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To local militia, Soviet journalists and criminal court sociologists, they were known as ''priestesses of love,'' ''hard-currency ladies'' or, simply, ''the girls at the restaurant. Officials proudly pointed to the third edition of the Great Soviet. In the s, prostitution was liquidated as a widespread social phenomenon. That pretense has been dropped. The economic forces driving a Soviet woman to prostitution are easy to understand, perhaps even more so than in the West.
A Moscow prostitute who works a popular tourist hotel said she changes dollars into rubles at the profitable rate of 1 to 3. Another said she takes her dollars to one of the hard-currency shops catering to foreigners, and buys Western stereo equipment, appliances or cameras.
Those can be sold on the black market at rates between 3. Compare that with the average Soviet factory worker, who takes home rubles a month for his labor. One Moscow hooker, asked her reasons for turning tricks, described prostitution as the fast track to ''the good life. The woman, who gave her name as Vera, said: ''I dress in imported clothes. I wear French cosmetics.
I buy fruit at the beriozka dollar store. I have a sauna and massage, and I set out for the evening. Other Moscow hookers explained that a hierarchy exists among prostitutes in the classless society.
At the top of the ladder are the young, attractive women who work the best tourist hotels. They can be spotted in their French swimsuits at poolside at the Cosmos or Mezhdunarodnaya. Later they may switch into their Nike or Adidas sports shoes--both are very popular on the black-market here--for a little bowling. The vodka they buy there would mean a two-hour queue on a wintry sidewalk for the average Muscovite. Then the evening begins, working the restaurants and bars at the Cosmos, the Mezh, the National or the Intourist hotels.