Russia on the Ground – August 2019

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.



Robots to replace human employees? Poll says Russians don’t fear automation
In all, 80% of the respondents believe the development of domestic robotics will contribute to the consolidation of Russia’s positions in space exploration.

Most Russians believe Russian Navy is world’s strongest
The Russian Public Opinion Research Center has found that most Russians (67%) believe that the Russian Navy is the world’s strongest.

Russia’s Levada and VTsIOM polls dramatically disagree on sentiment over the Moscow protests
The results of a poll by independent pollster the Levada Center violently disagreed with a poll by the state-owned pollster, the Russian Public Opinion Research Centre (VTsIOM), on the reaction to the weekend protests over the upcoming city council elections.

Almost 70% of Russians prefer career to family
About 42% of respondents said they had to abandon family pastime because of their work

Russians’ Trust in TV News Falls 25%
Russians’ trust in television news as a news source dropped by 25% in the past decade.

Russians Say Soviet Rule Was ‘Closer to People’ Than Current Regime
More people in Russia view the late Brezhnev era of the Soviet Union as “close to the people” than they do President Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Food Embargo Profitable for Nearly Half of Russian Businessmen
A positive effect from Moscow’s embargo on food imports from the West is reported by nearly one in two Russian businessmen, as their enterprises benefit from edging out Western rivals, Izvestia writes citing research by Business Russia.

Over half of Russians believe baptism should be done in childhood
According to the poll, 84% of Orthodox adherents have been baptized, 66% of them by decision of their parents or relatives and 20% on their own



The inside story of Tatarstan’s remarkable, controversial green unrban revolution
Since 2015, Tatarstan and its capital Kazan has experienced a whirlwind of construction of sustainable, green infrastructure. The project’s leaders call it a case study in participatory, horizontal urbanism — but some aren’t convinced. Welcome to Russia’s parks revolution.

Russia’s Rosneft and finance ministry wrestle over Arctic funding
Russia’s finance ministry is insisting that the recent moratorium on oil and gas extraction support is extended for the Arctic region, while Russia’s largest crude oil producer Rosneftpushes through support for its Arctic project Vostok Oil, according to Kommersant daily citing the report sent by the ministry to President Vladimir Putin on August 20.

Moscow wants to be a model smart city; this is how they plan to achieve it
The concept of smart cities is a well trodden one and has been at the core of the expansion of some of the world’s big megalopolises.



Russians rush to buy iodine after blast causes radiation spike
Residents of two northern Russian cities are stocking up on iodine that is used to reduce the effects of radiation exposure after a mysterious accident on a nearby military testing site.

‘Brief radiation spike’ after rocket engine blast in northern Russia
A rocket engine explosion on a naval test range in northern Russia has killed two people and injured six, the defence ministry told Russian media.



Russia’s National Welfare Fund doubled in July to $124bn
Russia’s National Welfare Fund (NWF) doubled in July, increasing by RUB4.105 trillion, to RUB7.868 trillion, and in dollars terms by $64.479bn, to $124.137bn.

Russia’s basic sector output accelerated in June, to be bolstered by expanding national project spending in 2Q19
Russia’s basic sector output, which represents a large share of GDP, grew by nearly 2% in June, which should mean strong economic activity in the second quarter after a disappointing first quarter.

Russian inflation slows on restrained tariff indexation
Russian CPI continued to decelerate in July, and at 4.6% y/y was below consensus.

Fitch upgrades Russia’s rating, returning it to 2014 level
Global rating agency Fitch upgraded Russia’s investment grade rating on August 9 to ‘BBB’ from ‘BBB-‘, returning Russia to its 2014 rating and underscoring the ongoing easing of tensions with the west as well as Russia’s improving economy.

Dying Soviet “Monotowns” to Be Repurposed! The Era of Bleak Industrial Rust Cities is Over!
The government is going to diversify a monotowns’ life. The state program should turn the economy of those settlements, which in the Soviet years were built for the sake of a single city-forming enterprise, onto a new premise.

     – Business

Twitter pays $47 Russian fine for failing to share data on users
Twitter has paid a RUB3,000 ($47) fine for breaking Russia’s internet law requiring foreign internet companies to keep data about their users on servers physically located in Russia.

Wildberries overtakes Sportmaster as Russia’s biggest clothes retailer, e-commerce outlet market leader for first time
The e-retailer Wildberries has overtaken the bricks and mortar franchise Sportsmaster as the biggest seller of clothes in Russia as an e-commerce store becomes the biggest outlet for a product group for the first time ever.

Has the Kremlin already scuppered Russia’s next generation high speed 5G mobile phone network before it has been built?
Has the Kremlin already scuppered the next generation high speed 5G mobile phone network before it has been built? Some industry participants think so after the Russian government assigned a a little used frequency band for the system to run on.

Russian internet major expands gaming partnerships
Russian internet major closed a long-term partnership with Chinese videogames publisher iDreamSky Technology Holdings.

Russia’s Emerging Travel Group secures $10mn from Lev Leviev, Igor and Dmitri Bukhman
Earlier this month Emerging Travel Group, an international online travel group with Russian connections, announced it raised $10mn in a Series E funding round.

Russian Zvezda shipyard loses two major icebreaker orders
The competition to build the atomic icebreaker fleet that will open up Russia’s northern route from Europe to Asia is fierce.

Russian Deputies Question ‘Strange’ Results Of ‘Foreign-Registered’ Yandex Search Engine
Yandex, known as Russia’s Google, has caught the ire of Russian Duma deputies who dislike how it ranks top news stories, especially when they shed light on unpopular proposals that the national legislature is contemplating.

What’s Behind Russia’s New Offensive Against the Internet Economy?
In recent months, Russia has launched a new attack on web-based companies.

Battle of the Russian voice assistants
We are slaves to the keyboard if we want to act with the growing range of smart devices but being able to simply talk to a virtual assistant is the technological manumission that is already a reality.

Danske Bank to exit Russia amid money laundering scandal
Danske Bank has outlined plans to quit Russia by January next year after the Danish bank was rocked by allegations its Estonian branch was involved in a mind-boggling $230bn money laundering scandal.



Communists seek sacking of Moscow’s election commission chief after wave of street protests
Moscow Communists want to have the head of the Moscow Election Commission fired. They accuse him of failing in office and causing a wave of street protests.

There’s More to Russia Than Putin
In September, 16 Russian regions—as diverse as the northern Arctic region of Murmansk and southern Stavropol—will be holding direct local and regional elections.

Putin is a victim of his own success
Moscow has been wracked by the largest and most violent demonstrations since the winter of 2011 in the last few months, just as President Vladimir Putin celebrates 20 years in power.

Russian senator says bill on authorized political rally sites to be drafted in September
Russia’s senators are going to draft a bill by the end of September on the right of municipal and rural authorities to select sites for rallies and political demonstrations.

Putin attributes protest demonstrations in Moscow to electoral cycle
Russian President Vladimir Putin linked the protest rallies held in Moscow with the electoral cycle.



14% of Russians Are Considered Middle Class 
Less than 15 percent of Russians are considered to be part of the middle class, according to an analysis of official data by the state-run RIA Novosti news agency.

Every fifth Russian pays 30%-50% of total family income to loan
Most of the respondents confessed they did not have trouble with repayments over the past year

1 in 4 Russians Are Seeing Their Wallets Shrink
Almost a quarter of Russians say they have felt their finances dwindle in recent months, according to a survey by the state-run Foundation of Public Opinion (FOM) pollster.


Civil Society

Fact-checking the Moscow mayor’s first extensive comments about opposition ‘rioting’ on July 27
On July 30, three days after thousands of his constituents confronted police in an unauthorized downtown demonstration, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin finally spoke out in detail about the protest against local election officials’ refusal to register independent candidates in September’s City Duma race.

Moscow sees biggest protest rally since 2011
An estimated 60,000 people turned out for the fourth in a series of weekend protests in central Moscow on August 10, a number too large for the Kremlin to ignore that also suggests that the tactic of increased police brutality at recent protests to put off would-be protestors has backfired.

Russia tells Google not to advertise ‘illegal’ events after election protests
Russia’s state communications watchdog has asked Google to stop advertising “illegal mass events” on its YouTube video platform, it said on Sunday.

Rejected Moscow candidates likely to lose another round
A working panel of Russia’s Central Elections Commission is recommending refusing the appeals of five opposition politicians who were denied spots on the ballot for the Moscow city council election, an issue that has sparked protests and mass arrests in the Russian capital.

Over 100 bank accounts frozen in money laundering case against Navalny’s foundation
Earlier, the Anti-Corruption Foundation’s spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said the office had been searched

Moscow Protesters Stage Series Of One-Person Pickets In Call For Free Elections
Russian activists staged a series of one-person pickets in Moscow on August 17 to circumvent laws against unauthorized gatherings as they continued their call for free elections.

Russian State TV Puts Out Hit Piece on Moscow Opposition Protest
On Saturday, August 10, tens of thousands of people took the streets of Moscow in the largest wave of demonstrations to hit the Russian capital since the so-called 2011 Snow Revolution.

Russian Opposition Deputy Leonid Volkov 
VOA Russian Service’s Danila Galperovich caught up with Leonid Volkov, fundraising chief for prominent Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, to discuss the recent street protests and mass arrests in Moscow.

Policy and Conflict Post SovietRights advocates turn to law enforcement over journalists’ arrest at Moscow rally
The Presidential Council for Human Rights has applied to the heads of Russia’s Interior Ministry, National Guard, Investigative Committee and Prosecutor General’s Office over obstructing media activity and arrest of journalists at unauthorized rallies in Moscow, the advisory body’s press service informs.

Four Yabloko Party Members Get On Ballot For Moscow Municipal Vote
Four of eight candidates from the liberal Yabloko party are registered for next month’s election to the Moscow city council after a court on August 13 reversed a ruling by election officials to bar Sergei Mitrokhin from running.

Kremlin warns of foreign espionage as scientists chafe under new restrictions
The Kremlin said on Wednesday Russia must be vigilant in protecting its industrial secrets against foreign intelligence services after scientists criticized new restrictions on them meeting foreigners.

For Russia’s detained protesters, rights group is first on scene
What started as a Facebook post during a wave of mass protests in Russia eight years ago has turned into a rights group that helps arrested demonstrators — one in increasing demand as police crack down hard on opposition rallies.

The ‘Celebritization’ of Protest in Russia
As rappers and celebrities join the opposition movement, protests in Russia are becoming fashionable.

About the Author

Tanya Tanyarattinan

Tanya Tanyarattinan is a third-year, Thai international student at the University of Denver, double majoring in International Studies and Economics with minors in Russian and Japanese. She is currently studying Society, Business, and the Arts in St Petersburg with SRAS’s Home and Abroad Scholarship. With an interest in pursuing a career in politics, she travels to see how the world works from different perspectives. Her next stop is Berlin where she will complete her study abroad year. In her free time, she likes to play games and try new food.