Russia on the Ground – December 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.

Polls

50% of Russians satisfied with life
About 50% of Russians said that they are satisfied with their life, while 22% of respondents said they were dissatisfied, according to a poll published on the website of the Russian National Public Opinion Research Center on Monday, December 2.

Putin’s approval rating up to 64%
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s approval rating has grown from 62.5% to 64% following his customary year-end news conference, as follows from opinion polls held by the Russia Public Opinion Research Center VTsIOM on December 9-15, 2019 and on December 19, 2019.

Don’t worry be happy: Poll reveals majority of Russians have upbeat outlook
According to the pollster, family is what still brings Russians happiness.

Russians choose bear as country’s symbol
Almost two-thirds of Russians believe that the bear is the most suitable symbol of Russia, according to the survey done by the Public Opinion Foundation.

Number of Russians Preparing to Emigrate Reaches Record Low
As of September 2019, only 6% of Russians are thinking of leaving their country, according to a recent poll by Levada center.

One In Five Russians ‘Willing To Participate In Political Protests’
One in five Russians are willing to take part in mass political demonstrations, a new poll shows, in a sign of continued discontent with the country’s leaders after a summer marked by demonstrations.

Russians name Putin politician of the year
Nearly half of respondents named President Vladimir Putin politician of the year in a survey by the Russia Public Opinion Research Center VTsIOM, obtained by TASS on Thursday, December 26.

Adidas? Vodka? Balalaikas? Sociologist Reveals What Russians Value Most
Polling on the subject has been conducted by the Russian Public Opinion Research Centre, one of Russia’s oldest and most prestigious sociological and market research institutions.

 

Demographics

Whitepill on Russia’s Fertility Trends 
Russian demographics continues to improve as it has throughout the Putin era.

By The Numbers: 20 Years Of Putin’s Russia
A comprehensive overview of the country’s demographics in the last two decades.

 

Infrastructure

Why free healthcare works in Russia
Can you get high-quality free medical care in Russia and if so, who is covered by it?

7 facts about M11, a new ‘super motorway’ connecting Moscow & St. Petersburg
One of the largest transport projects of the last two decades, the M11 route, is now open for those who want to travel between the two major Russian cities fast. Its length is 669 km (416 mi) and it runs through Moscow, Tver, Novgorod and Leningrad regions.

 

Environment

Moscow wonders where winter has gone as temperatures hit 133-year high
Residents of Moscow are wondering where winter has gone as the highest December temperatures for 133 years deprive the Russian capital of its customary covering of snow.

2019 was hottest year on record for Russia
This year was the hottest ever registered in Russia, the country’s weather chief said on December 30, as climate change pushes global temperatures to record highs.

 

Economy

The Price Europe pays for Russian gas fell to its lowest level in 15 years
The price Europe pays for Russian gas fell to a 15-year low of $169.8 vs the $250 per ‘000 cubic meters it was paying a year ago.

Russia poised to lead the global digital agenda with the world’s largest track & trace system
The USA, Singapore, United Kingdom, South Korea, and Japan are typically considered the top five most digitally advanced countries according to many metrics. Russia has come close to joining this digital power club in recent years as its citizens are becoming more tech savvy and exposed to massive state and privately-operated digital ecosystems.

How Wealthy is Russia?
In 2017, the average Russian citizen was 1.8 times wealthier than in 2000. But despite strong growth, Russia’s per capita wealth is still only about a quarter than in OECD countries.

Russia’s Stock Market Rallies But Still Not a Source of Long-Term Capital
Three major Russian stock indices have shown impressive growth this year, with at least one outpacing both emerging markets and developed countries in terms of return on investment.

The Worrying Truth About Russia’s Oil Industry
The widespread adaptation of the combustion engine at the start of the 20th century propelled oil into becoming the world’s most important commodity. Resource-rich countries such as Russia were the beneficiaries of the new global energy order. The country’s oil sector, however, is facing challenges to maintain its current level of production.

How to Mobilize Grain Production Potential in Russia?
As the world’s largest exporter of wheat, Russia is already making a considerable contribution to global food security. In addition, Russia has a large untapped potential to further increase its grain production. However, in order to mobilize its wheat production potential, export capacity should be increased in Russia.

Russia’s state spending, rate cuts to underpin economic growth, World Bank says
Economic growth in Russia will be higher than expected in 2019 and is likely to pick up in the next few years thanks partly to higher state spending and looser monetary policy, the World Bank said on December 4.

ING: Russian balance of payments support a stable ruble in the near term 
Improvement in the corporate capital flows in November supports a constructive near-term view on the ruble and adds to the list of arguments in favour of a rate cut.

    – Business

Russia in 2020: Business Is Booming but the Future Is Unclear
While Russian businesses are feeling confident and growing their revenues, a lack of ambition and risk-taking could limit potential.

Aeroflot reports improving results, wins two travel industry Oscars
Russia’s national airline Aeroflot reported improving third quarter results and announced that it had won two awards in the so-called travel industry Oscars for best airline brand and best business class service.

Russian Railways teams up with RVC to launch transport tech funds
RVC, the Russian state-owned fund of funds dedicated to innovation, and Russian Railways (RZD) have teamed up to launch two venture funds for industrial and digital investements, reports East-West Digital News (EWDN).

Gazprom slashes investment for second year in a row
The management committee of Russia’s Gazprom has approved a 16.5% cut in investments next year, marking the second annual reduction in a row, the state gas exporter reported on December 12.

    – Finance

The foreign share in Russia’s OFZ treasury bonds up to 32%
The foreign share of investors into the Russian Ministry of Finance ruble-denominated OFZ treasury bills reached 32% in November as foreign investors increased their holdings again to RUB2,837bn ($44.2bn) worth of the bonds from a total of RUB8,860.

Russia emerges as a top three fintech market 
Eight out of ten (82%) Russians use some sort of fintech service making it the third most developed market in the world, according to a study by Ernst&Young.

Russia’s CBR cuts key interest rate by conservative 25bp, statement less dovish 
The board of the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) resolved to cut the key interest rate by 25bp to 6.25% at the policy meeting of December 13, making the fifth cut of the rate this year of total 150 bp.

In 2020, Russians Will Rediscover Capitalism
Locals will return to investing in the stock market, relying less on old fixed income and real estate.

Shell Companies Account for 60% of Russia’s Foreign Investment
Russia receives a higher share of FDI through empty corporate shells than any other major economy.

 

Politics

United Russia is Dead
The largest party in Russia, which holds 335 (or roughly 75%) of the 450 seats in the State Duma and is chaired by Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev, has suffered record losses. Not only were a third of seats in the Moscow election lost, but support for the party also has dropped to a 10-year low.

Putin’s End-of-Year Press Conference, in Quotes
President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-year press conference on Thursday, December 19, answering questions from state media and independent journalists on an array of topics related to Russia’s domestic and foreign policy.

Putin against adoption of new Constitution, but sees logic in more rights for parliament
Russian President Vladimir Putin is against the adoption of a new constitution, but at the same time understands the logic of the current discussion over giving the Russian parliament more rights.

Law on foreign agents restricts foreign intervention, says Putin
The law on foreign agents is aimed at restricting foreign intervention in Russia’s internal affairs, President Vladimir Putin told the customary year-end news conference in Moscow on December 19.

Putin weighs future options as he marks 20 years in power
As Russian President Vladimir Putin marks two decades in power, he boasts about his achievements but remains coy about his political future — a reticence that fuels wild speculation about his intentions.

 

Policy and Conflict Post SovietCivil Society

Putin signs bill on mandatory Russian-made software for electronic devices
President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a bill mandating Russian-made software for any electronic device sold in the country. Big tech companies have opposed the legislation and petitioned the Kremlin against it.

Russia Faces Up to Its Dark Domestic Violence Problem
A rising chorus of outrage over high-profile domestic abuse cases signals a sea change in Russian society, but are lawmakers listening?

Putin announces felony charges against ex-cops who arrested ‘Meduza’ reporter Ivan Golunov in June, 2019
At an annual press conference in Moscow, Vladimir Putin revealed that five police officers who arrested Meduza journalist Ivan Golunov in June on bogus drug charges are being investigated for felony offenses.

Coding from Russia’s countryside
A group of Moscow programmers has launched a crowdfunded project to bring metropolitan expertise to remote towns.

 

Culture

How Russian Media Reacted to 4-Year Olympics Ban
On Monday, December 9, The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) hit Russia with a four-year ban from competing or hosting major world sporting events, including the Olympic Games and World Championships.

The life of a beekeeper
Yuri Luzhkov, who was the mayor of Moscow for nearly two decades, died on December 10.

Putin instructs State Duma to draft proposals on national register of mass graves of victims of political repressions
Russian President Vladimir Putin has backed the idea of improving the laws regarding the mass graves of political repressions’ victims and commemorating them with a museum at the Butovo firing range just outside Moscow.

Echoes of the cold war as Russia boosts number of foreign students
Moscow aims to double university intake from overseas to boost skills and build ties.

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.