Russia on the Ground – August, 2017

Russia on the Ground
August, 2017

RASP-BlueThis resource serves to track domestic news inside Russia – focusing primarily on demographics, public opinion, economy, and major domestic political events inside Russia.

It is intended to give students who are otherwise following major issues and events within Russia greater context from which to view those issues and events. This resource lists useful but often under-reported information that can help build a pragmatic and objective view of Russia’s domestic situation.

Daily Life

Life Expectancy in Russia Reaches 72 Years for the First Time
US life expectancy is 78.8; Germany’s is 80.7; Russia’s is at an all-time historical high.

The Project of the Century: 10 Facts About Europe’s Longest Bridge
The massive thoroughfare was 75 percent complete on July 17. It’s hoped it will open by December 2018.

Russia To Start Construction of First High-Speed Railway in 2018
The new trains hope to cut travel time from Moscow to Kazan from 14 to 3.5 hours, bringing Kazan effectively into the Moscow-St. Petersburg economic and tourism corridor.

Russians Are Adjusting to Food Import Ban and Domestic Cheese
It’s entirely possible that for most Russians, not much has changed in what they buy – or that they are now seeing a growing selection of available, affordable foods with the development of increased domestic production.

Moscow’s Facelift as Modernization
Many Russian cities, from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok, are starting urban improvements along the same lines. All in all, 210 public spaces will be renovated in 40 regional centers this year, officials say.

How Foreign Architects Are Changing the Face of Moscow
Major European cities have shown that increasing pedestrian and bike zones can improve economic viability, reduce pollution, and reduce the need for car traffic. Major Russian cities are now learning from their experience.

Russian Public Opinion

Russians’ Tolerance for Foreigners at All-Time High
The number of Russians who said they’d like to restrict one or more nationalities from the country fell to its lowest level ever at 54 percent, down from 70 percent in 2016, and an all-time high of 81 percent in 2013.

Russians Who Think the Country Is Going in the Right Direction at Two Year High
The macroeconomic recovery that has been visible for several quarters may now be trickling down enough to make itself felt for the man in the street.

Russians Believe US Sanctions Won’t Have Any Effect, but Disappointment in Trump Grows
72 percent of poll participants said Russian authorities should not push for the cancellation of the sanctions as they would be lifted in due time.

Poll Reveals More Than Half of Russians Support Memorial Symbols in Honor of Stalin
Young people are more likely to support the monuments. Senior citizens tend to disagree.

Over 90 Percent of Russians Proud of Country’s Army
The proportion of Russian people who are proud of their country’s army has shown growth for three consecutive years.

Internship in RussiaEconomy

Sanctions and the Russian Farmer
This is a collection of fascinating interviews with several Russian farmers on how food sanctions have affected Russian agriculture (including an American who now grows kale in Russia).

Russia’s Regions Reach Out for Foreign Investment
The republic of Tatarstan took the top slot, followed by the Sverdlovsk, Belgorod, Novosibirsk and Samara regions.

Russian Economic Ministry Tries to Crack Low Productivity Ahead of 2018 Election
The productivity measures will become a part of the economic platform for the re-election of President Vladimir Putin in 2018, Vedomosti said citing unnamed federal sources.

Russia to Reduce Reliance on US Dollar & Payment Systems in Response to Sanctions
“We will, of course, speed up the work on import substitution, reduce dependence on US payment systems, on the dollar as a settling currency and so on. It is becoming a vitally important,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov

Russia’s Economy Runs Up Against Structural Limits Again
Little has actually be done and less is expected before the presidential elections slated for next September.

Russia’s Central Bank Ends Weeks of Speculation by Taking Over Troubled Lender Otkritie
This is the first time that a “strategically important” Russian bank has had to be rescued.

Russian Internet Giant Yandex and Sberbank Team Up to Launch “Russian Amazon”
Yandex.Market is looking to become Russia’s Amazon with a half-billion dollar infusion. Amazon hasn’t currently penetrated Russia much largely due to customs and logistics issues. The Chinese company AliExpress (another Amazon-like company), is currently by far Russia’s #1 online retailer.

Top Sberbank Analyst Warns Russians’ Real Income Won’t Surge in the Near Future
In 2013 the level of the population’s real disposable income rose by 4% compared to 2012. Since then, it has been steadily declining.

A Month After Tighter Sanctions, Russia Risk Drops to a Four-Year Low
The country’s 10-year bonds yield about 7.8 percent, with only Turkey and South Africa offering higher returns among major emerging-market nations.

The Shackles Are Off: Russia Finally Frees Itself of Massive Soviet Debts
The largest chunk – $47.6 billion as of 1994 – was owed to the Paris Club (mostly European states and the U.S.).

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Domestic Politics

Russia’s Government Moves From War Budget to Election Budget
With the presidential election now only a year away, the Russian government has changed its budgetary focus and boosted social spending to soften up the electorate.

Civil Activism: Are Russians Exiting the Soviet Eclipse?
Statistics show, and activists affirm, that people in their local communities are increasingly identifying problems and appointing themselves to address them – something virtually unheard of in the past. That includes raising funds and forming constructive relationships with local institutions.

Putin Signs Bill Banning Web Anonymizers in Russia
Services such as Tor and Hola are now banned in Russia.

Neo-Nazi Blog The Daily Stormer Tries to Move to Russian Domain
It took less than 24 hours for Russian authorities to have the site shut down.

Stalinists Target Siberian Monument to Last Russian Tsar
Russia’s culture wars are much more about communism vs. tsarism than about conservative vs. liberal.

Russian Society Wants Change — But of What Nature?
“Putting all the supporters of change in one camp would be a serious mistake.”

Stop GOK: How Residents of Chelyabinsk Are Resisting Plans for a New Copper Plant
On the state of civil society in Chelyabinsk, Russia.

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Policy and Conflict Post SovietHistory and Culture

The Case of Kirill Serebrennikov
Serebrennikov, the artistic director of the Gogol Center, is accused of embezzling 68 mln rubles ($1.1 million). His supporters say the arrest is political.

Russian Court to Hear Wallenberg Case Next Week as Family Looks for Answers
Wallenberg, who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews from slaughter during World War II, was captured by Soviet forces in 1945 and later died in prison.

Arbat Residents Want Tribute to Rock Legend Viktor Tsoi Removed
The city says the wall needs repairs but the local residents won’t give permission for renovations to begin. Instead, they propose moving the wall to a new location.

The Ghostly Radio Station That No One Claimes to Run
“MDZhB” has been broadcasting since 1982. No one knows why.

The Sophisticated Case of Religious Pluralism in Russia
Russia’s Jews, Muslims and Buddhists are not immigrants – they are indigenous people who were absorbed into the Russian empire as it expanded.

Stalingrad History a Constant Presence for World Cup Workers
“The stadium’s riverbank location was a key site in one of the war’s pivotal battles, where German forces were first stopped from crossing the Volga, then gradually surrounded and beaten.”

Lenin’s Eco-Warriors
Lenin, a hiking and camping enthusiast, began a process that would eventually see 30 million acres under state protection. Stalin decimated that area under a “great transformation of nature” by about 89%. It was then built back up by conservationists under Khrushchev and defended by activists in the 1980s. Today, the system faces threats from development, but “Russian naturalists continue to advance their not-yet-hopeless cause of keeping free a few vast landscapes on this planet where humans do not tread.”

St. Petersburg Stages Military Display to Honor Leningrad Siege
On August 9, St. Petersburg commemorated the WWII Battle of Leningrad with a military display.

About the Author

Josh Wilson
Josh Wilson is the Assistant Director for The School of Russian and Asian Studies (SRAS) and Communications Director for Alinga Consulting Group. In those capacities, he has been managing publications and informative websites covering geopolitics, history, business, economy, and politics in Eurasia since 2003. He is based in Moscow, Russia. For SRAS, he also assists in program development and leads the Home and Abroad Programs.
Katheryn Weaver
Katheryn Weaver is a student of rhetoric and history at the University of Texas, Austin. Her primary areas of investigation include revolution and the rhetorical justification of violence against individuals, state, and society. She is currently studying Russian as a Second Language with SRAS's Home and Abroad Scholarship.