Russia on the Ground – April 2020

An old Russian saying goes “Семь бед - один ответ” (There’s but one response to seven woes). For Russians, stocking up on buckwheat has historically been a “response” to almost any crisis. This picture was taken at a Pyaterochka, a discount grocery chain in Moscow on week three of the quarantine.

This 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.


    – Polls

Majority of Russians support tough restrictive measures against COVID-19
The majority of Russians (60%) support the tough restrictive measures introduced by the Russian government to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Russian Public Opinion Research Center informs in a poll published on April 28.

Number of Russians ‘panicking’ because of coronavirus plunges
The number of people ‘panicking’ amid the coronavirus pandemic in Russia has dropped dramatically, from one-third to one-fourth, head of the Russian Public Opinion Research Center Valery Fedorov said on April 2.

Only one third of Russians observe one-meter social distancing
The poll shows that 67% of Russians opt for staying home more frequently, but use other preventative measures less often.

About 30% of Russians hope to travel domestically or abroad as early as summer
Most Russian nationals (57%) plan to spend the upcoming May holidays and summer at home or at their dachas, while about 30% hope they will be able to travel domestically or abroad, according to a survey carried out by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center.

Over 80% of Russians worried by economic crisis
A total of 70% of respondents replied that the most difficult period is yet to come.

7 ways Russians have changed since the coronavirus outbreak
From consumer habits to general public mood – to what extent has the pandemic been a blow to the lives of ordinary Russians?

     – Demographics & Civil Society

Coronavirus in Russia: record amount of recoveries and eighth highest number of infections
Russia has reported the eighth highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world, beating Iran; however, the incidence of the virus in Russia is relatively low compared to other countries, and the growth rate of new infections continues to slow.

Doctors & nurses on frontline in battle against Covid-19
Russian President Vladimir Putin has compared medics treating patients suffering from coronavirus to the military fighting on the frontlines, as he announced salary increments for them amounting to up to over $1,000.

Trapped in lockdown, Russians are repurposing their satnavs to hold virtual protests
Russia is in the midst of a strict Covid-19 lockdown. But although protesters cannot take to the streets, they are still holding mass demonstrations — digitally.

Alisher Usmanov and USM shareholders to donate RUB2bn to fight coronavirus
A Russian tycoon and the other shareholders of his holding company USM have donated RUB2bn ($26mn) to help in the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic in Russia, the company said in a press release on April 6.

Deripaska steps up to Russia’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic
Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska spent $20mn when Ebola broke out at the Rusal facilities in Guinea in 2014. Now his Volnoe Delo foundation is rushing out help to tackle Russia’s outbreak of coronavirus.

Russian church urges clerics to ‘come to their senses’ and heed sanitary norms
During a recent sermon, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia called on believers to refrain from visiting churches until his special blessing due to the spread of coronavirus and pray at home.

     – Federal Health Response

Russia might ease coronavirus restrictions in two weeks
World Health Organization (WHO) representative to Russia Melita Vujnovic believes that it will be possible to ease lockdown measures imposed to curb the spread of coronavirus if the trend of decreasing infection rates holds up in the country, she said on April 29.

Putin extends Russia’s lockdown for two weeks, prepares to ease in mid-May
Although Putin said the number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus was now stabilising, he told Russians to expect the worst days of the outbreak were still ahead.

Coronavirus measures are ‘paying off’ in Russia as two million tests take place
Russia has worked hard to scale up testing capacity with 100,000 tests a day across a network of state and private laboratories.

Is Russia ready for the peak of the coronavirus epidemic?
As of March 31, there were 2,337 diagnosed coronavirus cases in Russia. Is the country ready for the worst-case scenario?

Russia to Adopt Moscow’s Digital Pass System for Coronavirus Lockdown
At least 21 Russian regions have requested digital travel passes a week after coronavirus-hit Moscow enacted its system to enforce lockdown measures and slow the deadly outbreak, the Communications and Press Ministry said on April 22.

Russia’s Coronavirus Response Reveals Its Strengths and Weaknesses
Some of Russia’s inherent structural and demographic factors may help it cope. Others put it at a disadvantage.

Hitting back against quarantine breakers
Russian lawmakers adopt strict new penalties, including criminal punishment, for offenses against the national effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Russia’s Health Care System, Demographics Present Unique Advantages, Disadvantages in Fighting COVID-19
The coronavirus hit Russia late, but is now gathering steam. The last week of April, identified cases have been increasing by around 6,000 daily. As elsewhere, we can assume that unidentified infections are spreading much faster. How has Russia reacted?

     – Economic Effects

Coronavirus to shrink Russian economy by over 5% this year
International rating agency Moody’s expects Russia’s gross domestic product (GDP) to drop by 5.5 percent in 2020 as the pandemic has resulted in the near-shutdown of the global economy.

Watcom shopping index collapses as Moscow put on lockdown
The Watcom shopping index, which measures foot traffic in Moscow’s largest malls in real time, collapsed in the beginning of April, falling by 70.9% year on year after Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin put the Russian capital on strict lockdown.

Russia Is Well-Positioned to Weather COVID-19’s Economic Fallout
This is because of the changes it was forced to make to its monetary and fiscal management as a result of the sanctions and the previous oil price collapse in 2014

Coronavirus Revolutionizes Russia’s Retail Scene
Retailers have been forced to digitize, move online and transform their businesses in the space of weeks.

Pandemic could transform Russian businesses
The crisis may lay the foundations for a new and more open economic model.

     – Federal Economic Response

In 4th Coronavirus Address, Putin Calls for Stronger Business Support
President Vladimir Putin announced a new package of measures to support Russia’s businesses hit by the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday, April 15.

Russia limits grain exports to avoid domestic price spikes amid global coronavirus crisis
The world’s top wheat exporter, Russia, has capped grain shipments until July as the government quota to secure the domestic market amid the coronavirus crisis has been reached. However, shipments of current orders will continue.

Russia’s finance minister sees sovereign NWF almost halved in 2020 on COVID-19
Russia’s Finance Minister Anton Siluanov estimates that by the end of 2020 the National Welfare Fund (NWF) will be reduced from RUB12.9 trillion ($174bn) currently to RUB7 trillion, Kommersant daily and Interfax reported on April 19 citing Siluanov’s appearance on Rossiya 1 TV channel.

Putin Plans $14 Billion Stimulus as Pressure Mounts for Spending
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government plans to dramatically ramp up stimulus measures to prop up an economy that is lurching toward recession.

‘This will lead to complete economic collapse’
With mandatory paid leave and little government support, Russian employers and employees are going head to head as mass layoffs and pay cuts sweep the country.

The Russian budget under coronavirus pressure in 2020
Russia’s budget will be hard hit by the current crisis as GDP could contract by as much as 20% this year, leading to tax revenues drying up. However, while at the federal level there is plenty of money in the National Welfare Fund (NWF) – some RUB12 trillion ($165bn) or 11% of GDP – the regions are in a much more delicate position.

     – Moscow

Moscow’s Lockdown Could Prevent 100K Virus Deaths, Study Says
Up to 117,000 people might have died from the coronavirus by fall had Moscow not introduced its partial lockdown, according to a study cited by the Meduza news website on March 30.

Moscow Opens New Coronavirus Hospital Built in 30 Days
A new Moscow hospital built in a little over a month to treat coronavirus patients has admitted its first 20 patients, the Moscow mayor’s office said on April 21 as the Russian capital continues to battle an onslaught of new cases.

Moscow’s Coronavirus Quarantine, Explained
An overview of what the citywide stay-at-home order means for Muscovites’ everyday life.

Moscow resident challenges self-isolation regime with court
The court will take a decision on allowing the claim to proceed within the legal period.

    – Other Cities and Regions

St. Petersburg Under Siege by Coronavirus
In a city that relies on tourism, coronavirus has hit hard.

COVID-19 Siberia: Life in the Village (Part II)
An overview of what life looks like in the Altai Republic, a subject of Russia with one of the lowest COVID-19 rates.

Norilsk Nickel donates $143mn to fight coronavirus, steps up its social care of workforce in Russia’s remote Far North
“The money will be used to purchase medical equipment, medicines and personal protective gear for local healthcare institutions, the company’s operating sites and employees, as well as to provide additional support for the company employees and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) located in NorNickel’s regions of operation,” the company said in comments emailed to bne IntelliNews.

Coronavirus Hits Hard in Russia’s Volatile Republic of Ingushetia
Poverty and political unrest are making a bad situation worse in the tiny North Caucasian region.

Russia’s COVID-19 outlier
The Yaroslavl region is reopening businesses and allowing people to leave their homes, rising number of coronavirus cases be damned.

Concern as coronavirus threatens Russia’s closed ‘nuclear cities’
Rosatom nuclear chief warns of ‘particularly alarming situation’ in three areas as country reports biggest daily rise in cases.

     – Infrastructure

Maintaining Nuclear Safety and Security During the COVID-19 Crisis
Every major industry on earth – including nuclear facilities and nuclear-powered vessels – is struggling to adapt in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Russia’s Aeroflot Cancels International Flight Sales Until August
With uncertainty over when the government ban on international travel will be lifted, Russia’s largest airline stops selling tickets.

How Bubonic Plague Has Helped Russia Fight the Coronavirus
A network of health centers formed by the Soviet Union in the 1920s is providing expertise in quarantines and epidemic response for Covid-19.


Economy – Other News

Russia has become an agricultural powerhouse, but remains a net importer of food
Russia has moved from being a large importer of grain, soybeans and soybean meal during the late Soviet period to being a major grain exporter. The country has become the world’s top wheat exporter, supplying 20-23% of total world exports in 2017–2018.

Disposable income of Russians starts decline in 1Q20
Real disposable income of Russians was down by 0.2% in 1Q20, according to the latest data by Rosstat statistics agency.

Russian-made Superjet wins U.N. contract for air travel services
Russia’s main home-grown passenger plane, the Sukhoi Superjet 100, will be used by the United Nations for its peacekeeping missions after a contract was signed last month, according to Rosaviatsiya, Russia’s federal air transport agency.

In 2020 Oil Crisis, Russia Seen Coming Out On Top This Time
Conservative as ever, Russia will survive the current oil crisis.

Polls – Other

Policy and Conflict Post Soviet

One third of Russians prefer work at office to working from home, poll reveals
One third of Russians think that the quality of their work has worsened after they switched to remote working due to the situation with the coronavirus, although every fifth finds working at home more comfortable, according to a poll by website.

Russians See Putin as More of a Champion of the Oligarchs
Russians have come to think that President Vladimir Putin represents the interests of oligarchs above everyone else, according to the latest Levada Center poll. Thirty-eight percent of respondents in the March 2020 national survey said Putin is a champion of the oligarchs, a perception that has been rising since 2001.

4 in 5 Young Russians Are Apolitical
More than 80% of young Russians have no interest in politics, according to a new survey on Generation Z’s values published by the Vedomosti business daily on April 30.



Here’s What Will Happen If Putin Rules Russia for 12 More Years
he Kremlin’s efforts to extend President Vladimir Putin’s 20-year presidency will enable Moscow to sustain the policies that have seen Russia reclaim its great power status, while postponing the political and socio-economic instability that could result from transitioning to a new leader.

Crisis? What Crisis?
To what extent may the coronavirus situation affect Russian politics?

About the Author

Alex Sitnikov

Alex holds a BA in Teaching Russian as a Foreign Language (RFL) and is currently on his way to get an MA in Translation. He came to Moscow from Tolyatti to study at Lomonosov Moscow State University in 2013 and has been in love with the city ever since. In March 2018 Alex joined SRAS to help coordinate student activities in Moscow. When he’s not occupied with that, Alex likes to play guitar and read.