Inflammation and stories on russia

hunger in the russian federationUnder the reign of the Soviet Union, countless Russians suffered and died from starvation. Russia has an extensive history of famine and starvation; these have plagued the country for much of the last century. The oppressive regime misled the world and hid the harsh reality the people of Russia faced. Fortunately, the future is bright for the people of the Russian Federation because the rate of hunger has consistently declined in recent decades.

6 Facts About Hunger in the Russian Federation

  1. Poverty in Russia today: Although Russians do not face extreme poverty as they previously endured under the Soviet regime, 12.9% of Russians now live in poverty. The current poverty rate marks a significant achievement considering the poverty rate was as high as 24.6% in 2002. In the past two decades, the Russian economy embraced the privatization of industries. As a result, the economy substantially grew after it nearly collapsed following the demise of the previous Soviet regime. The rapid economic growth and reduction of poverty effectively addressed the problem of hunger in the Russian Federation.
  2. Improvements: As of 2000, approximately 5% of Russians were undernourished. Since the Russian Federation modernized and improved its economy, the rate of undernourishment was halved to 2.5% by 2005. The improved economy led to a rise in industry that provided more food and led to a decrease in hunger in the Russian Federation. Rapid economic development relatively eliminated the threat of food insecurity and hunger in the Russian Federation.
  3. Access to food: Access to food significantly improved when the government opened its markets to the rest of the world. This subsequently reduced the problem of hunger in the Russian Federation. The daily per capita caloric supply is 3,361 kcal per citizen per day, marking a substantial improvement from 2,877 kcal in 2000. After Russia’s economy struggled throughout the 90s following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the new leadership allowed the privatization of agricultural land and opened the economy to welcome new business. Due to a series of tax reforms and rapid economic growth, the Russian Federation’s daily caloric supply is higher than some wealthy nations such as Spain, Sweden, Japan and China.
  4. Diet and health: Although fewer Russians face hunger than ever before, many Russians needlessly suffer from non-communicable diseases due to unhealthy diets. The vast majority of Russian people consume enough food, but the quality of food decreased when the economy shifted away from agriculture.  The typical diet in Russia meets the necessary caloric needs, yet substantially lacks enough fruits and vegetables. These food are required for a healthy diet, and Russian diets often include too much unsaturated fat and sodium instead. The country’s frigid climate and permafrost are unsuitable for diverse agriculture. Due to the fact that 70% of Russia is in a permafrost zone, the country must import what it cannot grow. The country addressed the problem in 2010 when it signed the Food Security Doctrine and focused its efforts on independent domestic production. Russia renewed the doctrine in 2020 to include more fruits and vegetables.
  5. Obesity: Russia significantly tackled the problem of hunger and currently suffers the health consequences that are associated with obesity. Due to the country’s agriculture limitations, unhealthy diets fostered a nationwide rise in obesity. As of 2016, 23.1% of Russian adults were considered obese, which leads to higher rates of non-communicable diseases. To address the problem, the Russian Ministry of Health has earmarked $56 million dollars to promote healthy exercise habits and reduce smoking and drinking.
  6. Life expectancy: Despite the rise in obesity, life expectancy at birth rose from 65 years in 2000 to 72.6 years as of 2018. In the past two decades, the life expectancy in Russia rose at an unprecedented and consistent rate. During the period of recent economic growth, life expectancy in the Russian Federation reached a record high.

At the turn of the century, the Russian Federation modernized the economy and opened the doors for businesses to thrive. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation faced financial peril but rapidly improved its economy from a GDP of $259 billion in 2000 to $1.65 trillion in 2018. The country recovered quickly, considering the collapse of the previous government, and the standard of living subsequently improved for the Russian people. The Russian Federation effectively addressed the problem of hunger and halved the poverty rate. Although the country still faces health issues stemming from obesity and a lack of fresh produce, the past two decades are a success story in the fight against hunger in the Russian Federation.

– Noah Kleinert
Photo: CIA.gov

10 Facts About Sanitation in RussiaDespite Russia’s vast landscape and numerous bodies of water, access to clean, drinkable water is one of the nation’s most dire concerns. Although the government has recently taken steps to improve accessibility and water quality, years of inadequate infrastructure and weak pollution regulations have caused monumental damage. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Russia.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Russia

  1. As of 2018, more than 11 million Russians do not have access to clean drinking water, according to the Russian regulatory bodies. Reports also show that roughly a third of Russia’s population of 144 million drink water with high iron content. While ingesting iron isn’t harmful to one’s health, iron in the water attracts multiple breeds of bacteria, making it dangerous to drink. Not to mention, high iron content will turn the water yellow and produce a foul smell.
  2. Although Moscow is the largest city in Russia, more than 56% of its water sources do not pass official water safety standards. A study in 2013 found high levels of sulfur, oil, aluminum and other hard metals in Moscow’s main river, the Moskva.
  3. Much of the pollutants in Russia’s water sources were dumped during Joseph Stalin’s rule, between 1941 and 1953. Stalin wanted the USSR to “catch up” with the western countries, and, as a result, factories forewent the usual environmental regulations in order to produce goods as quickly as possible.
  4. As recent as 2016, locals near Mayak, one of Russia’s nuclear complexes responsible for some of the largest radioactive accidents, speculated that the plant was still dumping waste into the Techa River. Mayak’s last confirmed case of illegal dumping was in 2004, and doctors have recorded consistently high rates of birth defects and cancer in the residents of the area.
  5. With around two million lakes and a quarter of the world’s freshwater reserves, Russia is not lacking any water. However, faulty pipes, pollution and inefficient filters have left much of the population without clean potable water. Scientists estimate that up to 60% of Russia’s water reserves do not pass sanitary standards, due to pollution and chemical dumping.
  6. Roughly 30% of the water pipelines that run through Russian towns and cities are in need of repair. The corrosion of these pipes not only stops them from working but can deposit even more harmful heavy metals into the already contaminated water supply.
  7. In 2010, the Russian Academy of Sciences created a government-backed plan called the Clean Water of Russia Program. This is Russia’s first and only government-issued program designed to overcome the water crisis. More than 2,000 separate proposals were collected and refined into the program, which was implemented in regions across the country. The program outlines goals to invest in improving water supply and waste disposal, protection for water sources against pollution and installing steel water pipes to last over 100 years.
  8. Although the Clean Water of Russia Program is a step in the right direction, many scientists have called out the lack of science-based data in the initiative. Reconstructing entirely new water systems may be economically favorable in some areas of the country while repairing pre-existing water systems would be more efficient in other areas. Some scholars worry that an inadequate number of scientists were involved in outlining the Clean Water of Russia Program, and the country will lose an unnecessary amount of money.
  9. Similar to the nationwide Clean Water of Russia Program, a smaller, government-backed plan entitled The Clean Water of Moscow was created in 2010 with plans to provide clean water to all of Moscow’s citizens. This plan was structured with the help of scientists. Since its inception, four water treatment plants utilize ozone-sorption technology to purify Moscow’s drinking water.
  10. Five years after the creation of the Clean Water of Russia Program, a study carried out by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reported that 97% of Russian citizens’ water sources had improved in quality, and 72% of the population had improved and available sanitation facilities. However, improved quality does not equate to meeting water safety standards, and millions of people still do not have access to pure drinking water.

After examining these 10 facts about sanitation in Russia, there are still many obstacles in its path to clean water for all, including massive detrimental polluting during the 20th century and from nuclear power plants. In 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin informed citizens in a broadcasted Q&A that access to water was still a prominent issue for the country, despite the launching of the Clean Water of Russia Program. However, through continued work, the Clean Water of Russia Program can make a positive difference in further improving clean water access.

– Anya Chung
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

8 Facts About Tuberculosis in Russia With COVID-19 emerging as a global pandemic, attention has centered on alleviating its effects. However, this has posed challenges to combating other respiratory illnesses, like tuberculosis, due to the lack of control efforts. Russia has been particularly hit by this, where it has a higher sensitivity to respiratory issues. To better understand this and the solutions that might be used to fight both COVID-19 and tuberculosis, here are eight facts about tuberculosis in Russia.

8 Facts About Tuberculosis in Russia

  1. Tuberculosis (TB) is endemic, or regularly found, in Russia. In fact, Russia has the world’s 11th highest burden of TB. Compounding its status as a major public health problem is a rising incidence of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB). This means that TB does not respond to many of the antibiotics that are most commonly used to treat the disease. Russia has the third highest number of MDR-TB in the world.
  2. The severity of Russia’s TB epidemic stems from historical, social and economic factors. When the Soviet Union collapsed, health infrastructure and the economy declined dramatically. Poverty and crime rates increased, leading to higher incarceration rates. As TB is airborne, it spreads best in cramped and crowded conditions, just like those in prisons. These factors contributed to the rapid spread of both TB and MDR-TB. The Fall of the Iron Curtain also led to unstable living conditions, increased mass migration and exacerbated the TB epidemic with a 7.5 percent annual increase in new cases from 1991 to 1999.
  3. There is a close synergy between the TB and HIV/AIDS epidemics in Russia. The TB notification rate of individuals living with HIV infection is approximately 1,700 per 100,000 HIV-infected. Because HIV attacks the immune system, HIV infection leaves patients more vulnerable to infection with all sorts of pathogens, including TB.
  4. In the early to mid-2000s, the Russian government increased its budget allocation for tuberculosis control. Russia also received a $150 million World Bank loan, two thirds of which was designated for tuberculosis. Additionally, it received a $91 million grant from the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
  5. In recent years, there have been some improvements in TB infection rates in Russia. Cases of TB in Russia decreased by 9.4 percent to a rate of 48.3 per 100,000 people in 2017. In the same vein, Russia has recently experienced a steady decline in TB morbidity and mortality. Since 2012, morbidity or disability due to TB has decreased by more than 30 percent, and mortality has decreased by more than 48 percent.
  6. The COVID-19 pandemic is interfering with TB diagnosis, prevention, treatment and control efforts worldwide. It is grimly clear that Russia will not be exempt. A recent report based on analyses of several countries, including neighboring Ukraine, predicts an additional 6.3 million cases of tuberculosis by 2025 as a result of COVID-19’s disruption of TB control efforts. Progress in the fight against TB could be set back by five to eight years. Russia is facing its TB epidemic in a world where TB kills 1.5 million people a year, more than any other infectious disease. Five years ago, world leaders pledged to end the TB epidemic by 2030. In addition, in 2018, they pledged to double TB funding by 2022. However, the COVID-19 pandemic’s diversion of attention, funding, and resources makes the realization of these TB goals unlikely.
  7. Partners in Health, a nongovernmental organization, treats TB and uses a comprehensive model of ambulatory care. They treat every patient free of charge and provide care as it is most convenient to patients, bringing medication to each patient individually twice a day. Their close relationship with patients in this community based model gives their patients up to a 90 percent cure rate. Particularly, Partners in Health established The Sputnik Initiative, where it provided social and clinical support for poor MDR-TB patients in Tomsk, Russia. This initiative allowed Partners in Health to treat 70 percent of its total 129 participants who would otherwise not receive adequate medical care.
  8. Partners in Health has success in curbing TB by integrating TB treatment with the provision of other medical care. They have established TB clinics within HIV treatment centers, which is strategic as the HIV and TB co-infection rate among the patients they treat is five percent. Additionally, they have incorporated mental health and drug addiction services into their TB treatment program in Russia. A similar integrative model could conceivably be deployed for COVID-19 once a treatment becomes available.

Tuberculosis and COVID-19 pandemics present unique challenges both individually and as they co-occur. However, existing community based treatment models for tuberculosis in Russia may contain useful lessons as we learn to treat COVID-19.

– Isabelle Breier

Photo: Flickr

Why HIV and AIDS in Russia is Steadily IncreasingHIV and AIDS have increased in Russia throughout the years. In fact, Russia’s failure to implement government policy, education and resources has allowed HIV/AIDs rates to increase at an unknown rate. These rates allow poverty and infection to course throughout the country. According to estimates from the World Bank, more than 10 percent of the total population will have HIV/AIDs by 2020. Also, as many as 21,000 people per month could die from infection of HIV and AIDS  in Russia. Experts anticipate that these values will continue to increase by 10 to 15 percent each year.

Efforts

The Russian government has made minimal efforts toward eradicating this epidemic. Numbers show that HIV and AIDS in Russia primarily occur among certain groups of people. In 2016, individuals who inject drugs accounted for the largest number of confirmed cases at 48.8 percent.

Further, in 2015, government reports determined that more than 38 percent of newly diagnosed cases occurred in women. These numbers pushed experts to believe that heterosexual transmission would significantly impact the heterosexual population. In fact, in 2017, researchers found that heterosexual transmission occurred in 48.7 percent of the Russian population.

Additionally, sex work is one of the leading causes of HIV and AIDS in Russia. People’s stigmas with this specific group of people inevitably cause an increased risk for those who utilize this service. Sex workers are often unable to access health care resources to decrease the likelihood of spread, thus making it challenging to eradicate HIV and AIDS in Russia.

Barriers

The marginalization of certain groups of people has led to a reduction in the treatment and prevention of HIV and AIDS in Russia. One study showed those who are living with HIV/AIDS and are injecting drugs are unlikely to seek treatment. Only 10 percent of that specific group has sought treatment. Some experts assume that the inaccessibility of information and denial of treatment or prevention services are the primary reasons for this low percentage.

Also, women who are sex workers are particularly vulnerable. Studies have shown the unwillingness to seek treatment due to negative opinions regarding the occupation of these women.

Another obstacle is funding for HIV and AIDS education, which is very minimal if it exists at all. Financial support for HIV/AIDS programs in Russia remains a significant barrier to treatment and prevention. Dedicated support for HIV and AIDS in Russia has decreased and no programs to educate and prevent the disease have replaced it.

Solutions

In 2013, the Aids Healthcare Foundation in Russia registered with the Russian Federation to ensure the implementation of programs to contribute support financially, provide education about HIV and treat those living with HIV. Russia made further efforts in 2017; the Russian Federation committed to a 90-90-90 target by 2020. This goal aimed to diagnose, update treatment status and suppress the viral loads of 90 percent of people living with HIV.

In 2018, the Russian Federation released a progress update, showing substantial improvements from 2017. Overall, 81 percent of people living with HIV received confirmed diagnoses, 45 percent of people who knew of the diagnosis received treatment and 75 percent of people who obtained treatment experienced viral suppression.

At the 28th meeting of the Health Council of the Commonwealth of Independent States, Ms. Veronika Skvortsova, the Russian Minister of Health stated that “We have to provide every person living with HIV with quick access to the correct treatment. The Ministry of Health plans to increase the coverage of people living with HIV who know their status on antiretroviral therapy to 75 percent by 2019, and by 2020 the figure should reach 90 percent.”

Rates of HIV and AIDS in Russia continues to raise concerns across the country. Without Russian government implementation of policy toward a movement of eradication, estimates suggest that the numbers will continue to rise.

Tiffany Hill
Photo: Wikimedia

Child Marriage in Russia
The minimum marriageable age in Russia is 18 years old. However, in some regions, it is common practice for teens to marry before the age of 18. Some may even marry as young as 14 years of age. For instance, in Moscow, the legal marriageable age is 16 and in Bashkortostan, it is 14, with underage marriages in Chechnya as well. In recent years, the idea of child marriage in Russia has sparked legal and social disputes between various communities.

In 2015, Putin lowered the legal age of marriage to 14 in Bashkortostan. This dropped the age of consent for special circumstances like teen pregnancy. However, the number of marriages is reportedly rising as teen pregnancies are increasing. Moreover, the public has agreed to the lowering of the age of consent. This brings up the issue that lowering the age exploits children. The problem extends in regions across Russia that are predominately traditionalists in their views and do not have close monitoring like in the northern and southern Caucasus regions.

Child Marriage in Chechnya

In Chechnya, reports indicated that an underage teen unlawfully married a man that was three times her age and already had multiple wives. The bride was 17 years old while the man was either in his late 40s or early 50s. The leader of the Chechen Republic attended the marriage even though Russian law does not permit polygamous marriages and child marriages. This highlights the pervading difficulties in enforcing laws across different regions.

Bride kidnappings have increased since the fall of the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union fell, Russia monitored other forms of social control, such as law enforcement, less. In addition, under Chechen rule, there has been a decrease in woman’s rights. Some even view bridal kidnappings as a tradition in Chechnya. The day of the wedding is often the last day brides see their families.

Many Caucasus states have reverted back to traditional social roles; women stay at home, especially in small towns and villages. In these small villages, people have accepted child marriage for hundreds of years. Some communities believe that their religion mandates it.

In Chechnya, there is no protection against forced marriage for young women, despite its illegality. The lack of control across the region explicitly inhibits the rights of women. Since the Chechnyan government runs locally, authorities’ biases influence women’s rights and child marriage. Enforcing laws in the North Caucasus region is difficult for Russia because of a lack of both executability and accountability.

Reports on Child Marriage in the South Caucasus Region

According to a UNICEF estimation, 7 percent of Armenian girls entered into marriage by 18 years of age in 2014. Unfortunately, this number may be much higher, since many underage marriages do not undergo registration. Women have little access to higher education. Moreover, people treat them unequally so others make decisions for them without their consent. Poverty and the familial need to ensure social status makes child marriage especially prevalent in small villages since marriage (and having children) can raise a girl’s standing and relieve financial burdens on her family. In Yezidi communities, children rarely seek out help for fear of suffering exclusion from their families. Soviet exceptionalism is a problem in this region, where Yezidis do not have to abide by Russian laws concerning the minimum age of consent.

In Azerbaijan, 2 percent of girls entered marriage by age 15 and 11 percent by 18, yet some believe that these statistics are underestimated. Bridal kidnappings are even more common. There is a direct link between bridal kidnappings and child marriages since early marriage is a threat to bridal abduction. Most families are more willing to marry their child off young than to have someone eventually abduct their daughter.

Russia’s Steps Forward

Despite the ongoing issues, Russia has taken multiple steps towards ending child marriage. According to girlsnotbrides.org, Russia has aimed to end forced child marriage by 2030. The Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination on Women, adopted in 1979, is an international bill consisting of 30 articles that define what constitutes discrimination against women. CEDAW has also taken charge of the issue by spreading awareness, for instance during Russia’s review in 2015. The bill ensures equal opportunities and equal access to public life including education, health and employment. In 1990, the minimum age of consent was age 18. In addition, the CEDAW Committee states that partners must have full consent for marriage.

UNICEF is leading the way towards support for women in the Caucasus regions. The organization offers youth grants supporting education for women, hotlines and supportive services to girls, strengthens legal protections and promotes awareness. Along with the government’s initiatives to stop child marriage, Russia is taking the initiative to guide communities across all regions, providing solutions toward a brighter future for girls.

Joelle Shusterman
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in RussiaThere are almost 21 million poor people in Russia, constituting 14.3 percent of the population according to the Russian Federal State Statistics Service. The Russian poverty rate is comparable to Western countries’ rates. For example, the official poverty rate in the United States is 11.8 percent. However, while the poverty threshold in the U.S. is $12,490 per year, the minimum subsistence level in Russia is $169 per month, which translates to barely $2,000 per year. Luckily, there are some efforts to reduce poverty in Russia.

Poverty in Russia at the End of the 20th Century

After the U.S.S.R. collapsed, Russia faced huge difficulties leading to economic catastrophe. Finally becoming an independent democratic state in the 1990s, Russia began the transition from a command economy to a market economy. A record level of inflation and default took place in that period where people experienced an aggravated recession, ensuring a drop in income. Russian GDP per capita fell about 39 percent in real terms between 1991 and 1998.

Economic decline and political turbulence led to an increase in a criminogenic culture. Criminals in Russia became powerful and rich at the expense of the economy, all while the majority of the population became more and more impoverished. These obstacles formed exceptional economic inequality in the post-soviet state and impacted the increase of poverty in Russia.

Current Regime and the Economy

The economic situation changed dramatically with the power transition in the 21st century. From the beginning of Putin’s presidency in 2000 to the 2008 financial crisis, economic growth indicators reached impressive levels. For example, the average GDP grew by 26 percent on an annual basis. After the 2008 crisis, the economic situation has yet to regain the growth it once experienced.

One key factor of the Russian economy is oil prices, meaning a shift in price can be catastrophic to the nation. Another crucial factor is sanctions from the U.S. and other Western nations; the sanctions have a hefty impact on the poor economy, ultimately increasing poverty in Russia.

Halving the Poverty Rate

Despite the economic growth in the early 2000s, poverty in Russia remains a crucial issue; to combat poverty in Russia the state should take intense actions. In 2018, Putin signed a decree to reduce poverty in Russia by half by 2024. Today, Russian annual economic growth is at 1.5 percent. The current economic growth would indicate that the government would only be able to reduce the poverty rate by 10.7 percent by 2024. To meet the goal by 2024, the Russian government should strengthen the economy to increase annual GDP growth to at least 4.4 percent. The Russian government aimed to achieve this ambitious goal through a stimulus plan worth $400 billion that builds new infrastructure and investments.

Poverty in Russia is still a huge issue for the state and citizens. After the 2008 crisis, the Russian economy faces new challenges like a decrease in oil prices and economic sanctions. To combat poverty in Russia, the country should aim to strengthen its economy and reduce inequality.

Elizaveta Naguslaeva
Photo: Piqsels

Income Inequality in Russia
In 2015, 111 people controlled 19 percent of all household wealth in Russia. Russia’s wealth and income inequalities have drastically increased in recent years, surpassing the U.S. Historically, income inequality in Russia has fluctuated. Towards the end of Tsarist Russia, the top 10 percent of earners made about 45 to 50 percent of the national income. During the Soviet period, this dropped to about 20 to 15 percent. However, it rose back up to about 45 to 50 percent in 1990 with the fall of the Soviet Union.

Income Inequality in Russia

Recently, income inequality in Russia has risen so that the top 1 percent of earners’ combined income is as high as 20-25 percent of the national income. This is comparatively much higher than Eastern European countries, where the top 1 percent income shares of wealth make about 10 to 14 percent of income. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, socioeconomic stratification has exceeded that of other formerly socialist economies, including China. Wealth inequality is even more drastic, with the richest 10 percent of Russians owning 87 percent of the country’s wealth, making it the most unequal of the world’s major economies.

Causes of Income Inequality

The transition from communism to capitalism after 1990 is the primary cause of increased income inequality. Specifically, housing played an important role in the rise of private wealth and increased from less than 50 percent of national income in 1990 to 200 percent of national income in 2015. This results from housing privatization and the rise of real estate prices. In turn, these shifts in housing prices significantly increased rents for a large fraction of the population. Their income didn’t increase to help account for the raised costs, exacerbating socioeconomic inequality in Russia.

The rise of the oligarchs, a group of individuals who control most of the productive assets and the capital in Russia, also contributed to the severe inequalities in income and wealth. Oligarchs formed ties with political figures, giving them a foothold in politics. This, combined with their economic power, allowed them to influence governmental and market structures.

Oligarchs have contributed to development and economic growth, but they also play a critical role in increasing inequality in Russia. The political and economic power of the Russian oligarchs enables corruption. Oligarchs want to lower competition, avoid taxation and keep wages low. Because of their political influence, they are able to support policies that will further their own interests. These interests maximize their profits while keeping taxes and wages low and preventing redistribution, which increases inequality.

Resistance to Corruption

In 2017, about 60,000 people protested inequality on the streets of almost 80 different cities. This isn’t a large percent of the population but does show people’s anger with the current socioeconomic inequalities. Alexei Navalny, who has been the face of Russian opposition to President Vladimir Putin, called these anti-corruption protests. Over 1,000 protesters were detained as a result and Navalny was sentenced to 30 days in jail. While many people are scared to protest in Russia, a significant number of young people were among the demonstrators who turned out for the anti-corruption protests, showing promise for intensified anti-corruption activism in the future.

Maia Cullen
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in Southern Russia
Women’s rights are an international concern. The state of women’s rights in Russia is challenging, particularly in Southern Russia, where the police and government treat feminists as extremists. Southern Russia includes Adygeya, Astrakhan, Kalmykia, Krasnodar, Rostov and VolgogradThis article will mainly inform on the gender pay gap in Russia as well as violence in the form of domestic violence and harassment. Additionally, it will shed light on some solutions and progress that women and the government have made. The solutions that have been working highlight that it is possible to outline new ones and effectively fight for women’s rights. 

Gender Pay Gap

A significant topic when discussing women’s rights in Southern Russia is the gender pay gap, which is significant. Back in 2015, men earned $670, while women earned $452. The pay gap percentage is smallest in the educational sector, while it rises in the IT sector with a 33 percent difference. Still, Olga Golodest, a Russian politician and economist, says that the gap has narrowed in the past decade, when women’s salaries were 40 percent lower than those of men, compared to a current 26 percent.

Violence

In 2018, Russian journalists accused influential lawmaker Leonid Slutsky of sexual harassment through the #MeToo movement. The parliament’s ethics committee held a hearing, but later on dismissed the complaints, calling them a conspiracy that sought to smear Slutsky’s image. He never admitted any wrongdoing. A year before, in 2017, the parliament also decriminalized domestic violence as long as it does not cause any serious bodily harm that requires hospitalization. Many saw this move as a step in the wrong direction because domestic violence is rampant in Russia, and so much so that around 12,000 women suffer killing as a result of it every year.

Taking Action

 In St. Petersburg, two women opened Russia’s first exclusively female co-working space called Simona. One of the co-founders, Svetlana Natarkhoba, explained that she “got tired of sexism and mansplaining at work, especially when [she] found out that [her] male colleague, who worked just as much as [she did], had a salary up to 15,000 rubles ($230) higher than [hers].” Simona allows any female customer to stay and work there for only $2.2 per day. Another positive development has been the spread of feminism. Women have been demanding new legislation to restrain abusers and innovative ways to tackle outdated gender attitudes.
There is also a significant representative in politics for feminism named Oksana PushkinaPushkina became an elected member of United Russia in 2016 and is campaigning to get the law that decriminalizes domestic violence overturned. She is also seeking to get Russia to pass its first-ever domestic violence law.

The pay gap between men and women, as well as violence against women and how the population perceives it, are vast indicators of how women’s rights are doing in a particular place. By looking at Simona and the efforts of Oksana Pushkina, it is clear that some in Russia are fighting these injustices and obtaining results. Learning about the solutions that have been working shows that it is possible to outline new ones and effectively fight for women’s rights in Southern Russia and around the world.

– Johanna Leo
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Russia
Human trafficking is one of the most critical humanitarian issues of the century and virtually operates everywhere in the world. It involves the transport of persons, who are either entirely unwilling or misinformed about their destination, to a new place, usually to engage in forced labor or prostitution. Currently, Russia is facing a human trafficking crisis and yet, it is doing little to prevent this issue and protect those human trafficking already affects. Here are 10 facts about human trafficking in Russia.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Russia

  1. Economic Crisis: The fall of the Soviet Union exacerbated human trafficking in Russia. With the economic crisis in Russia, employment in the country decreased and travel restrictions meant that employers could not fill several jobs legally. These conditions made a lucrative niche for human traffickers. 
  2. Tier 3 Country: The U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report ranks Russia as a Tier 3 country, or one where the government does not meet the standards to eliminate trafficking. In addition, it is not making significant efforts to eradicate trafficking.
  3. Human Trafficking Law: Russia only has one law that criminalizes human trafficking. Russia passed the law in 2003 under President Vladimir Putin but it does nothing other than label human trafficking illegal. Meanwhile, all the other countries previously part of the Soviet Union have passed over 100 laws against human trafficking. The lack of strong legislation makes it more difficult to arrest, incriminate and convict perpetrators of human trafficking in Russia.
  4. Cities: The dominant use of trafficking is for labor so traffickers concentrate most victims in larger cities, like Moscow and St. Petersburg. These areas have not only the large population to mask a victim’s presence, but also house companies and factories where they can work.
  5. Russia’s 2016 Statistics: In 2016, the Global Slavery Index reported that there were more than one million human trafficking victims in Russia. Out of all these cases, only 38 traffickers received convictions as of 2013. Following these statistics in 2016, Russia ceased providing information on prosecution and victim rehabilitation to the United States’ Trafficking in Persons report.
  6. Exploitable Workforces: Many victims of human trafficking become members of exploitable workforces. For example, during the FIFA World Cup in Russia, many construction workers could have suffered trafficking, but instead, their employers denied them wages and forced them to work in brutally cold conditions. Agencies that lie about the quality and nature of the work first recruit these victims and force them to stay in Russia. These circumstances fit the qualifications for modern-day slavery.
  7. Treatment of Victims: People in Russia treat trafficking victims as criminals and the victims receive little to no protection. The public and the government see them as willing illegal immigrants. In a survey, 41 percent of Russian citizens responded that those who had ensured trafficking and were working in the prostitution industry were to blame for their own conditions. This lack of public sympathy for victims makes passing more substantial legislation difficult for politicians and keeps it acceptable for authorities to prosecute, detain and deport victims without knowledge of their circumstances.
  8. Prosecution of Government Officials: In recent years, there have been criminal cases against government officials for facilitating human trafficking in Russia. Namely, officials allegedly accepted bribes from employers to halt investigations, protected traffickers and returned victims to their captors. Although nothing came of these cases, the fact that courts hear the cases at all is an important step.
  9. Organizations that Help: There is very little government funding or organizations for rehabilitation and protection of victims. Most of the work to help victims happens through NGOs or international groups, such as the Russian Red Cross or Help Services for Nigerians in Russia.
  10. Challenges of Catching Traffickers: In cases of sex trafficking, catching perpetrators can be difficult because of the consequences women face for speaking up. In addition to bringing up painful memories, talking to law enforcement bears the risk of them returning the women to traffickers, as well as communities ostracizing them.

Despite the current inaction of the Russian government in response to the human trafficking crisis, pressure from activists within the country and outside of it could help create substantial change. Not only would this assist current victims, but it would make eradicating human trafficking in Russia a real possibility.

– Anna Sarah Langlois
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Russia
Although coverage on Russia often dominates the American news cycle, people give little attention to the prevalence of poverty in the country. Many Russians live in unacceptably impoverished conditions and face food insecurity. Hunger in Russia is on a downward trend and both NGOs and the government are undergoing concerted efforts to address both poverty and food insecurity in the country.

10 Facts About Hunger in Russia

  1. Poverty Rate: Although the rate of extreme poverty in Russia—those living under the international poverty line of $1.90 a day—is at zero percent, 13.2 percent or 19 million Russians live in poverty under the national definition of $12.80 a day. This is a contested figure, however, as some claim that the poverty rate is as high as 14.3 percent.

  2. Poverty and Hunger: Poverty is the primary factor behind hunger in Russia. Other than those living in dire poverty, most of the population consumes over 2,100 calories daily—well above the 1,900 calories a day guideline that the Food and Agricultural Organizations of the United Nations (FAO) set. Those with higher incomes in Russia ingest over 3,000 calories a day, similar to those living in developed nations.

  3. Food Insecurity: People with disabilities, older people with little sources of income and families with children are some of the populations who face the most food insecurity in Russia. Another population that often faces food insecurity is people with HIV and those who inject drugs (PWIJ) and these make up an estimated 2.3 percent of the population. The irregular schedule and often low socioeconomic status of PWIJ means they often face hunger and malnutrition.

  4. Rising Food Costs: In 2016, the average Russian consumer spent 50.1 percent of their income on food—the highest percentage in almost a decade. This was due to the Russian government introducing embargos on many food exports from Western countries as retaliation for sanctions in 2014. Consequently, food costs spiked for consumers. Since 2014, the price of frozen fish has increased by 68 percent and the prices of butter and white cabbage have respectively risen by 79 percent and 62 percent.

  5. Global Hunger Index Rate: Despite these increases, in 2019, the Global Hunger Index gave Russia a score of 5.8, which qualifies as a low level of hunger. This number is representative of statistics which reveal that less than 2.5 percent of the overall population suffers from undernourishment. This is a dramatic decrease from 2000 when the nation had a GHI score of 10.3 or a moderate level of hunger: 5.1 percent of the population lacked nourishment. This level of undernourishment was the result of a struggling economy still reeling from the demise of the Soviet Union. In fact, from 1999-2000, more global food aid went to Russia than Africa. Since then, however, the macroeconomic conditions in Russia have largely improved resulting in higher incomes that allow consumers to afford food. This trend is also evident in the statistics for wasting and stunting in children under 5: in 2000, those percentages were 4.6 and 16.1 percent respectively, whereas in 2019 they are 3.9 and 10.7 percent.

  6. Growing Food: While the skyrocketing high food costs do pose a risk to Russia’s future GHI index score, both urban and rural Russian families are turning to their own backyards to produce their food. In 2016, approximately 25 percent of Russians relied on fruits and vegetables harvested in their own backyards. This is a continuation of a tradition dating back to the mid-20th century where Russians would combat food shortages under a communist regime by quietly supplying their own food.

  7. Obesity: While the rates of hunger in Russia decreased over the past two decades, the percentage of obese people increased. In 2015, almost 60 percent of the adult population was overweight and 26.5 percent obese. These numbers strongly correlate with socioeconomic status and education levels. Studies suggest that this is the result of a diet low in fruits and vegetables and high in dairy, meat, sugar and alcohol. Experts suggest that just decreasing food prices for healthier foods—such as fruits and vegetables—will not be enough to combat obesity. Instead, there must also be a robust public health program.

  8. Declaration to Halve Poverty: However, there is also good news. As previously mentioned, poverty is the primary cause of hunger in Russia and, on May 7, 2018, a Decree of the President declared an initiative to halve poverty by 2024. Russia plans on achieving this goal through a stimulus plan worth $400 billion that builds new infrastructure and invests in research. While some are pessimistic about Russia’s ability to meet this target, economists at the Brookings Institute believe that even with an annual GDP growth rate of 1.5 percent—a conservative target—through increasing the efficiency of existing social assistance programs and dedicating slightly more funds towards poverty reduction, this ambitious goal is possible.

  9. Investing in Agriculture: Furthermore, over the past decade, the Russian government has also heavily invested in promoting nationwide agricultural self-sufficiency. The Russian government is committing itself to eventually self-supplying 80 to 90 percent of most foods. In order to achieve this target, the country is now subsidizing large farms. The agricultural sector grew by 5 percent in 2016 and 2.4 percent in 2017. People will eventually see the long term impact of these policies on hunger in Russia and whether this investment can lower the costs of food for everyday people and lower the rates of hunger in Russia.

  10. SOS Children’s Village: There are also a variety of organizations working towards preventing hunger in Russia. One such organization is the SOS Children’s Village which specifically helps children whose families can no longer support them. The organization, which started working in Russia in the late 1980s,  also engages in advocacy work with the government to ensure the utmost protection of these children and their nutritional needs.

In conclusion, while hunger in Russia remains a serious problem, there is a reason for cautious optimism. As displayed by the remarkable decrease in rates of undernourishment in the population over the past 20 years, the government, the global community and NGOs are working to end hunger in Russia.

– Chace Pulley
Photo: Flickr