Russian Middle Class Now ‘More Dead than Alive,’ New Research Shows

Cash, Calculator, Pen

(Window on Eurasia – Paul Goble – Staunton, October 5, 2019)

“The middle class in Russia is more dead than alive,” Fustem Falyakhov reports in Gazeta on the basis of new research carried out by Alina Pishnyak of the Center for the Analysis of Incomes and Standard of Living of the Higher School of Economics (

Her research shows that “no more than six percent” of Russians are in this category, that their incomes are falling, and that they don’t have enough money to purchase a car or make a foreign trip. More than that, its members increasingly are bureaucrats and employees of state corporations rather than businessmen.

Pishnyak’s figures are in conflict with those of the government which tends to define middle class exclusively in terms of income. When incomes from whatever source rise, more people are thus categorized as middle class, even if they do not identify as such or work in ways normally associated with middle class status.

She says that even if one adjusts the figures for how many people are supported by one income and ask in addition for self-identificaiton, there are still three problems with regard to the Russian middle class: its size has recently begun to contract, membership in it isn’t stable, and the share of bureaucrats is rising at the expense of businesses.

According to surveys, Pishnyak says, “only 4.3 percent of Russians are firmly committed to opening their own business,” although “another 26 percent” say they would like to but don’t currently see any opportunities to do so. Such attitudes are at odds with those normally associated with middle class status.

According to another researcher, Aleksey Vedyeva at the Russian Academy of Economics and State Service the share of bureaucrats and state corporation employees in the middle class as defined by income alone is almost certain to rise because their salaries are going up faster than the average

The trend that Pishnyak and Vedyeva identity is sufficiently strong that it has become the object of attention in the Kremlin, Falyakhov notes. Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov says that the leadership sees these numbers as “signals” which point to problems that need to be addressed.