Russia on the Ground – July 2019

The 405m tall One Tower project to be constructed in Moscow. Photo credit:

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.



Russians’ Belief in Aliens, Magic and Superstition Plummets
Russians are less likely to believe in the power of magic or the supernatural today than at any point in the past three decades, according to a state-funded survey published Tuesday.

Putin’s Approval Rating Steadily Increases to 68%
President Vladimir Putin’s approval rating has grown in recent months but remains at pre-Crimean annexation lows, an independent Levada Center polling agency survey said on Friday.

Love and Marriage: Latest poll shows how Russians view matrimony and divorce
Most Russians share the opinion that people must register their marriage when starting a family.

Nearly Half of Russians Oppose 4-Day Work Week, Poll Says
Nearly half of Russians say they wouldn’t support a switch to a four-day work week over fears that it would reduce their earnings, a new poll has said.

Why do 66% of Russians regret the collapse of the USSR?
I was asked today to answer this question by a journalist, so I thought I’d share my responses.

Two out of five Russians don’t want Putin as president after 2024
Two out of five Russians (38%) do not wish to see President Vladimir Putin remain president after his current term in office expires in 2024, according to a Levada Center poll cited by Vedomosti daily on July 30.

Putin’s popularity improves slightly; regional governors doing almost as well
Putin’s personal popularity has improved slightly this year from a low of 64% in January to 68% in July, with 31% disapproving of his actions, according to independent pollster the Levada Center.



Russia’s Dirty Oil Crisis Leaves Pipe Giant With a Few Scars
As the biggest disruption to Russian oil flows in decades draws to a close the country’s European market looks remarkably unscathed, but its pipeline operator bears a few scars.

Floating nuclear power plant will be key element on Northern Sea Route, says Rosatom
The construction and testing of Russia’s first power plant of the kind is declared completed as the installation on Thursday morning was officially handed over from Baltic Yard to Rosatom.

How risky is Russia’s first-ever floating nuclear power plant?
Despite criticism from environmental advocates, Russia’s first-ever floating nuclear power plant is ready to start work. Can it withstand tsunamis? And it is more suitable to compare it with Chernobyl or a nuclear icebreaker?



Putin ridicules green energy in speech in Russia’s dirtiest region
Russian President Vladimir Putin ridiculed green energy during a speech in Sverdlovsk, Russia’s dirtiest region, asking if anyone cares about the worms and birds that are killed by wind turbines.

Russia Inc. Gets Environment Wake-Up Call From Church of England
This year has seen a substantial increase in investors’ environmental concerns.



The World’s Top Stock Market? Right Now, It’s Russia
Russian stocks are generating some of the highest returns of 2019, as investors get over the shock of last year’s sanctions.

Japan Teams Up With Russia in Big Arctic LNG
Two Japanese energy companies have acquired a 10 percent share in Novatek’s Arctic LNG 2 liquefied natural gas project.

Putin flexes as ‘good czar,’ but can he remake Russia?
For many of Vladimir Putin’s critics, the Russian president’s method of governance is just a modern version of the “good czar, bad boyars” concept, a method of bamboozling the population almost as old as Russia itself.

Russian GDP growth to pick up, modestly
The scheduled pick-up in state-sponsored investments leaves hopes for a recovery in Russian GDP growth following the disappointing 0.5% YoY in 1Q19.

Will Russia splash rainy day cash?
The Russian economy is crawling along at a low rate of growth, with oil prices insufficient to boost state revenues.

Easy Money Won’t Fix Russian Growth Problem, Central Banker Says
Russian central bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina issued her starkest warning yet against finding “quick fixes” for the nation’s sluggish economic growth.

Putin points to upbeat figures in Russia’s economy
The president pointed out that it is neccessary to achieve a “more stable” and “more dynamic growth”

Russia’s FDI Outlook Grim, with No Chinese Rescue in Sight
Since its annexation of Crimea in 2014 Russia has seen foreign direct investment decline significantly.

IMF cuts forecast for Russian 2019 GDP growth to 1.2%, calls for reforms
The International Monetary Fund cut its forecast for Russian economic growth in 2019 to 1.2% from 1.4% after a weak first quarter, saying broader reforms would be needed for stronger growth.

Playing the Long Game: The United States Targets Russia’s Sovereign Debt
Financial sanctions that limit Russia’s borrowing are ineffective as the country has three surpluses and doesn’t need credit lines.

Quiet evolution is better than noisy revolution
Most of the discussion about Russia in recent years has been about the sluggish economy, sanctions, a revolting society or the perception of threats that would seem more appropriate in the Cold War days.

Russian Stocks Seen Rising 25% by Mid-2020
The Russian stock market has outperformed many global rivals so far this year.

Russian cumulative profits were RUB6,743bn for the first five months of this year, up by 38% on 2018
Russian companies are track for their most profitable year in the last four years as a corporate recovery starts to gather momentum.

Policy and Conflict Post Soviet– Business

Russia will build the tallest residential building in Europe.
The One Tower project will be constructed on the territory of Moscow City, the Russian capital’s financial district, with apartments in the very centre of the business life of the capital, Albert Suniyev, the first deputy general director of Mosinzhproekt, said, Vedomosti reported.

Sberbank and Yandex e-commerce JV may end in divorce after only one year
It was supposed to be Russia’s e-commerce powerhouse, but only a year after they tied the knot the joint venture between Russia’s state-owned retail banking behemoth Sberbank and the leading tech company — not just in Russia, but all of Europe — Yandex looks like it is going to break up in divorce.

Russian companies scramble to improve their ESG scores or face losing investors
Climate change and the expanding global population are changing the way investors think about long-term returns.

Google fined $11,000 for violation of Russian law
The communications agency Roskomnadzor on Thursday imposed a 700,000-ruble fine ($11,000) on Google company for failure to abide by Russian legislation, a statement released on the watchdog’s website reads.



Putin Seeks to Lock in Parliament Control
With public support for President Vladimir Putin wilting, the Kremlin is considering changing election rules in an effort to secure its lock on parliament ahead of potentially vital decisions that could extend his rule.

Putin Is Running Out of Options to Extend His Power
None of the relatively legitimate scenarios for keeping the Russian leader in power past 2024 look comfortable for him.

August in Russia: What could possibly go wrong?
August is supposed to be the quietest month of the year in Russia, but something always seems to go wrong.



Top Russian Official Warns of ‘Catastrophic’ Population Loss
Russia’s population numbers are declining “catastrophically” with several regions vastly underestimating their death rates, a top government official has said.

Russia to Slash Soviet-Era List of Off-Limits Jobs for Women, Media Reports
Women in Russia will be allowed to work as truck drivers and serve in the navy under new rules taking effect in 2021, the RBC news website reported Thursday.

Where is consumer purchasing power headed in Russia?
One of the key subjects in Vladimir Putin’s 4 hour televised session of Q&A with the Russian public on 20 June was pay levels, family income and purchasing power.

Russians Work More Nights, Weekends Than Other Europeans – Research
Russia is among the leading countries in Europe where employees regularly work night or weekend shifts, recent research published by the Moscow-based Higher School of Economics (HSE) has said.

21M Russians Live in Poverty, Official Data Says
The number of Russians living below the poverty line has grown by half a million since early 2018, according to official data.


Civil Society

2019, so far Meduza reviews Russia’s biggest news stories over the first six months of the year
Over the past six months, Meduza has reported on hundreds of current events, but some incidents and trends resonate and rise above the rest.

Russian ‘notorious’ homophobia? The perils of measuring intolerance (and making cross-cultural comparisons)
I’m reading a lot at the moment about ‘culture war’, the ‘conservative turn’ and things like historical homophobia in Russia.

Russia’s whale release plan called success despite criticism
Russian officials say a plan to put nearly 100 illegally captured whales back in open water has been successful so far, but environmentalists claim it was poorly planned.

Rehabilitating Stalin
Those who follow Russia-related news will be aware of the regular complaints of the Western press that Vladimir Putin is working day and night to rehabilitate the memory of Joseph Stalin… but that’s not quite the case.

Russia’s lower house of parliament adopts social entrepreneurship bill
A bill on legislative regulation of socially responsible business passed its third and final reading in the State Duma on Thursday.

Moscow police press secretary fined for photos of drug lab that police passed off as photos from Ivan Golunov’s apartment
Yury Titov, who leads the press service for Moscow’s branch of Russia’s Internal Affairs Ministry, has been disciplined in connection with the case against Meduza correspondent Ivan Golunov, RBC reported.

Crowdfunding regulation bill adopted by State Duma
The lower house of Russian parliament adopted an initiative on crowdfunding regulation in a final third reading on Wednesday.

– Protests

What Are Russians Protesting About?
Recent demonstrations in Russia have not been led by a particular group or movement with grand political designs. Instead, protesters in Arkhangelsk – much like those in Yekaterinburg and even in Moscow – are simply people fighting for their government, finally, to treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve.

Moscow Police Detain Protesters Outside Election Committee Headquarters
Russian police have detained dozens of demonstrators outside the Moscow Election Commission headquarters after opposition candidates called for a sit-in protest following their exclusion from city council elections.

‘A Pre-Revolutionary Situation’: More Than 20,000 Rally in Moscow for Free Elections
Russia’s largest protest in years came after a week of demonstrations against the barring of opposition candidates from city council elections.

No detentions at rally in central Moscow – National Guard
Two rally participants – a man and a woman – felt unwell and so the National Guard’s officers helped them through to an ambulance, spokesperson for the National Guard noted.

Moscow ombudsperson studying proposals to amend election legislation
Moscow Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Potyaeva plans to work, together with experts, on proposals to improve legislation in terms of elections and holding rallies.

Russia hauls in 8 activists for questioning in Moscow vote
Once a local, low-key affair, the September vote for Moscow’s city council has shaken up Russia’s political scene as the Kremlin struggles with how to deal with strongly opposing views in its own sprawling capital.

Police Detain Party Leader In Moscow After Failed Talks On New Rally
The leader of Russia’s Libertarian Party has been detained by police after talks with municipal authorities over the possible site of another rally against the exclusion of opposition candidates from the ballot for the Moscow city council.

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.