Russia on the Ground – May 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.



3% of Russians Trust Officials’ Income Declarations
Only 3 percent of Russians believe that government officials submit trustworthy income declarations every year, according to an independent Levada Center survey.

Trust in Russian President Vladimir Putin falls to a historic low of 31.7% in May
In 2016 trust in Russian President Vladimir Putin was 71%, but it has tumbled since then on the back of conflicts with the west and stagnating income levels to 31.7% in May, according to the state owned pollster, the Russian Public Opinion Research Centre (VTsIOM).

Poll finds 45% of Russians Dissatisfied With The Country’s Situation
A recent poll by the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM) found that 45 percent of Russians are dissatisfied with the general situation in the country, the RBC newspaper reports.

Russian Support for LGBT Rights Hits 14-Year High
Nearly half of Russians support equal rights for members of the LGBT community, marking the highest level of support in 14 years, according to the independent Levada Center pollster.

Russians Most Opposed to Having LGBT Neighbors
Russians are more likely to oppose having an LGBT neighbor than a neighbor from another social group, according to a new survey released by the independent Levada Center pollster.

Poll shows every second Russian plans to participate in Victory Day celebrations
Roughly every second Russian plans to take part in the May 9 celebrations, a poll by the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center indicates.

Self Identified Middle Class in Russia Shrinks
In the five years since 2014, the share of those in Russia who consider themselves middle class has shrunk from 60 percent to 47 percent.

Most Russians pleased with their employment
The Russian Public Opinion Research Center explained that most Russians (85%) are satisfied with their job, according to the results of a survey published on Monday.

Attitudes of Young Russians Changing Rapidly and in Contradictory Ways
Three new surveys show that the attitudes young Russians have about a wide variety of issues are changing rapidly and in internally inconsistent ways, something Stoletie commentator Andrey Sokolov says is worrisome because it means they lack a systematic worldview on the basis of which Russia’s future depends.

Russian Millennials Worry Most About Corruption and Inequality
Russian millennials are more concerned about corruption and income inequality than their global peers, the U.S auditing company Deloitte said in a survey published Monday.



Silk Road expands to Arctic and beyond
During the last hours of the second annual Belt and Road Summit of April 25-27, Russian President Vladimir Putin did something very important that was missed by many onlookers.

Moscow to Weave AI Face Recognition into Its Urban Surveillance Net
This year, Moscow will join a growing number of global cities whose populations are monitored by AI-enabled facial recognition programs.



Russian scientists explain difference between ice thawing in Eurasian, American Arctic
A group of scientists with support from experts of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) described a mechanism, which explains why in the 21st century ice in the Eurasian Arctic thaws quicker than in the American part, the university’s press service said on Wednesday.

How Russian cities are cleaning up their air
Last year, as the World Cup took place in cities all across Russia, it was impossible to ignore the serious problem air pollution was creating in its largest cities.

In Russia’s Arctic, Oil Majors and Reindeer Herders Are Coming Together
Russia’s oil and gas giants are establishing a new model in the country’s Arctic based on sustainable development and cooperation with the region’s native reindeer herders.

Russia Has Most Protected Natural Areas in the World
Russia now ranks first in the world for its amount of protected natural areas, according to World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Russia data.



Russia’s nuclear power exports are booming
Russia’s state-owned agency Rosatom is on a tear. The company operates 35 nuclear power stations in Russia that produce 28GW of power, and it is actively exporting its nuclear technology to countries around the world.

Russian non-energy export expected to reach $160 bln in 2019
The government expects that Russia’s non-energy exports will reach $160 bln in 2019, an increase of $9 bln compared with 2018, First Deputy Prime Minister, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said at the meeting of the Presidential Council for Strategic Development and National Projects on Wednesday.

Can Russia halve its poverty level?
President Vladimir Putin unveiled a very ambitious reform plan during his state of the nation speech on March 1 last year. Among the ambitious goals – some say unattainable goals — the president called for a drastic reduction in poverty between now and 2024, when he is slated to step down from office.

How Russia’s Banking Sector Clean-Up Affects Regime Stability
Through all the gloom of Russia’s stagnating economy, one bright spot has been the prudent macroeconomic policy coming from the Central Bank.

Russia keeps accumulating foreign assets, sales of OFZ bonds driving exchange rate
April balance of payments confirms the corporate preference to convert export proceeds into international assets, making foreign inflows into local state bonds the only support factor for the ruble exchange rate.

Russia joins in global gene-editing bonanza
Russia is embracing gene-editing. A 111-billion-rouble (US$1.7-billion) federal programme aims to create 10 new varieties of gene-edited crops and animals by 2020 — and another 20 by 2027.

Russia’s GDP growth slows in 1Q19, challenging the policy framework
Russian GDP growth slowed from 2.7% year on year in 4Q18 to just 0.5% y/y in 1Q19, well below expectations.

Foreign Direct Investment Into Russia Is Falling
Foreign direct investment (FDI) into Russia accounted for only 0.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) from 2015-2018, putting it at the bottom of the list of emerging markets, the RBC news website reported, citing the Institute of International Finance (IIF).

Russian president Putin enacts capital Amnesty 3.0
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a package of laws and decrees that prolong the ongoing capital amnesty and repatriation drive from June 1 2019 to February 29 2020, Vedomosti daily said on May 30 citing state legal information portal.

The Russian Economy Is Stagnating
The Russian economy is stagnating and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plan to revitalise it with his 12 national projects is off to a very slow start.

One Year In, Putin’s Grand Economic Plan Is Tainted With Manure
In early May, one year into his last consecutive term as president, Vladimir Putin summoned four dozen officials from across Russia to the Grand Kremlin Palace for a televised progress report on the central pledge of his re-election campaign.

Russia’s gold & foreign exchange reserves will soon top $500 billion
The Central Bank of Russia expects reserves to reach half-a-trillion dollars soon, according to the regulator’s boss, Elvira Nabiullina, who says further accumulation of holdings is part of the national policy.

Russia’s National Projects: Economic Reboot or Mucky Bog?
While Moscow has been aggressively advancing its interests on the international stage, Russia’s stagnating economy means the country risks gradually falling behind the rest of the world and possibly facing social unrest at home.

– Business

Russian HeadHunter makes first NASDAQ IPO since 2013
Leading Russian online job search portal HeadHunter carried out a successful IPO on NASDAQ, on May 9 placing 16.3mn ADRs or 32% of capital at $13.5 per ADR, the upper range of price guidance.

Progress made towards creating of Russia’s 5G network
Russia has made another step towards launching the fifth generation of cellular mobile communications (5G), as state-controlled telecoms operator Rostelecom transferred companies that tested the relevant technology to its subsidiary, Bashinformsvyaz.

Russia’s Tinkoff Bank positions itself on Russia’s $15bn online travel market
Russia’s only purely online bank, Tinkoff Bank, has launched an own-branded online travel agency. The offer includes air and railway tickets, packaged tours, hotels and car rentals, reports East-West Digital News (EWDN).

Russia’s energy sector explained in 4 simple questions
Energy resources traditionally make up a substantial part of Russia’s export revenues. But what part of its oil and natural gas does Russia consume domestically and is it working on developing renewable energy resources?

– Finance

Russia ramps up bond sales ahead of possible U.S. sanctions
[Russia’s] finance ministry sold Rbs73bn ($1.1bn) in rouble-denominated bonds … Wednesday[,] … part of a plan to raise Rbs600bn in domestic debt this quarter. … [after] a record Rbs400bn in April – four times [Russia’s] monthly average – feeding strong investor appetite for high-yielding emerging market debt.

Russian consumer loans ballooning despite CBR measures to cool the market
Unsecured consumer loans in Russia keep on growing, increasing by 25% year-on-year in January-March 2018, Vedomosti daily said on May 17 citing the data by Frank RG.

Why are Russian stocks so cheap?
Investors into Russian stocks have almost given up on seeing any of the cash the country’s leading companies generate.


Policy and Conflict Post SovietPolitics

Putin’s New Energy Security Doctrine Preaches Self-Reliance
Russian President Vladimir Putin has approved a new energy security doctrine preaching self-reliance in the face of geopolitical isolation.

Russian Government Rejects Proposal to Fine Officials for Insulting Citizens
The Russian government has rejected a bill that would have introduced fines for officials who exhibit disrespect toward citizens, weeks after lawmakers passed a bill that introduced fines for disrespecting the authorities.

New law in Russia ends ban on HIV, Hep-C parents adopting children
Russian president Vladimir Putin has put his signature to new legislation that will let people who are diagnosed with HIV, Hepatitis C and other serious health issues to adopt children already in their care.



Real incomes of Russians will continue to decline in 2019
Real incomes of Russians will continue to fall in 2019 as the government lacks plans for monetary social support of citizens, a representative with the Accounts Chamber told TASS.

A Majority of Russian Families Have No Savings
Two-thirds of Russian families have no financial savings to speak of, according to a new survey published by the independent Levada Center polling agency.

Economists Forecast 6th Year of Falling Incomes for Russians
Russians’ incomes will fall for a sixth consecutive year in 2019, experts from Moscow’s Higher School of Economics (HSE) and Russia’s Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA) said.

Nearly Half Of Russian Families Can Afford Only Food, Clothing
Nearly half of all Russian families say that they only have enough money for food and clothing and cannot buy items of longer-term use such as furniture and appliances, media reports cite data from the state statistics agency Rosstat as saying.


Daily Life / Civil Society

A Great Firewall of Russia? Kremlin puts key bricks into place.
Officially, Russia’s new Sovereign Internet Law is aimed at addressing problems that are vexing governments globally: the proliferation of “fake news” and illegal content, the disturbing reach of extremist voices on the internet, and the threat of cyber-attack from outside the country.

March of the Immortal Regiment, St Petersburg, 2019: reflections of a participant
This year Marches of the Immortal Regiment held by the Russian diaspora in New York, Washington, D.C., Paris, Athens and a host of other cities around the world mean that a great many people everywhere have read reports about the phenomenon from Reuters or seen some brief video coverage on their television news.

Putin calls for compromise over Orthodox cathedral standoff
Russian President Vladimir Putin called for a compromise Thursday to ease tensions over a plan to build a Russian Orthodox cathedral in a popular park in the nation’s fourth-largest city that has sparked protests and drawn nationwide attention.

What’s it like to ‘come out of the closet’ in Russia?
All around the world, it’s hard for people born different to speak out on their sexuality – especially in Russia, with its patriarchal set of values. Nevertheless, people do come out – in order to free themselves from fear.

Russian Officials Scrap Yekaterinburg Church Plan After Public Outcry
Officials in Russia’s Sverdlovsk region have scrapped plans to build an Orthodox church in a Yekaterinburg park after a rare public outcry over the project that prompted President Vladimir Putin to urge all sides to find a compromise solution.

Russians Stand Side by Side at LGBT Film Festival
Last week, the annual Side by Side (Bok o Bok in Russian) LGBT International Film Festival was held in Moscow.


About the Author

Gregory Tracey

Greg Tracey is a junior at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. He is studying economics and international relations, as well as minoring in mathematics and Russian. As a Home and Abroad Scholar, he is focusing on business and economic issues in Russia and surrounding countries. The related scholarship will help fund his participation in SRAS's Russian as a Second Language program at St. Petersburg State University of Economics during the Spring 2019 Semester. In his free time, he enjoys reading and soccer.