Russia on the Ground – January 2020

A new fund is looking to build millions of dollars worth of new warehouses to service Russia growing ecommerce sector. Picture from Santens.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.

Polls

Russians far more upbeat about future than 20 years ago
According to the pollster, 57% of those surveyed said they could imagine the future of their family in a year or more. According to the pollster, family is what still brings Russians happiness.

Govt resignation approved by 54% of Russians
More than half of Russians (54%) favor the resignation of the government announced by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on January 15, 2020 after the Russian president’s address to the Federal Assembly, according to the findings of a poll by the website Superjob.ru obtained by Interfax on January 15th.

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.

Most Russians unafraid of losing job over artificial intelligence
Most Russians (68%) have no fear that artificial intelligence will start performing some of functions in their profession, according to a poll released by the All-Russia Public Opinion Center (VTsIOM) on Monday, January 27.

More than half of Russians call coronavirus a real threat
Over half of Russians (55%) believe that the coronavirus outbreak is a real threat and some 16% others have refused to visit the countries where pneumonia was detected, a survey carried out by Zdorovie Mail.ru for TASS showed.

1 in 4 Russians Want Putin Presidency Beyond 2024
More than one-quarter of Russians want to see President Vladimir Putin stay in power after his term ends in 2024, according to a survey by the independent Levada Center pollster published on January 30.

 

Demographics

Real disposable income in Russia up by 0.8% in 2019, more hoped for 2020
Real disposable incomes in Russia increased by 0.8% in 2019, returning to growth after five years of stagnation.

Russia To Devote Extra $67 Billion To Tackle Demographic Crisis
Russia plans to allocate an additional 4.13 trillion rubles ($66.7 billion) as part of a nationwide effort to address its dwindling population amid bleak long-term demographic trends.

 

Infrastructure

Moscow adopts 15-year grand plan for Northern Sea Route
By year 2035, the Russian government intends to build at least 40 Arctic vessels, upgrade 4 regional airports, construct railways and seaports and facilitate a massive exploitation of Arctic natural resources.

Russia real estate legends to raise €140mn to fund warehouses for Russian e-commerce
Three of Russia’s best known real estate investors have come together to form L.O.P. Urban Logistic, to develop urban warehousing that targets Russia’s booming last mile e-commerce sector.

Moscow sees record housing built in 2019
Moscow saw a record of 4.96mn square metres of housing space completed in 2019, up by 40% year-on-year – highest level of residential construction since the 1965.

 

Environment

Arctic temperatures 2.5 degrees higher than normal in 2018, fall and winter warmest since 1938
The Russian Natural Resources and Ecology Ministry published a report entitled “On the Environmental Status and Protection in the Russian Federation in 2018.”

Russia Unveils Climate Change Adaptation Plan
The Russian government takes a major step to join the world community in recognizing the threat of climate change.

Climate Change Threatens Russia’s Economic Growth, Watchdog Warns
Audit Chamber warns Russia will not hit targets to increase life expectancy and boost economy unless country addresses climate change.

Russia Steps into Oil-Free Future With New Arctic Research Station
Russia is looking beyond oil as it builds the “Snowflake station,” a state-of-the-art climate research station in the Yamal-Nenets region of Siberia.

 

Economy

Russia’s Oil Output Hits Post-Soviet High Despite OPEC+ Deal
Russia’s crude oil and condensate output hit a post-Soviet high last year even as it curbed production under an agreement with OPEC.

Russia’s flourishing agricultural sector on course for another good harvest
Russia had a bumper grain crop in th 2019 agricultural marketing year (MY19), which ends on July 1, and is on track to have another good year in the 2020 session with a harvest of 121mn tonnes, according to official forecasts.

Russia’s inflation at 3% in 2019
Russia’s comsumer price inflation posted 0.4% month-on-month in December 2019, translating into a 2019 full-year CPI of 3% year-on-year versus 4.3% y/y seen in 2019, according to the preliminary estimates of the Rosstat statistics agency.

Super apps, artificial intelligence make main 2020 IT trends in Russia
Super apps, cloud gaming, artificial intelligence and the growing consumption of paid video content will determine the trends in the IT sphere in Russia in 2020, experts told TASS.

Outlook 2020 Russia
Russia’s economy is basically healthy and solid. It’s just not growing fast enough.

A maximum of RUB2-3bn are stolen from the Russian federal budget every year, says Kudrin
Audit Chamber Director Alexei Kudrin says a maximum  of RUB2-3bn ($32.6-48bn) are stolen from the Russian federal budget annually, Vestnik reported on January 14th.

About $7.3 bln needed to implement president’s address in 2020
Implementation of the tasks set by the Russian president in his annual State of the Nation Address to the Federal Assembly will require about 450 bln rubles ($7.3 bln) in 2020, prime minister candidate Mikhail Mishustin said on January 16.

Russia tempted to ease fiscal rule and spend more
Russia entered 2020 with a spending backlog of around 1% of GDP, a surplus of 1.9% GDP and budget breakeven price under $50 all mean spending is set to increase in 2020.

Russia’s RTS spring rally gets boost from new government
Russia’s RTS index is up to 6% YTD and analysts expect that the spring rally will get a boost from the recent changes to the government.

Fading Sanctions Fears Lead to FDI Rebound
Investment into Russia leapt five-fold in 2019 as investors acclimatized to U.S. sanctions.

Russia’s Sovereign Credit Rating Upgraded
Upgrade comes as foreigners buy record amount of Russian state debt and reserves hit pre-crisis levels.

Russia’s Watcom shoppind index ends 2019 on five-year high as consumption recovers
Russia’s RTS index is up 6% YTD and analysts expect that the spring rally will get a boost from the recent changes to the government.

Russian industry hoping for a better 2020
Russia finished 2019 with industrial production growth of 2.1%.

Russia’s Consumer Debt Still Growing, but Bubble Fears Easing
New statistics show the Central Bank’s fight against a consumer debt bubble is starting to have an effect.

    – Business

Russia’s Sheremetyevo international airport named most punctual and best employer in Russia in 2020
Once famous for its dark arrival halls and legendarily long immigration queues, Russia’s leading international airport Sheremetyevo has transformed itself into one of the world’s best airports.

Russia’s Small Businesses Contribute Just 20% of Economy
The importance of SMEs to the Russian economy is falling, despite government targets.

    – Finance

Five Years After Meltdown, Ruble Is Reborn as Trade-War Refuge
The Russian government enters 2020 with more than half a trillion dollars of reserves and one of the world’s most lucrative carry-trade currencies.

Russia in 2020: Where Are All the Foreign Banks? 
Foreign banks in Russia generate huge profits, so why are there not more of them?

Russian rallies: RTS index breaks above 1,600 for the first time in seven years
Russian stocks just finished a stonkingly good year, with the leading dollar denominated Russia Trading System (RTS) index returning 45%, making it the best performing market in the world thanks to a much stronger than expected “Santa rally” that pushed the index up in the last two months of the year.

 

Politics

Head of Russian tax service Mikhail Mishustin appointed prime minister
The finale of a dramatic news day for Russia was the appointment of the head of the Russian tax office Mikhail Mishustin as prime minister to replace the outgoing Dmitry Medvedev, who had resigned along with the whole government only a few hours earlier on January 15.

Premier Technocrat
How Mikhail Mishustin made a career in politics outside Russia’s traditional clans.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and entire Russian government quit
Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has announced that his government has submitted its resignation in what is likely the first step in Putin’s preparations for a succession.

Who’s who in the new Russian government
The whole Russian government quit on January 15. Who is who in the new administration of PM Mikhail Mishustin?

Putin Submits Draft Law Amending Constitution to Parliament
On January 20th, Putin submitted the draft law to the Duma amending the Russian constitution.

Planning for a (Not-So) Post-Putin Russia
Of the constitutional reforms put forward by Putin, what will really change a lot is the proposal to give the Russian constitution—including repressive Russian legislation—priority over international law. This violation of the usual hierarchy is nothing short of a legal revolution.

Much ado about nothing?
The changes that Putin has set in motion could result in a more decentralized, efficient, liberal and democratic form of government. Or, they could end up leaving everything pretty much as it is. It could be much ado about nothing.

Putin’s Power Puzzle: Russia’s President Loses a Cabinet and Gains an Exit Strategy
Vladimir Putin now has a Napoleonic-style referendum with which to mobilize the population and seek the public imprimatur of a new mandate for reshaping Russian politics for the 2020s.

Putin to sign decree on putting constitutional amendments to the vote
In his State of the Nation Address to the Federal Assembly on Wednesday Putin suggested putting a package of amendments to the Russian Constitution to the vote.

How Will Putin’s Reforms Pan Out for Russian Business?
By addressing the “2024 problem” early Putin has given the investment community some breathing room.

Did Putin Just Appoint Himself President for Life?
What’s everyone making such a fuss over right now in Russia?

A new era in Russian politics?
Russia entered a new political era as President Vladimir Putin announced sweeping constitutional reforms and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev resigned.

Putin replaces his attorney general
On January 20, Vladimir Putin dismissed Yuri Chaika, who’d served in the position since June 2006, and appointed Igor Krasnov, the deputy head of the Federal Investigative Committee, as acting attorney general.

Multi-Faith Russia Needs Strong Presidential Power
“I think that Russia, with its vast territory, with many faiths, with a large number of nations, peoples, nationalities living in the country – you can’t even count, someone says 160, someone 190, you know, needs strong presidential power,” Putin said at a meeting with the public.

 

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.

Russian Court Rules to Demolish Controversial Landfill
A Russian court has ruled to demolish the landfill at the heart of a year-long battle over Moscow’s waste, marking a major victory for regional activists who actively opposed its construction, news outlets reported on January 9th.

Three Times as Many Russian Prisoners in 2019 than in 2018 Sought Higher Educations While Behind Bars
The Federal Penal Service is making it easier for prisoners to take classes and to prepare for re-entering the workforce after completing their sentences in other ways as well, Novyye izvestiya reports.

Plagiarism Rife In Russian Science? Hundreds Of Academic Articles Retracted In Unprecedented Move
A committee appointed by the Russian Academy of Sciences last year tried to tackle what many said was a huge task. Its report, released on January 6, confirmed what a gargantuan effort it may turn out to be.

The human rights organization that studies Stalin horrors is fined 21 times for violations of foreign agent law
Since the late 1980s, Memorial has engaged in investigations of Soviet political repression. That work is getting increasingly complicated.

Moscow court rules searches at homes of Anti-Corruption Foundation employees unlawful
According to the foundation, 14 out of 56 search warrants were considered unlawful.

Putin Calls For Review Of Case Of Opposition Activist Kotov
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the Prosecutor-General’s Office to review the legality of the sentencing of an opposition activist imprisoned for repeatedly taking part in unauthorized rallies, the Kremlin said.

How Is Russia Preparing for the Coronavirus?
As the coronavirus outbreak spreads around the world and the number of cases rises, Russia has stepped up measures to prevent the deadly virus from crossing its borders.

Conditions for Jewish community comfortable in Russia
Russia’s Jewish community is the most dynamic in the world, the country’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar said, adding that it must not stop here.

Former Police Officers Charged with Framing Russian Journalist
Moscow police have charged five former officers with fabricating evidence against a leading Russian journalist, adding a twist to a press freedom case that captured international headlines.

Russia will relax tourist visa rules, allowing stays of up to 6 months & simplified applications
Russia has long been known for having a formidable visa process, especially for Western visitors. But since the 2018 FIFA World Cup, there’s been a slow liberalization.

First two cases of coronavirus confirmed in Russia, both Chinese citizens
Russia has registered its first patients diagnosed with the new Chinese coronavirus, Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova has confirmed. The alarming news comes just a day after Moscow closed its Far Eastern border with China.

 

Culture

Will Russia’s latest culture minister herald a new era of creative freedom?
Many cheering Medinsky’s departure hope that it will herald not just a new patron in the top spot, but a wider shift in the Kremlin’s cultural outlook.

Moscow’s Inspiring New Cultural Season Opens
There are more than 600 theaters in Russia, ranging from traditional through experimental to popular.

‘We traditionally turn a blind eye’
A scholar explains how mass retractions and the largest audit in the history of Russian academia will affect the country’s higher education.

How Russia embarked on celebrating the New Year 
2020 has begun. Here is a look at the history of New Year celebrations in Russia.

Putin pledges to ‘shut dirty mouths’ of revisionists by opening center of WWII archives
The website and the center “will be open both for our citizens and the entire world”.

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.