Debt and poverty: the thriving business of high-risk moneylenders in Russia; In Russia, loansharks and payday lenders masquerade as “microfinance” organisations to attract clients. But for many people, short-term loans are a way of life.

Cash, Calculator, Pen

(opendemocracy.net – Ewa Dabrowska – December 12, 2017) Ewa Dąbrowska is PhD researcher at the University of Amsterdam. She focuses on the Russian financial system and microfinance in the post-Soviet space. “Avoid multiple loans. With several loans you are at greater risk of over-indebtedness,” warns the Warsaw-based Microfinance Center in a recent education campaign directed at users of microcredits in […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russian PM says poverty is ‘glaring problem’ in country” – AFP

Dmitry Medvedev file photo

“… Medvedev … said poverty remained a ‘glaring problem’ in [Russia], where presidential elections are due to be held next year. ‘Poverty is, of course, one of the glaring problems of our modern economy,’ Medvedev said … ‘When the economy is weak, it’s impossible for there not to be any poor people’, Medvedev said …. A World Bank report … said that […]

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The Good Russians: Poorest Give to Others Even When They Don’t Have Enough to Eat

Cash, Calculator, Pen

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, November 23, 2017) One of the many things those Russian officials and their allies who condemn any critic of the Russian government as a Russophobe don’t understand is that the objects of such attacks make a distinction they do not – between the horrific government and the many good Russians who suffer […]

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Putin Budget Points to Another Lost Decade for Russia, ‘Nezavisimaya Gazeta’ Says

File Photo of Kremlin Aerial View, adapted from .gov source

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, October 4m 2017) The three-year budget the Russian government has proposed suggests that Russia will continue to stagnate, poverty will continue to grow, and the country will fall further and further behind the developed world and even its nearest neighbors, according to the editors of Nezavisimaya gazeta. In a lead article today, […]

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Interfax: Russian authorities know how to address gap between rich, poor – Putin

Hands Opening Envelope Containing Cash

MOSCOW. Oct 4 (Interfax) – The widening gap between the rich and the poor is “a real problem” for Russia, but there is an understanding how to address it, Russian President Vladimir Putin said. “With regard to the ‘scissors’ between rich and low-income people. This is a real problem on which we definitely should be working,” Putin said at the […]

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Russians worry most about price rise, poverty, unemployment – poll

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

MOSCOW. Aug 31 (Interfax) – Price rise still tops the list of social problems in the eyes of Russians, although its topically has declined over recent years, from 78% in 2015 to 61% now, Levada Analytical Center told Interfax. The other two of the top three problems are poverty and massive destitution (45%), and growing unemployment, corruption and bribery (33%). […]

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Piketty Zeroes In on Putin’s Pain Point; The West should stop relying on sanctions and instead target Russia’s massive offshore wealth.

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Leonid Bershidsky – August 14, 2017) After alerting the Western world to the alarming rise of inequality, Thomas Piketty has turned his attention to Russia. To someone who has lived through Russia’s transition from Communism to crony capitalism, his take on that transition reveals deep flaws in his overall methodology — but some of his conclusions […]

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Kremlin Plan to Make Fight for Justice Centerpiece of Putin Campaign Seen Backfiring

Russia Regions Map

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, July 26, 2017) Two anonymous sources “close to the Presidential Administration” tell the Znak news agency that Vladimir Putin plans to fight “the struggle against poverty and social injustice” a centerpiece of his re-election campaign in order to mobilize Russians against local and regional elites. But Znak commentator Yekaterina Vinokurova warns that […]

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A New Threat to the Kremlin: Russians’ Incomes Not Keeping Pace with Their Expectations

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, May 25, 2017) In every federal district except the Far East, Russians say they need more money for “a normal life” than their current incomes, a situation that reflects stagnating wages and salaries and rising prices and one, the editors of Nezavisimaya Gazeta say, that represents an increasingly serious political threat to […]

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Half of Russians Consider Themselves To Be Poor, Study Finds

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – May 4, 2017) Half of Russians believe that they are poor – even though under 15 percent officially qualify as impoverished, a new study has concluded. Researchers at Russia’s Higher School of Economics found that 50.4 percent of Russians think that they are living in poverty. That number is three times higher than the actual […]

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Behind the Russian mirror; For Russia’s media, social inequality has never been a hot topic. Meet the people behind a new media organisation trying put injustice on Russia’s political agenda.

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(opendemocracy.net – Maxim Edwards – April 15, 2017) Maxim Edwards is Commissioning Editor at oDR. He writes on nationalism, migration, minorities and memory, with a focus on post-Soviet countries. His articles have appeared in Al-Jazeera, Al Monitor, Souciant and the Forward among other publications. Read the latest in our ongoing Unlikely Media series. As part of this series, oDR profiles […]

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NEWSLINK: “Unequal Russia: is anger stirring in the global capital of inequality?” – The Guardian (UK)  

Cash, Calculator, Pen

“With the richest 10% owning 87% of all the country’s wealth, Russia is rated the most unequal of the world’s major economies. Amid falling oil prices and a wave of protests, Shaun Walker asks how Russians really feel about life’s inequalities. …”

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Russia Still Migrant Magnet Even as Wages Stay Below China’s

Russian Migrant Workers file photo

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Olga Tanas – April 19, 2017) The vast pool of labor across Russia’s porous borders is relieving strains in the labor market, helping drain the economy of inflationary pressure as it accelerates after almost two years of recession. A steady flow of arrivals has continued even as shrinking wages and Russia’s worst currency crisis since 1998 […]

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NEWSLINK: “PUTIN’S ECONOMY IS SO BAD, MANY RUSSIANS CAN’T AFFORD NEW SHOES” – Newsweek

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

“To see the state of Vladimir Putin’s economy, look down at Russians’ feet. The weakening ruble is making Russians more cautious about their purchases, and annual shoe sales across the country have dropped in recent months as Russians wait for their footwear to completely wear out before buying new ones ….”

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This Recovery Isn’t for Everyone as Inequality Reshapes Russia

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Olga Tanas – March 22, 2017) A snapshot of Russia’s consumer welfare painted a picture of a country increasingly cleaved by inequality. A surprise deterioration of retail sales in February, alongside an unexpected plunge in real disposable incomes, is adding to evidence of what Morgan Stanley is calling an “uneven consumer recovery” driven by rising disparity […]

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Russians Happier Than They Look, UN Study Shows

UN Building file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – March 20, 2017) Don’t be misled by those grumpy faces on the Moscow metro: Russia is the 49th happiest place on Earth and it is becoming happier, a new study has found. The United Nation’s yearly World Happiness Report measures “subjective well-being” in 155 countries along criteria such as GDP per capita and life expectancy, […]

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RUSSIALINK RBTH: “Vice-premier: Russia has a unique phenomenon – workers are officially poor”

Cash, Calculator, Pen

Olga Golodets speaks out about worrying trend in the country: despite having regular jobs, millions of people are stuck below the poverty line due to poor wages. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – March 16, 2017) Russian Vice-Premier Olga Golodets has highlighted the fact that alarmingly low wages in the country are keeping people with regular jobs below the […]

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NEWSWATCH: “This Is the Russia You’re So Afraid Of?” – New York Times/Maria Antonova

Russia Regions Map

“… neglect began after the Communist system collapsed and has continued …. Russia is projecting its power from Ukraine to Syria to Western Europe…. [there are] allegations that the Kremlin meddled in the American presidential election …. support for … Putin is high and disdain for America … serves as … an artificial social cohesive …. Most people’s lives focus on economic survival … but … state television […]

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Half of Russia Still in Crisis Prepares for Worse to Come

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Olga Tanas – February 20, 2017) The half of Russia’s economy that hasn’t got wind of a recovery is already hunkering down for the crisis to come. Once indispensable for the country’s prospects, consumption flat-lined well below zero throughout last year even as the broader economy defied gloom. From the ruble to industrial output and wages, […]

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Russians Are Getting Used to Being Broke

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Olga Kuvshinova – February 6, 2017) Russia’s recovery from the current recession continues to slow, according to the Economic Development Ministry. The reason: demand has plummeted. If that is the case, it means the Russian economy’s decline is in full swing despite official statements that the recession has ended. The decline in retail turnover – […]

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NEWSWATCH: “LIFE UNDER ALTERNATIVE FACTS” – The New Yorker/Mikhail Iossel

There was no real cognitive dissonance existing in the minds of most people in the Soviet Union of the nineteen-seventies and eighties. Everyone knew that everything said on the radio or on television, everything (with the exception of weather reports or sports results) was a blatant lie, spoken pro forma …. no one was duped into thinking this was actually […]

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RUSSIALINK RBTH: “Russians can no longer afford to pinch pennies on food”

Cash, Calculator, Pen

If incomes continue to drop, however, Russians won’t be able to cut their food budgets and still adequately feed themselves. Any further cuts could mean risking malnutrition. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – IGOR ROZIN, RBTH – Feb. 6, 2017) Consumers are not willing to further cut food spending even if their financial situation continues to deteriorate. Grocery spending […]

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RUSSIALINK RBTH: “Russians weather the crisis by sharing beds, rides and jobs”

Moscow Roads

The number of Russians who during the crisis found additional work on the YouDo online exchange grew by almost six times in the 2015-2016 period. BlaBlaCar and AirBnB also told RBTH that there was an increase in demand for its services in Russia in 2016. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – KIRA KALININA, RBTH – January 30, 2017) The […]

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RUSSIALINK RBTH: “Index of fear: What are Russians most afraid of?”

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

Most Russians polled are afraid of war and international conflicts, but the number decreased to 14 points in December compared to 23 points in January 2016. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – January 30, 2017) Russians’ main fears remain the threat of war and inflation, while family troubles are the least worry. These findings are the results of a […]

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Surviving on the streets: Stories from those that care for the homeless

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

According to various estimates, between a 1.5 million and 3 million people in Russia are homeless. An RBTH correspondent accompanied volunteers from the Moscow adaptation center for the homeless as they went on their nightly rounds and learned how the homeless survive in the most densely populated city in the country. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – YEVGENY LEVKOVICH, […]

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Putin Country; As authoritarian control and renewed superpower tension dominate headlines, telling stories of Russia’s everyday heroes can reveal lost alternatives.

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(opendemocracy.net – Susan Richards – January 19, 2017) Susan Richards is a non-executive director and founder of openDemocracy. She has produced a number of feature films and written a prize-winning book, Epics of Everyday Life, about the lives of ordinary Russians in the transition from communism. Lost & Found in Russia, Encounters in the Deep Heartland, which covers the period […]

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Putin’s War At Home

Russia Regions Map

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – Brian Whitmore – December 28, 2016) As Vladimir Putin basks in his victories abroad, problems are piling up at home. Rustam Minnikhanov, the leader of oil-rich Tatarstan, has denounced a recent Kremlin decision to take more of his republic’s tax revenues, calling it “stupidity” and comparing it to Josef Stalin’s liquidation of the kulaks. Minnikhanov’s broadside […]

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Russian Families Spend 80% of Income on Essentials

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

(Moscow Times – moscowtimes.com – December 21, 2016) Families in Russia are spending between 70-80 percent of their household income on essentials, according to a report cited by the RBC newspaper. According to a Center for Economic and Political Reform report, the average Russian family consisting of two working parents and one child spends between 53-143 percent of their income […]

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In Russia, the Refrigerator is Finally Defeating the TV but Not Having the Political Impact Many Expected

File Photo of Older Russian Woman Shopping in Grocery Store

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, December 12, 2016) For months, Moscow commentators have suggested that Russians are caught between what the Kremlin shows them on television and what they see in their increasingly empty refrigerators and predicted that eventually the refrigerator would defeat the TV and that this would have immediate political consequences. The findings of two […]

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NEWSLINK bne Intellinews: “Russia’s Watcom shopping index back at 2015 levels as consumption recovers”

File Photo of Older Russian Woman Shopping in Grocery Store

“… The Russian shopping footfall index accelerated once again in the 44th week of the year as consumer confidence gathers momentum and the hoi polloi go shopping thanks to a slew of improving (but still far from ideal) macroeconomic indicators, according to the Watcom Shopping index. …”

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Half of Russians at Risk of Poverty, Says World Bank

World Bank Building

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – November 10, 2016) Half of Russia’s population risks falling into poverty, a report from the World Bank has revealed. Some 21.4 million people – or 14.6 percent of the population – fell below Russia’s national poverty line in the first half of 2016, with disposable incomes shrinking on average by 5.8 percent. The number of […]

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For Russia’s Labor Migrants, a Life on the Edge; In slum settlements on the outskirts of Moscow, foreign workers are adjusting to the realities of Russia’s economic crisis.

Russian Migrant Workers file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Matthew Kupfer, Bradley Jardine – November 4, 2016) Not so long ago, the migrant population of Chelobityevo in northern Moscow lived in fear of the police. These were times when uniformed officers would descend on the village unannounced, beating and arresting undocumented workers in their path. Once, migrants were forced to strip naked in freezing […]

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RUSSIALINK RBTH/RBC: “Is it necessary to break the law to improve your standard of living?”

Hand Pulling Cash from Envelope

According to the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA), 30 percent of Russians see a link between increasing their standard of living and breaking the law.

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NEWSWATCH: “The New Poor: How The Ongoing Crisis Has Devoured Russia’s Small Middle Class” – Moscow Times/Boris Grozovsky

Cash, Calculator, Pen

This winter will mark three years since Russia abruptly embarked on a course of political and economic isolation. Lower oil prices and the devaluation of the ruble dealt a serious blow to the population’s economic well-being. By its own evaluation, Russia’s middle class shrank by more than 16 percent, shedding an incredible 14 million people. Click here for Moscow Times/Boris […]

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Russia’s Widening Wealth Divide Poses Risks to Central Bank

Hands Opening Envelope Containing Cash

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Andrey Biryukov – October 19, 2016) The Bank of Russia is discovering yet another downside to how little is left of the country’s middle class. The central bank has warned that its ability to steer inflation is at risk from growing wealth inequality and the disappearance of the middle-income households that are the most sensitive to […]

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Russia to Increase Military Spending While Slashing Welfare Budget

Russian Mobile ICBM Parade File Photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – October 4, 2016) Russia’s military spending is set to increase by 679 billion rubles ($10 billion) despite the welfare budget decreasing by 375 billion rubles ($6 billion), the Gazeta.ru news website reported Tuesday, citing a source in the government. The government’s finance ministry published a bill of amendments to the welfare budget on Monday, announcing […]

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RIA Novosti: Deputy PM says poverty in Russia rising since 2014

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

(RIA Novosti – October 1, 2016) Russian Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets has said that poverty has been steadily growing in Russia since 2014, and almost 5 million Russians currently earn the minimum wage. “Unfortunately, in our country after 2014 poverty has been consistently growing, and the measures that we are taking, we believe, at the moment should be stepped […]

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Soviet-Style Lines Reappearing in Moscow Stores

Aerial View of Kremlin and Environs

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, September 25, 2016) Most observers have focused on Vladimir Putin’s moves to restore the KGB, but they have not paid as much attention to the return under his rule of another feature of Soviet life that most Russians thought they had left behind: long lines at stores for even the most basic […]

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[Medvedev:] New dynamics in Russia’s socioeconomic development

Dmitri Medvedev file photo

(Government.ru/Rossiyskaya Gazeta – September 22, 2016) Article by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev for the academic journal Voprosy Ekonomiki (Economic Issues) vopreco.ru/rus/redaction.files/10-16.pdf Abridged version (published in Rossiyskaya Gazeta): The Russian economy is undergoing a period of profound transformation. In the next few years Russia will have to fundamentally restructure its economic system in response to the challenges and changes of the […]

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Medvedev Warns Russia of Economic Reform’s ‘High Social Cost’

File Photo of Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin with Heads Bowed Over Microphone

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – September 22, 2016) Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has warned that the reforms needed to save Russia’s economy will have “a high social cost” for the Russian people. Writing in an article for Russian economic journal “Questions of Economics,” Medvedev pledged that Russian authorities would not revert to Soviet-style planning, but maintained that deregulation was […]

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Kremlinology: an intervention; Protests and strikes across Russia show that the country’s “silent majority” is becoming louder. But are pundits even listening?

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(opendemocracy.net – Sean Guillory – September 13, 2016) Sean Guillory lives in Pittsburgh. He hosts the SRB podcast, a weekly podcast on Eurasian politics, history and culture, and blogs for seansrussiablog.org. You can follow him on Twitter @seansrussiablog. Writings on contemporary Russia are mostly variations on the same subject: Vladimir Putin; his rise to and iron grip on power. Western […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia’s Post-Election Economy: Down, But Not Out. Parliamentary elections are rapidly approaching, but this time politicians aren’t making any pie-in-the-sky promises.” – Moscow Times/Boris Grozovsky

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By any measure, the Russian economy is deep in a classic recession: GDP has dropped for the sixth consecutive quarter. If Russia had political competition, these elections would pose a challenge for both the ruling party and the opposition. But without real competition, politicians are under little pressure to lift the economy out of the current crisis. … * * […]

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Russians blame government for price rise, insufficient social protection – poll

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MOSCOW. Aug 25 (Interfax) – Russians mostly criticize the national government for “being unable to deal with the price rise and shrinking household income” (42%) and “failing to ensure social protection” (34%), the Levada Center told Interfax. The price rise problem is losing its topicality (48% in January 2016 vs. 55% in 2015), while social protection demands are on the […]

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Russia’s New Poor Ashamed of Their Poverty and Try to Hide It, Sociologist Says

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, August 16, 2016) In Russia today, with the gap between rich and poor again widening, Olga Simonova says, “poverty is viewed not as an individual’s misfortune but as his fault.” As a result, while they complain to pollster, Russia’s new poor do not turn to the state even when it could help […]

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Helping Russia’s broken women to get back on their feet

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

Dozens of crisis centers operate in Russia to help women caught up in desperate situations and left without help from their families. Some of them have nowhere to live, while others are trying to get away from their alcoholic, wife-beating husbands. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – OLEG SKRIPNIK, SPECIAL TO RBTH – July 14, 2016) There are three […]

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Russians Are Struggling to Afford Medication

Medical Symbol with Pole, Serpents, Wings, adapted from image at lanl.gov

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Ola Cichowlas – June 10, 2016) “Pharmacies have become like jewelry shops,” complained a man during this year’s annual phone-in with the Russian president. Vladimir Putin’s response was to reassure the man that his government planned to control rising medicine prices. When asked whether he used foreign or Russian-made medication, the president replied that he […]

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Putin’s Core Support Begins to Waver; Working-class Russians hurt by recession look for someone to blame-in an election year

Kremlin and River

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Leonid Ragozin – June 9, 2016) Russia embarks on an almost two-year-long election season this summer that ends with a presidential contest in 2018. But unlike previous years, the country’s faltering economy has taken its toll on lower-income voters who blame the Duma and the cabinet for their plight. Five years ago, allegations of vote rigging […]

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Russians demonstrate record pessimism as economic slump goes on

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

The results of a new survey shows consumers in Russia are at their gloomiest for 11 years as disposable income dries up, with many unable to afford a vacation. (Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – ANNA KUCHMA, RBTH – May 4, 2016) Russian consumers are more negative about their economic prospects than they have been for the last 11 […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Why IR Theory Gets Russia Wrong; Moscow’s Predictably Unpredictable Politics” – Foreign Affairs/Timothy Frye

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

With Russia’s economy sagging, support for the government falling, and even … Putin’s sky-high approval ratings beginning to come down to earth, there has been no shortage of speculation about Russia’s political stability. Some argue that a collapse of the Putin regime is imminent … others are more cautious. * * * Russia is oil-rich, but less so than many […]

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