Russian entrepreneurs adapt to virus lockdown challenges

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Valentina Konstantinova, co-founder of the Skazka, or "Fairytale," a boutique hotel in eastern Moscow, stands during her interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, March 23, 2021. When Russia locked down for the coronavirus a year ago, her 18-room emptied out within a couple of days. A year later, Skazka is still open thanks to some creative thinking by Konstantinova, who makes up some revenue by having added a restaurant that serves Indian cuisine. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

MOSCOW – Valentina Konstantinova remembers well when Russia locked down for the coronavirus a year ago. Her 18-room boutique hotel, called Skazka, or “Fairytale,” was full, and within a couple of days, it had only one guest left.

“I still don’t understand how people could have vanished in one day, and where,” she recalled. The lockdown lasted six weeks, but with borders closed, her business prospects were grim.

One year later, Skazka is still open — thanks to some creative thinking by its owners — but with fewer guests than before.

Russia was never fully locked down again after last spring, and as a result, its economy and some of its businesses didn't suffer as much as those in some countries during the pandemic. But it also has seen its mortality rates rise.

When infections surged again in the fall, the government resisted imposing restrictions that would have shut many businesses.

Had there been another lockdown, “we'd be closed already,” Konstantinova said.

A six-week lockdown still damaged the weakening economy and compounded Russians' frustrations over declining incomes and worsening living conditions. President Vladimir Putin's approval rating fell from 69% in February 2020 to a historic low of 59% two months later before rebounding, according to the Levada Center, Russia's top independent pollster.

For the rest of 2020, industries and enterprises mostly stayed open. During a virus resurgence in the fall, some regions imposed restrictions that limited the hours or capacity of bars, restaurants and other businesses, but rarely were they closed altogether.