: That has added to already strained households struggling with economic growth close to zero-- higher taxes and falling real disposable incomes, down around 12% since 2014. That gloomy picture has seen trust ratings in president Vladimir Putin fall from around 70 to around 30%, the lowest since 2006.
HENRY FOY: Russia's overall macroeconomic picture is healthy with record national reserves and a budget surplus. But average citizens are feeling the pinch. Those living in poverty rose to 21 million people this year, and household borrowing is increasing.
DMITRIY DOLGIN : There is not a lot of growth, and that is obviously a concern to pretty much everyone from investors to the local population and to the government.
HENRY FOY: In short, everything is feeling that little bit more expensive, including the humble cabbage. So government coffers are bulging but with few benefits for average Russians who have less cash and higher costs. But as trust in President Vladimir Putin's 20-year regime continues to erode, many say that sooner or later, the economy will get the boost it really needs. After all, it's never a good idea to keep Russians from their cabbages.