Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Livin’ It Up in Kiev

November 9th, 2009 · No Comments

At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much of interest in this plain-Jane rundown of Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko’s income and assets. The man who rose to the top of Ukraine’s political structure after surviving a bizarre assassination attempt is certainly well-off by his nation’s standards, but it’s not like he’s pulling a pulling a Bongo on his people.

But upon closer inspection of Yuschenko’s loot, we did a double-take at his choice in personal motor vehicles: when not sitting in the rear of a state-owned limo, the man apparently likes to tool around in a beloved ZAZ-965, the poster-child for the shortcomings of Leninist engineering. We can only surmise that Yuschenko’s vehicular choice is all about keeping it real, Slavic-style, because the flagship model of the Zaporozhets brand was somewhat less than well-built:

In the wake of Russia’s early Space Race victories and in an effort to create a vehicle that would rival the VW Beetle, Krushchev ordered the construction of an affordable “people’s car.” Production began in 1958 at the Zaporozhets Automotive Factory (ZAZ) in Ukraine. The general secretary, who had just been humiliated in France when presented with a coupe too small to contain him, approved the small but sturdy Zaporozhets only after ascertaining that it could fit his large frame, albeit snugly. It sold well. Factory legend held that the head engineer, Vladimir Steshenko, based his pricing formula on the idea that the car should never cost more than 1,000 bottles of vodka…

But much like the leader who gave it his blessing, the Zaporozhets proved too temperamental to trust. It broke down frequently. The engine emitted a steady, hell-raising roar and had trouble with speeds over 80 miles per hour. Worst of all was the bonnet-loaded fuel tank that tended to explode in front-end collisions. People began to joke that the car never passed any of its safety tests because the test dummies ran away, terrified. But its ungainly shape and appearance were what truly made the Zaporozhets a national punchline. Shortened to “zapor,” the name translated to “constipated.”

Check out a vintage Zaporozhets in action here or here. And Mr. Yuschenko, if you’re reading this—while Microkhan certainly doesn’t endorse any matter of kleptocracy, we do think you should use the people’s money to buy yourself a slightly better vehicle. May we suggest something from Crazy Vaclav’s?


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