Ипотечники штурмуют банки / Mortgage Borrowers Storm the Banks

Russian language practice from the contemporary Russian media - mortgage borrowers

Audio content: Borrowers describe their difficult situations and engage in some fiery arguments with bankers.
Visual content: Upset borrowers, gathered outside banks and restaurants, with protest signs.

Link to video at телеканал Дождь

A few weeks ago I featured the protests of the truck drivers. Now we look at the protests of mortgage borrowers, one of the leading topics in last week’s news. The borrowers who have been storming the banks recently belong to a specific, relatively small and unfortunate category, the “валютные ипотечники,” i.e., those who took out a mortgage denominated in foreign currency, usually in dollars. The value of the ruble with respect to the dollar has plummeted in recent years, moving from about 32 rubles to the dollar in 2012-2013 to around 78 rubles per dollar today. (This sharp change, beginning in late 2014, was driven by factors such as the sanctions imposed upon Russia in the wake of the annexation of Crimea and the sharp fall in the price of oil worldwide.) Since most of these borrowers receive their salaries in rubles, the amount of money that they owe has in effect almost doubled and they can no longer keep up with payments. They are asking banks to restructure their loans by converting them to rubles at a more favorable rate, one closer to 40 rubles per dollar rather than today’s 78. Bankers — and, for the time being, Putin’s press secretary Dmitri Peskov — are reluctant to offer any blanket remedies. They suggest that the borrowers need to accept responsibility for the risky financial decisions they made. Some borrowers claim that the banks pressured them into accepting foreign-denominated loans for technical reasons related to the different interest rates charged for loans in different currencies. Banks have been contacting borrowers individually to make arrangements (or threats), but during the last week borrowers came together and occupied the lobbies of numerous different banks in Moscow and other Russian cities, demanding to speak to the management and receive a workable solution to their problem.

In the videos below we’ll hear from both the borrowers and the bankers. The tone of the segment grows progressively more passionate, moving from the matter-of-fact comments of the first featured speaker to a heated confrontation between a banker and several borrowers at the end of the segment.

Заметки о языке: Key words are “валюта” (foreign currency) and “ипотека” (mortgage). Note the semi-officious style of the first speaker’s language, with periphrasis, bookish style and foreign borrowings (“cостоялась встреча”; “не закончилась… прорывами”; “генерироваться”). The language of later speakers is more direct and colloquial. Several times we hear the single word “всё,” which, when said with the right intonation, indicates that you’ve had enough and aren’t going to take it any more. The phrase “Сколько ждать?!”, repeated by one of the women, is a good line for when you are feeling impatient. The word “позор” (shame) is a common chant at protests of all types.

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In the first segment we hear from some borrowers who have come to the central office of Москоммерцбанк on Беговая улица in Moscow. They describe some of the more extreme solutions that have been suggested for their problems. You’ll see that several of them are wearing surgical masks. This is a protective measure against a severe flu season, not some sort of symbolic protest item — but the masks were put to good use when the protestors wrote messages on them.

Link to video at телеканал Дождь


Мужчина в черной куртке: Сегодня состоялась встреча с местным руководством Москоммерцбанка. Встреча, к сожалению, не закончилась какими-то значительными прорывами в нашем деле. Нам в очередной раз рассказали о том, что решения генерируются в банке, согласовываются с офисом Казкоммерцбанка, который находится в Казахстане. Все лица, принимающие решения, находятся там. Нам озвучили ряд предложений, которые кардинально не меняют ничего для каждого из нас.

Man in black jacket: Today a meeting took place with the local leadership of Moskommertsbank. The meeting, unfortunately, did not conclude with any significant breakthroughs in our matter. For the umpteenth time we were told that decisions are generated at the bank, are approved with the office of Kazkomertsbank, which is located in Kazakhstan. All individuals who make decisions are located there. A series of proposals were voiced to us that fundamentally do not change anything for each of us.

Ирина Маркова: До сегодняшнего дня предложения были на самом деле очень специфические. Там, продать квартиру своих родителей, да найти пятую работу, занять у друзей.

Irina Markova: Up until the current day all the proposals, in fact, have been very specific. To sell the apartment of one’s parents, or find a fifth job, or borrow from friends.

Елена Мельникова: Наша коллега, на пример, у неё дочка студентка. Ей предложили, чтобы дочка перестала учиться и просто пошла в Макдональдс, на пример, поработать. Это хороший способ заработать деньги, чтобы расплатиться с долгами.

Elena Melnikova: Our colleague, for example, her daughter is a student. They proposed to her that the daughter should stop her studies and simply go to McDonalds, for example, to work a bit. This is a good method for earning money to pay off debts.

Сона Хачатрян: Когда я последний раз говорила, что я мать-одиночка и мне просто жить негде, у меня нету больше никакой собственности… была единственная дача, которую я продала, и вот в течение года им закрывала кредит. Мне было предложено, что опеки, органы опеки ребенка не бросят, а вы ищите жильё.

Sona Khachatrian: The last time that I said that I am a single mother and I simply don’t have anywhere to live, I don’t have any property at all anymore — there was a single dacha [home outside the city], which I sold, and over the course of a year I covered the loan — it was suggested to me that the state guardianship system [i.e., social services, foster homes] will not reject the child, and I should go look for housing.


Женщина: Нет, сколько ждать?! Второй год мы ждём, сколько нам ждать? Реструктуризация — неправда. Я тоже реструктуризировалась. Не могу я платить. Всё! Когда я реструктуризировалась, было 54, сейчас 80 с лишним рублей. И такие здесь стоят — нас масса здесь таких. Что толку? Нет! нет! не работает это. Не можем мы платить просто в трубу, на зная сколько в конечном итоге будут стоить наши квартиры.

Woman: Really, how long must we wait? For the second year now we’re waiting, how long must we wait? Restructuring — that’s false. I also restructured. I can’t pay. That’s it! When I restructured, it was 54 [rubles to the dollar], now it’s 80-plus rubles. And people like this are standing here — there’s a bunch of people like us here. What’s the point? No! no! That doesn’t work. We can’t simply pay into a pipe [dump your money down the tubes], not knowing how much, in the long run, our apartments will end up costing.



Now let’s jump ahead to the final segment of the same video. Here we’ll see a direct confrontation between a banker and a borrower. On this evening a bankers’ association happens to be holding a gathering at the legendary Moscow ресторан “Яръ” / “Yar” restaurant. Protesters have been trying to infiltrate the gathering through the rear entrance (“черный ход”). One banker deliberately comes to face the angry borrowers.

Link to video at телеканал Дождь


Крики: Позор! Позор!

Shouts: Shame! Shame!

Гарегин Тосунян, банкир: Я ведь мог зайти в другой ход. Я мог обойти вас. Но я прошёл через вас, потому что мне действительно больно, что у вас такая ситуация. Но поймите, когда у вас трагедия, проблема, это не значит, что надо искать кого-нибудь, на кого свалить эту вину.

Garegin Tosunian, banker: After all I could have gone in the other way. I could have gone around you. But I came through you because it really is painful to me that you have such a situation. But understand: when you have a tragedy, a problem, that doesn’t mean that you need to look for some person on whom you can shove the blame.

Женщина в зелёной шапке: Четырнадцатого августа четырнадцатого года я пришла в банк, потому что у сына двенадцатого декабря двенадцатого года родились тройня. Мы понимали, что мы не справляемся, я пришла в банк и написала заявление: дорогие, переведите. Всё, ну всё. Тройня, понимаете? Тройня!

Woman in green hat: On August 14th of 2014 I came to the bank because, on December 12th, 2012, triplets were born to my son. We understood that we couldn’t manage, I came into the bank and wrote an application: dear ones, please transfer… That’s it, well that’s it. Triplets, you understand? Triplets!!

Женщина в чёрной шапке: Мы качественные, качественные заёмщики. Если убрать от нас валютную ипотеку… мы идеальные клиенты банка.

Woman in black hat: We are quality, quality borrowers. If you take this foreign-currency mortgage away… we are ideal bank customers.

Банкир: Вот, давайте так. Вот если вы идеальный клиент, то наверняка банк с вами в диалоге, в двухстороннем диалоге…

Женщина: Нет!

Banker: So, let’s say it’s like that. So if you are an ideal customer, then most likely the bank is having a dialogue with you, a two-sided dialogue.

Woman: No!

Банкир: Скажите, пожалуйста: вот на протяжении всего четырнадцатого года — я не говорю раньше, раньше тоже мы много раз… из моих уст вы слышали, что риски валютные очень опасно принимать на себя простому обывателю, который заимствует. Если у вас нет валютных доходов, нельзя этого делать, понимаете?

Banker: Tell me, please: so in the course of the entire year 2014 — I’m not talking about earlier, earlier too we many times… from my own lips you heard that it is very dangerous for a simple resident who is borrowing to take on foreign currency risks. If you do not have income in foreign currency, you just can’t do that, you understand?

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