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Russians fear financial gain has vanished

NIZHNY TAGIL, Russia — In this city of smokestacks, where a sooty haze enshrouds avenues of metallurgical plants and factories, signs are piling up that Russia's economic crisis has metastasized, chipping away at the eight-year resurgence that has buoyed the Kremlin's swagger.

At a sprawling metalworking enterprise, management has announced it will lay off all but 33 of its 1,225 workers. Other Nizhny Tagil factories have shortened workweeks, trimmed wages by a third, and in some cases put workers on unpaid leave.

Banks, brokerages and the country's stock market are no longer Russia's principal victims of a worldwide downturn. Here in the Ural Mountains, the diesel engine of Russian industry, foundries and factories are planning to lay off thousands of workers.

Once a rising star among world economies, Russia is facing the reality that its oil-driven economic boom has sputtered to a dead stop. Sky-high oil prices that made Russia a force the world had to reckon with have slid from a July high of $147 a barrel to well under $50. Many Russians say it's not just that they worry about a return to the economic chaos of the 1990s—they fear it could be worse.

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