MOSCOW, Sept. 22 -- Teachers in Russia's Altai ('ahl-THAI') region, in southern Siberia, are being paid in vodka after the regional authorities said they had no funds to pay wages. Over 8,000 teachers in Altai's Maima ('MY-mah') district, who have not received their salaries since February, have accepted an offer of 15 bottles of vodka each as part payment rather than continue waiting for cash.
Contrary to some expectations, the desperate teachers are unlikely to go on a drinking binge, preferring to sell the bottles or swap them for food. The teachers had earlier been offered payment in toilet paper and coffins, but politely declined, suggesting members of the local government receive their own wages this way. Russia, which is in themiddle of a deep economic crisis, owes state employees, including teachers, doctors and miners, billions of rubles in wages for the past year. Cash-strapped regional authorities have offered to pay in a wide range of goods, such as vegetables, glassware, toilet seats and other items, but vodka is favored as the only thing that can be freely sold or exchanged for bread and other food. Many state employees have coped with the situation by cultivating their plots of land in the countryside, harvesting potatoes and carrots, or relying on relatives with a few chickens or a village cow for meat, eggs and milk. But fears of a cold, harsh winter have spurred many into action demanding immediate wage settlement, even in vodka. ---
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