Russia on the Ground – February 2020

This past week, Russian celebrated Maslenitsa, an ancient festival. Photo from Mos.ru.

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.

 

Coronavirus in Russia: The Latest News
As the new coronavirus that has killed more than 3,000 people continues to spread around the world, Russia has stepped up measures to tackle the health risk, including closing most entry points along its 4,200-kilometer border with China and temporarily banning Chinese citizens from entering the country.

 

Polls

Russians and Ukrainians Turn Sour on Each Other
Russian and Ukrainian attitudes toward each other have worsened in less than half a year, a joint study by the independent Levada Center pollster and the Kiev International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) said on February 13.

Russians Have ‘Given Up’ On Trump
After three years of hoping and expecting for positive things from Donald Trump, Russians have “given up” on him, concluding that he is not willing, able or perhaps even inclined to seek improved relations with Moscow, according to the latest VTsIOM poll.

4 in 5 Russians View West as a Friend
Almost 80% of Russians believe that Russia and the West should become friends and partners, according to the results of an independent Levada Center poll published Tuesday.

Hearts of gold: Most Russians consider themselves ‘good people’
Three-quarters (76%) of Russian people polled by the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) see themselves as good-natured individuals, the survey center said in its report on February 18, dedicated to Random Acts of Kindness Day.

Levada Polls Show Russian Public Opinion Toward West Is Thawing
Several polls recently released by the Levada Center on Russians’ attitudes toward foreign countries show that Russians’ animosities toward the West, which increased notably after the color revolution in Kyiv that Brussels supported, are declining.

Two-thirds of Russians ready to take part in vote on constitutional amendments
Almost 80% of Russians know about the upcoming nationwide vote on amendments to the Constitution and 66% of those polled are planning to take part in it, Head of the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) Valery Fyodorov said on Tuesday, February 25.

Fewer than One Russian in Four Thinks Expressing Views at Odds with Kremlin is Unpatriotic
A new poll by VTsIOM finds that while Russians overwhelmingly view patriotism as important, fewer than one in four – only 23 percent – says that expressing views at odds with the Putin government is unpatriotic.

 

Demographics

Despite Putin’s Promises, Many Large Russian Families Feel Abandoned By The State
Activists with the grassroots organization Land For The Large Families Of Severodvinsk are urging Putin and other officials to “look closely” at their experience.

Russia Finalizes ‘Revolutionary’ Dual Citizenship Bill
Russian lawmakers expect to vote on legislation that would allow dual Russian citizenship for foreigners as soon as this month, the Kommersant business daily reported on February 7th.

How many Russians really want to emigrate?
Among the things Russia inherited from the USSR was the image, enduring in western media to this day, of being a place everyone just can’t wait to get out of. This hasn’t been true for many years.

Russian Demographics in 2020
None of the main trends have changed, as compared to the previous year.

 

Infrastructure

Russian Arctic shipping up 430 percent in three years
A total of 31,5 million tons of goods was shipped on the Northern Sea Route in 2019.

 

Environment

Climate Change Is Moving Russia’s Taiga North
The Taiga forests of Siberia have expanded north toward the Arctic as a result of warming temperatures over the past four decades, a team of Russian and Finnish scientists has said.

“Vilfand explains extremely warm winter in Russia”
The unusually warm winter in Russia this year is down to the abnormally wide pressure gap between the Atlantic “weather centers” and an absence of a steady anticyclone over Siberia, the scientific director of the Russian Hydrometeorological Center, Roman Vilfand, told Interfax.

 

Economy

Russia’s CBR switches tactics from prudence to stimulation
The Central Bank of Russia (CBR) has switched tactics from running a prudent monetary policy to a more aggressive attempt to stimulate economic growth in 2020.

The criminal case against US fund manager Calvey could be over soon
The case against US citizen and fund manager Michael Calvey and his five colleagues may be over soon, but end in convictions and short prison sentences, sources told The Bell.

Coronavirus Hits Russian Exports to China
Shipments stall as Russian border crossings are limited and Chinese demand slumps.

Russian sugar industry under pressure from drop in prices
In the 2020-2021 agricultural season, Russian sugar plants with combined capacity of 150,000 tonnes could halt production due to a 1.5-fold drop in prices, Vedomosti daily reported on February 25 citing a report by the SouyzRosSakhar union.

Russian stocks to reach new highs in 2020 despite uncertain backdrop
Russia’s stock market is forecast to surpass record levels reached in January by the end of this year, a Reuters poll of market experts showed, but concerns over the effects of China’s coronavirus epidemic are causing uncertainty.

Russia’s Top Retail and Tech Companies Join Forces to Hunt for Innovations
As Russia’s retail and tech sectors consolidate, the leading companies are turning their gaze outwards to hunt for new technology and innovation.

Putin Inspects Russia’s Answer to Disneyland Before Grand Opening
President Vladimir Putin inspected Russia’s answer to Disneyland, the country’s first large-scale indoor theme park which Moscow says will be the biggest of its kind in Europe when it opens on February 29.

 

Politics

Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has been cleared of corruption charges
Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has been cleared of corruption charges after his former employer UFG Private Equity revealed he had made $35mn while working for the fund as a senior executive between 2008 and 2010.

Enter Mishustin: The New Russian Prime Minister’s Agenda
Mishustin’s appointment took many Russian commentators by surprise, coming as it did amid a flurry of other news. Yet it is difficult to criticize the move.

Ahead Of 2021 Vote, Critics Say Kremlin Is Curating A New Crop Of Spoiler Parties
Opinion polls show a widespread desire for political change in Russia. One way the Kremlin has addressed that demand was by replacing the cabinet last month. Another has been a boom in political activity, at least on paper.

Joint meeting of State Council Presidium and Presidential Council on Science and Education
At the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin chaired a joint meeting of the State Council Presidium and the Presidential Council on Science and Education.

Dutch court reinstates order for Russia to pay $50bn to Yukos shareholders
A Dutch appeals court has ordered the Russian government to fork out $50bn to former shareholders of defunct Russian oil giant Yukos, marking another twist in a more than decade-old legal battle.

Putin says about 900 constitutional amendments proposals received
The Russian president noted that the proposals cover practically all areas of government work.

Kremlin Kicks Off Search for New Lawmakers in Reality Show-Style Contest
The Kremlin is hosting a nationwide search for candidates to the Russian parliament ahead of next year’s elections, the Vedomosti business daily reported on February 25.

Russia’s constitutional vote will be on April 22 for religious reasons, workgroup member says
Russian Senator Andrey Klishas confirmed that he intends for a nationwide extralegal vote on the amendments to take place on April 22, after the end of Orthodox Lent and before Ramadan, a fasting month of the Muslim community.

President added to list of persons banned from having bank accounts abroad
The list was expanded in accordance with the head of state’s instructions.

 

Policy and Conflict Post SovietCivil Society

For Russia Regional Coverage, Look to These 9 Independent Media
Regional issues took center stage in Russia in 2019 — from trash protests in the north to contested elections in the Far East, from border disputes in the North Caucasus to the effects of climate change in Siberia.

At Moscow university, a debate: Ban politics or risk the Kremlin’s wrath?
Russia’s second-largest and most progressive state-funded university is facing a dilemma.

Russia Scraps Criticized Restrictions on Scientists’ Foreign Contacts
Russia has scrapped highly criticized restrictions on its scientists a year after issuing them, the Education and Science Ministry’s newly appointed chief was quoted as saying on February 10th.

More Than a Decade After Military Reform, Hazing Still Plagues the Russian Army
There are no official statistics on the number of hazing cases in the army, but a report from the RBC news website said that in 2018 more than 1,100 military personnel were convicted on charges of abuse of power, and 372 for violence.

Russia may switch to contract enlistment entirely, but it still needs reserve
Russia may switch to contract enlistment entirely with time, but it is crucial to have a mobilization reserve, which is now comprised of conscripts, says Russian Federation Council Committee on Defense and Security head Viktor Bondarev.

Moscow links 100,000 security cameras to powerful facial recognition system
Dmitry Golovin, who leads the Moscow IT Department’s video surveillance division, has revealed during a forum called Security Technologies that 105,000 of the city’s security cameras are connected to a facial recognition system.

Russian government plans massive remote ballot effort to increase turnout in constitutional reform vote
The Russian newspaper Kommersant has learned that in the upcoming nationwide vote on major constitutional changes proposed by Vladimir Putin, voters will be permitted to cast their ballots at home or, in some cases, at work.

Commemoration Of Chechen, Ingush Deportation Victims Returns To Day Tragedy Started
For the first time in eight years, Russia’s North Caucasus region of Chechnya has publicly commemorated the victims of the 1944 deportation on the actual day when the tragedy started.

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.