Ryszard Kapuściński on long distance #busfares in the Caucasus, around 1990

At dawn by bus from Tbilisi to Baku… The hero of this trifling, comic odyssey is called Revaz Galidze, and he is a corpulent, even fat, man over fifty, the driver of our bus… On this five-hundred-kilometer route, the bus was always full and the passengers changed frequently, yet the only people who had actually purchased tickets were two Russian women going to Kirovabad and myself. The rest would pay Revaz sums determined by him, and he would stuff the received bundles of rubles into his pockets… [W]e kept coming across groups of cold, wet people standing by the roadside… imploring Revaz to show them a shred of mercy and take them with him. One can surmise that these people stand like this for entire days, because buses run infrequently here. The road is dangerous, battles are being fought nearby (between Azerbaijanis and Armenians), and so the courageous Revaz truly enjoys a monopoly. 

And, of course, he takes advantage of the situation. Revaz conducts a cruel form of auction. That is, encountering along the road a group eager for a lift, he stops and asks how much they are paying, and for what distance. If they are paying a lot, and the distance is short, Revaz throws those who are paying less off the bus, despite the fact that they are still a hundred kilometres from home! And he throws them out having nonetheless pocketed their fare! – Ryszard Kapuściński, Imperium (1993, tr. Klara Glowczewska 1994)

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Paul Hodson

Head of Unit "EnergyEfficiency" at European Commission, Directorate-General for Energy

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