Inflammation and stories on russia

Work and Travel USA
The Work and Travel USA program is a United States’ government program that offers foreign students an opportunity to work and travel across the country through the provision of a J1 work visa. The program allows over 100,000 students to come to the U.S. into a variety of cities and towns across the country each summer.

Advantages of Work and Travel USA

Prior to moving to the U.S. for the summer, students find an employment opportunity in the U.S. through their respective work and travel agencies. Upon arrival, four months of work are defined and nearly a month’s time of travel and leisure for each student, depending on their savings throughout the summer. The program offers foreign students the unique opportunity to earn thousands of U.S. dollars, experience American life and culture through personal interaction and work experience as well as the privilege of repatriating thousands of dollars back into their respective country’s currency when they inevitably return home. Unless they decide not to return home.

Middle Classes of US and Russia

According to the Pew Research Foundation, approximately half of the U.S. population that totals to around 320 million citizens reside in middle-class households. Despite a strong representation of middle-class American citizens, financial gains for middle-income Americans during this period were modest compared with those of higher-income households, causing the income disparity between the two groups to grow.

Contrary to the United States, Russia’s middle class has shrunken to the point of nonrecognition. In developed countries, the middle class is an essential class, the guarantor of social and political stability, legislator of norms of socio-economic and cultural behavior. Its representatives are characterized by independence and critical thinking that facilitate the development of civil society and the efficiency of state management. In Russia’s developing nation, the middle class is parceled into ultra-rich oligarchs that, in fact, represent the elite and the derelict poor on the opposite side of the spectrum.

Motivations for Work and Travel Program

Russian student candidates for the Work and Travel USA program fall somewhere in the middle. They are aged from 18 to 28 years, have a proficiency in English, belong to a travel agency with a work arrangement, they have obtained all legal documents to work in the U.S. for three to four months and have successfully completed at least one semester at their home university.

The motivations for applying to the Work and Travel USA program appear obvious, but American laborers and academics seldom realize the hidden incentives behind a J1 visa and its political power. On average, candidates for the Work and Travel USA program initially put up over $1,200 in program fees and paperwork in order to be afforded a J1 visa and to work in the United States. The granting of this visa grants temporary freedom to a Russian student that he or she is seldom likely to experience while living, studying and working in Russia.

Matters of poor higher education standards and poverty in the form of household income, per capita GDP, social exclusion on the basis of sexual orientation and gender and geographic/geopolitical disenfranchisement are the primary motivations for a select few Russian J1 visa holders to defy the Work and Travel USA agreement and ultimately overstay their visas in pursuit of residency, a green card and, ultimately, American citizenship.

Misuse of Work and Travel USA

The J1 visas awarded to students through the Work and Travel USA program have become a solution to middle-class poverty students in Russia for escaping the country. Rather than committing to a broken system of higher education or working tirelessly in a blue-collar trade, many young Russians are overstaying their visas while in the U.S. in preparation for a new life. Due to matters of conflicted interest, Russian travel agencies and the U.S. government do not disclose precisely how many J1 visa holders overstay their visitor status.

The issue of overstayed J1 students obviously concerns the internal environment of Russia and its connection to poverty. Young Russian citizens know better than to assume the state of affairs in Russia will improve to the point where poverty will be alleviated nationwide. Thus, students fortunate enough to make the cut and receive the J1 visa often pursue the Work and Travel USA program with nefarious and permanent intent.

There are real solutions to solve this suboptimal state for young Russians in the middle class. The establishment of lobbyist groups to improve higher education standards will begin to set positive trends in motion. There is however the persisting issue of Russians wanting to visit the USA with the intent of returning home. Programs and measures taken must work to encourage all Russian J1 holders to return home without disadvantaging those who seek the program with integrity.

Conversely, the issue of overstaying can be reframed entirely. Perhaps the U.S. can begin to set up incubator programs for foreign students who overstay their visa in order to afford them the necessary legal resources so they may make legitimate claims to the residence. If Russia refuses to enact policy that addresses its middle-class poverty issue, perhaps it is time for the United States to step up and show how far legislation can go to improve the lives of law-abiding people.

– Nicholas Maldarelli

Photo: Pixabay

Closed Cities in Russia
During the rise of the Soviet Union, former General Secretary of the Communist Party Joseph Stalin developed weapons programs and other strategic plans to insulate and defend the Union from the possible attack. To keep these matters private and accessible only to the government, Stalin chose over 44 closed administrative territory entities (ZATO) to store and maintain these resources. These territories are now famous as closed cities in Russia

Closed Cities in Russia

After the allied forces of Western Europe, the Soviet Union and America defeated Germany, Italy, and Japan ending the World War II, some ZATO closed cities in Russia re-opened to the public whereas others have remained closed even after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1992. 

Closed cities span through the entire nation of Russia. If a citizen is born and raised in any particular closed city in Russia, they have a unique citizenship status and pass to the city where routine exit and re-entry into the closed city is permitted. However, once that individual chooses to move residence outside of the closed city, they may not be allowed back in. The exit/re-entry requirements are strict because many of these ZATO cities housed nuclear weapons plants during the period of the Soviet Union. 

Life in Closed Cities in Russia

Closed cities in Russia contribute to the poor middle class. In Russian’s modern, globalized economy, Stalinist economics no longer have their place, especially in the integration with other Russia’s people. Closed cities are very similar to isolated nations such as Cuba and North Korea and the residents of these cities are insulated from the rest of the nation to a great extent. Business development struggles to make advances and indigenous people are plagued with boredom and a lack of productivity.  

The cities were also excluded from train and bus routes and are generally known only by a postal code that consisted of a name and a number. Numbered 1-44, these cities continue to isolate over 1.5 million Russian citizens from the rest of the nation. During the 1980s and 1990s, inhabitants of closed cities were to carry their lives in secrecy to the same extent as KGB agents of the Soviet Union. For their privacy and secrecy, residents of closed cities in Russia were rewarded with private apartments, health care and jobs for life.

The Present and Future of Closed Cities in Russia

In 2018, all 44 closed cities in Russia still exist almost independent of the Russian Federation. Similar to non-committal Switzerland with respect to the European Union, closed cities operate independently from the rest of the country but citizens still carry all the rights and privilege inherent to Russian citizenship. Notwithstanding the simplicity of life for residents of closed cities, their inability to reach out to the rest of the country, globalize, integrate, trade and work openly contributes to national poverty in Russia. 

In addressing the issue of closed cities in Russia, one possibility for the residents of these cities to congregate is to represent themselves in the legislative appeal to re-open particular cities that appear to particularly suffer from a current state of affairs. Alternatively, the Russian government can begin to take progressive measures to re-open these borders and take a more liberal stance on the issue entirely. Considering pressure from the West in terms of sanctions, embargoes and political strife, Russia is only serving to further hurt itself in the globalized world by keeping these cities closed. 

– Nicholas Maldarelli

Photo: Pixabay

St. Petersburg
On April 3, 2017, 14 people died and 64 were injured when an explosive device detonated in the St. Petersburg metro. The perpetrator, Akbarzhon Dzhalilov, who also died in the explosion, came to St. Petersburg in 2011 from Osh, Kyrgyzstan to work as a car mechanic. Upon reviewing Dzhalilov’s online record and talking with witnesses, Russia’s Federal Security Services found links to Islamist websites on his social media, as well as evidence that he had become withdrawn and quiet two months before his suicide bombing.

The St. Petersburg attack brought Russia’s approach to counter-extremism to the spotlight. More than 2,000 Russians have gone off to fight for ISIS, making Russia the largest contributor of ISIS fighters. While some of these fighters harbor resentments dating back to ethnic wars in the 1990s, others saw ISIS as an opportunity to escape from poor economic opportunities and blatant discrimination at home.

History of Chaos

When the Soviet Union fell in 1991, Chechnya, a majority Muslim, southern region of Russia, descended into chaos. Boris Yeltsin, the first president of Russia, pushed for a decentralization of government but would not go as far as to legitimize Chechen separatists’ independence movement. Interethnic conflict engulfed the Caucasus region, with hundreds of thousands of Ingush people and Chechens fleeing from the destruction of their communities. This legacy of insurgency and violence is one of the main causes of radicalization in Russia, especially in the Northern Caucasus, which remains Russia’s most radicalized region even today.

Radical Islamists tend to be concentrated in cities with high concentrations of migrant workers, particularly in the oil-producing cities of Tyumen and Khanty-Mansiysk. In fact, close to 200,000 Chechens, Ingush and Dagestanis live in West Siberia.


Labor migrants from Central Asia face xenophobia after arriving in Russia. In August 2016, one poll administered by the Levada Center found that 52 percent of Russians believe in a “Russia for ethnic Russians.” The same poll found that 39 percent of Russians feel that immigrants destroy Russian culture. Feeling out-of-place as a minority, these migrants seek community and protection in local mosques, breeding grounds for recruitment into radical Islamic groups. In fact, mosques are the main sites of recruitment, according to the Search for Common Good Organization.

Law enforcement and security agencies alienate Muslims by promulgating propaganda that belittles their beliefs. A Wilson Center report details how law enforcement officials in Russia plant drugs while searching the homes of Muslims, only to arrest and jail them later. Intimidated by state pressure, these Muslims seek recluse in the ranks of ISIS.

Social Media

In order to target and entice potential recruits, terrorist groups use social media and online forums. VKontakte, a popular Russian social media site, was the go-to for ISIS supporters and recruiters until the company began shutting down content that promoted the terrorist group in September 2014. To work around these restrictions, ISIS now uses its own Furat Media to disseminate propaganda.

Russia has implemented stringent counter-extremism laws, to the point that some critics worry about an invasion of piracy. A 2014 Extremism Law gave authorities the power to ban websites and social media accounts without a court order. In the span of 11 months, between February and December 2015, Russia banned 512 websites. Moreover, the 2016 Yarovaya Law forces digital providers to store clients’ data for a minimum of six months and make these records available to the Federal Security Services.

Financial Woes

Extremist groups recruit financially vulnerable migrants with promises of stable jobs and a network of support. More than 28 percent of interviewees in a survey by the Search for Common Ground organization said that the prospect of stable jobs and salaries attracted them to ISIS recruiters. This issue is compounded for undocumented migrants in Russia, who are much more vulnerable financially.

While the Russian government’s counter-extremism laws are harsh, its official rhetoric against its Muslim population, 11.7 percent according to the Pew Research Center, has the unintended consequence of promoting radicalization.

The time is now for Russia to consider more than just its censorship of extremist content. The country must, first and foremost, eradicate the root causes of radicalization, addressing state-sponsored discrimination, financial insecurity and minority rights.

– Mark Blekherman
Photo: Flickr

8. Internet Censorship in Russia and China
Internet access has become a vital source of information and awareness around the world in the past decade. While more than 50 percent of the world’s population remains without internet access, countries with large populations such as India and China have a massive and growing user base. 

While theoretically advancing their countries not only technologically but politically and socially as well, government restrictions on the right to post or access certain types of information can seriously curtail these benefits. Technology has long been a catalyst for change; however, when restricted, technology can quickly become a tool used for the suppression of human rights such as freedom of expression, free speech and freedom of assembly. 

Studies have determined three key points for promoting internet access across the globe: foreign investment, a focus on the community rather than individual access and no government monopolization of the newly emerging market. Today, government monopolization has the potential to become synonymous with internet censorship. 

Internet Censorship in China

China has more than 750 million internet users, and every user deals with internet censorship. Known as the ‘Great Firewall,’ China’s series of internet filters is one of the most comprehensive systems in the world, restricting citizens’ access to hundreds of internet sites.

Prior to 2017, many internet users in China were able to circumvent the Great Firewall using Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, which provide users with browsing capabilities private from their internet providers. However, within the past year, the number of VPNs able to slip through China’s restrictions has decreased substantially. 

Government monopolization of news outlets in China has led to internet censorship, sometimes to the point of misinformation. In 2017, new legislation in China required all online news sources to be fully monitored by government-approved editors and writers. This enables the government to block legitimate news stories that run counter to the government’s position while also allowing them to push misinformation and propaganda through news websites, giving them complete control of the country’s narrative. 

Internet Censorship in Russia

Russia, another country suffering from serious internet censorship, followed closely behind China in banning VPNs so as to further restrict access to web pages not approved by the government. Without their own Great Firewall, Russia focused on banning specific sites. In 2017, approximately 244 web pages were blocked every day. 

Beyond blocking individual sites, or even entire categories such as news outlets, both Russia and China enforce severe internet censorship on individual citizens. For example, in newly enforced restrictions, China requires internet users to register for online communication sites with their real names. This enables them to hold individuals accountable for what is said in previously private settings. 

These restrictions are typically put in place under the guise of stemming extremist speech, but they can be, and often are, used to block or discourage any speech that the government wishes to suppress. Russian citizens have seen a drastic increase in threats, physical assaults and imprisonment associated with internet censorship on the individual level. Writing, posting or sharing information and opinions on topics such as Russian-occupied Crimea, religious freedom or Syria can result in up to 12 years in jail. 

Censorship: A Human Rights Violation

Those dealing with internet censorship in both Russia and China are in fact experiencing human rights violations. In China, freedom of expression in one of the last safe places—online communities—is closely monitored and used against individuals; in Russia, freedom of expression has become unsafe and restricted to a point worse than anything seen since the Soviet era.  

While technology is often viewed as a large component of a nation’s ability to improve the lives of its citizens, internet censorship creates an environment of control and misinformation. More vital to the wellbeing of people and, by extension, the country they live in, are necessary freedoms such as freedom of expression and speech.

Through the restrictions Russia, China and other countries place on their citizens access to information on the internet, governments have the opportunity to trap people in a cycle of misinformation and silence, thereby negating the once-positive effects of internet access. 

Overcoming Internet Censorship

Citizens in these restrictive countries are growing stronger in their opposition to this violation of their rights. In Russia, the number of protests concerning freedom of speech, religion and assembly has continued increasing. In China, many citizens continue to find ways to circumvent the Great Firewall.

The freedom of internet access has the potential to overtake the negative effects of internet censorship, so long as individuals, communities and countries continue to work towards honesty and open communication across the globe. Simply through our knowledge of internet censorship in countries such as Russia and China, the growing issue of human rights violations is being more openly discussed, and thereby, empowering many people in those countries to continue to fight against the oppression.

– Anna Lally
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Girls' Education in Russia

There is always something to see in the international media when it comes to Russia but most of the information out there tell us nothing about the country’s education culture. When it comes to understanding what kind of education culture exist in a nation, it is important to take a look at different dynamics such as girls education with respect to gender gap and more. Here are 10 facts about the girls’ education in Russia.

Facts About Girls’ Education in Russia

  1. Russia has one of the highest rates of literacy with 98 percent in general. The rate is higher than most of the Western European countries.
  2. The education system, in general, is run by the state. The government is offering free general education to its people and there are three common segments of schools known as pre-school, primary and secondary.
  3. Just like in most of the countries, Russia also has both private and state schools in its education system. There is no gender inequality between the attendees of either private or state school. Socioeconomic status of families is the primary determinant on whether the child goes to private or state school.
  4. Back in 2017, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets highlighted that 37 percent of the Russian women have a higher education degree. She also added that women usually combine their professional duties with housework and childcare and in this way, natural reasons for gender discrimination is created.
  5. For men, the abovementioned number is 29 percent, which is eight percent lower than women’s rate. The Deputy Prime Minister Golodets underlines that although there is a bigger rate of the woman in terms of holding a higher education degree, discrimination still exists in the job industry.
  6. Even though the rate of the woman holding a higher education degree is higher than men, women’s wages are only 73 percent of men’s average salary. In other words, discrimination is real among genders in terms of the salaries.
  7. UNESCO highlights that 29 percent of the scientific research worldwide is done by the woman. This number is different in Russia. According to the data shared by UNESCO, 41 percent of the scientific research in Russia is provided by women.
  8. Not every woman in Russia is encouraged to do science. There are so-called “womanhood” schools in the country teaching woman how to do the housework like cooking and cleaning properly. A school called “Woman Inside” is an example of one of those schools, where women are coached to be nice to their husbands and keep their homes tidy.
  9. Girls have an early interest in STEM subjects, which is an abbreviation for science, technology, engineering and maths. These are preferred subject by the girls in Russia. A study conducted by Microsoft shows that lack of woman in STEM subject-related fields due to peer pressure, lack of role models or encouragement is not applicable for Russia. Russian girls perceive the STEM way too positively and try pursuing a career in the field as well.
  10. Stereotype view of engineering as a manly job is not the case in Russia. The same Microsoft study emphasized that stereotype towards woman exist in the sense that usually few women pursue a career in engineering. The case is different in Russia where 15 percent of the inventors are women which is a very high number considering the fact that, in comparison, this number is 4 percent for the U.K.


These facts about girls’ education in Russia show that the country has both negative and positive images on the questions of girls education. Equality of wages between genders still seems like an issue that needs improvement, but there are positive examples in decreasing the stereotyping of gender in different fields of study, which is very promising. One thing should not be forgotten: improvement in girls’ education is always possible and important. 

– Orçun Doğmazer

Photo: Google

Russia has become a regular fixture in much of today’s news. From the 2016 U.S. election and subsequent investigations to international relations and finally the most recent, FIFA 2018 world cup.

Russia has been ubiquitous in the Western world’s thoughts and discussions. With an increase in international scrutiny, Russia has been placed under a long-needed microscope, displaying an unfortunate state of corruption, violence and human rights violations.

10 Facts About Human Rights in Russia

    1. Russia is currently experiencing its worst human rights crisis since the Soviet era. Under the guise of national security, Russia has entered an age of control and restraint on citizens’ basic human rights. In the past two years alone, numerous laws and policies have been enacted, restricting citizens’ rights to freedom of religion, assembly, free speech and other formerly protected human rights.
    1. Conditions may worsen for those in Russia due to other countries’ policy changes. The UK recently determined that upon leaving the EU, they would also leave behind the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and European Court of Human Rights. Should this occur, it would lend credibility to other countries interested in removing themselves. Although Russian State Duma Vice Speaker, Pyotr Tolstoy, stated earlier this year in March that there are no plans to withdraw from the ECHR, prior to his statement, multiple news outlets had reported that the Russian authorities were, in fact, discussing that possibility.
    1. Russia has created an environment of legalized human rights violations that go beyond simply enacting unfair laws. Since law enforcement and the judiciary system are essentially under the control of President Vladimir Putin, every step of the legal system is fraught with human rights violations and deep-rooted corruption.  
    1. So long as the world continues to say nothing, the Russian government will maintain its control through the attack on human rights and freedoms, relying on violence and misinformation to manipulate not only Russians’ views of their country but the western world’s as well. While the world ignores the current situation in Russia, the human rights violations have worsened and become more normalized. By speaking out against the abuses, the U.S. and others can begin the long-needed open dialogue to address the issues.
    1. These human rights violations do not just exist within the country. Since reclaiming the territory of Crimea in 2014, Russia has exercised their control in a region that had been independent for nearly 60 years. Throughout the time Russia occupied Crimea, the UN has reported numerous human rights violations. This includes the imposition of Russian citizenship as well as torture used to control residents and the potential threat they would pose by exercising their right to protest. Some of the human rights violations are listed below.
    1. Freedom of Assembly: An increase in human rights violations has resulted in an increase in protests across Russia. The ECHR ruled in Lashmankin and Others v. Russia that the right to assembly was being violated, yet restrictions and violations continue to persist or worsen. Protesters are often young people and their activism has the potential to negatively affect their future. While the majority of these protests are peaceful, Russian police have arrested thousands of protesters, bystanders and journalists, often using excessive force and subjecting many to arbitrary detention and unfair trials. Once identified, Russian authorities continue to be a forceful presence in the lives of protesters.
    1. Freedom of Association: Since the enactment of the ‘Foreign Agents’ Law in 2012, Russian citizens’ right to freedom of association has been under attack. This law requires independent groups that receive any foreign funding and engage in any sort of political activity to register as ‘foreign agents’—a term which essentially translates to ‘traitor’. The majority of these groups are associated with human rights work or environmental, health or social issues, and many have shut down due to heavy fines or simply the negative label of ‘foreign agent’. To date, 76 nonprofits attempting to contribute to the wellbeing of citizens are on the list of active ‘foreign agents’.
    1. Freedom of Expression: In an era of fake news, media control and online communication, the freedom of expression is a vital right for all. In July 2016, President Vladimir Putin signed the Yarovaya Law, which requires internet and cellular providers to retain personal data for up to three years for use by security services, as a means of stemming terrorism and extremism. In the first two months of 2017, 94 Russian citizens were imprisoned for extremist speeches on online platforms, associated mostly with criticism of the Russian occupation of Crimea.
    1. Women’s Rights: In February 2017, a law decriminalizing domestic violence by a close relative that does not lead to hospitalization or loss of ability to work was passed. By allowing domestic violence to persist in any form it becomes normalized and often escalates within a household. The mayor of Moscow denied activists the right to protest this law, despite its grave effects on the safety of women. 
  1. Freedom of Religion: Many religious minority groups are harassed, subjected to banning or blocking of their websites. Under the Yarovaya Law of 2016, these groups will also be fined for practicing or promoting their religion outside pre-designated places. In April 2017, the Russian Supreme Court banned the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization calling it extremist, thereby restricting the freedom of the religion’s 170,000 worshippers across the country. Those who continue to practice this religion may face up to 12 years in prison.

Through these facts about human rights in Russia, one can see the deep-rooted history of corruption and injustice which has penetrated some of the most basic human rights even in the 21st century. However, the potential for change exists, as many Russian citizens continue to protest unjust laws and the world begins to focus on addressing human rights violations in Russia and beyond.

– Anna Lally
Photo: Flickr

impact of the Magnitsky Act on the Russian economy
Much has been written about the Magnitsky Act, especially considering that it is a longstanding source of resentment among prominent Russians. However, remarkably little research has been done about the impact of the Magnitsky Act on the Russian economy.

What the Magnitsky Act Does

In 2014, the United States passed the Magnitsky Act, which was an effort to punish Russia for alleged human rights violations surrounding the death of a whistleblower who tried to alert the public to the alleged corruption that had been taking place in Russia for the previous several years. The intent was to sanction the individuals responsible for the death of Sergei Magnitsky, without impacting the majority of Russian citizens who had nothing to do with it.

The Magnitsky Act is notable because it attempts to punish solely the Russians responsible for Magnitsky’s death, rather than Russia as a whole. Rather than blanket import/export bans, the Magnitsky Act freezes the assets of the Russians implicated in the death of Sergei Magnitsky, the victim for whom the legislation is named. Additionally, it bans these individuals from obtaining visas to enter the United States.

The Magnitsky Act has been followed by the Global Magnitsky Act, which applies these punishments to any citizen of any country who is suspected of aiding the activity of the Russians in question. Additionally, other countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom, have passed their own versions of this legislation.

Impact of the Magnitsky Act on the Russian Economy

Although the intent of the Magnitsky Act was to have minimal impact on the Russian economy or the lives of average Russian citizens, it is fair to assume that there has been some effect. Russia retaliated in 2014 by banning all food imports from Europe and the United States for a period of one year. This is in addition to banning all adoptions of Russian children by American citizens, which has become a major point of contention in recent years.

After the passage of the original legislation, its authors stressed that the impact of the Magnitsky Act on the Russian economy was meant to be positive. The reasoning was that the Magnitsky Act would discourage the corruption and theft that supposedly limit Russia’s economic growth prospects. However, there is little evidence to prove that this has been uniformly the case.

Moving Forward with the Magnitsky Act

As an upper-middle income country, Russia’s standard of living and other metrics of assessing the average Russian’s state of economic affairs continue to lag behind the advanced industrial economies of the world. However, it is not possible to decisively say how much of this is due to the corruption that the Magnitsky Act and its supporters allege. More research should be done into the impact of the Magnitsky Act on the Russian economy, as it is difficult to say whether the authors of this legislation were right to craft it the way they did.

Because of this lack of decisive data, it is difficult to evaluate the impact of the Magnitsky Act on the Russian economy. There is no question that the Act plays an important normative role in signaling that the United States will exact consequences on violators of human rights, but whether it has the positive economic effects that its authors claimed it would is still not possible to assess. It seems likely that targeted sanctions like these could be a valuable tool to respond to potential human rights violations going forward, but they must be used with caution until a clear understanding of their broader impact is reached.

– Michaela Downey

Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Russia
At a glance, girls’ education in Russia seems to be fairly equal to boys’. For example, 37 percent of women have a higher education, while only 29 percent of Russian men do. However, gender biases and discrimination still exist within Russia. While more women have a higher education than men, their salaries are still 73 percent of men’s average salary.

What Hinders Girls’ Education in Russia

Girls’ education in Russia tends to be a competition. The payment for higher education is often too much for families, and while scholarships exist and can help the child through school, it is usually not enough.

The challenge of even attending school can come as early as kindergarten. The government’s policy tends to lead to a significant shortage of kindergarten classes. This leads to a difficult decision for families on whether to send their child to kindergarten and may even persuade them not to have children at all.

Room for Improvements

Women are more motivated to save money to attend higher education than men, with 20.7 percent of women saving money for school compared to only 14.6 percent of men. The men who save usually do so in order to escape military service.

Even though receiving education can be a hassle and can lead to a lower income job compared to men, girls’ education in Russia has improved slightly. Before 1764, girls’ education in Russia wasn’t even considered. It was not until Catherine II’s reforms that education rights were applied to both men and women.

Varying Job Paths

Education for girls, however, mostly happened in the home. They were taught about their duties as wives and mothers rather than learning about math and science. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets explained there might be a natural reason for this. “Women usually have to combine professional duties with household responsibilities and raising children,” Golodets said.

This mindset affects the kind of jobs women are expected to have. It is thought that education positions are for females because they are, or will become, mothers and teaching does not require much physical effort. Along with this, women are often found in lower positions, with men being in charge and holding manager positions.

While more women attend higher education than men in Russia, women’s salaries are still lower than a majority of men’s. Along with this, women are often pushed into only one area of employment and not into managerial positions. While girls’ education in Russia seems better than most countries, women still face issues and discrimination.

– Marissa Wandzel
Photo: Google

Poverty in Russia
Russia is a highly controversial country today, with many people questioning what the government’s policies are and how the citizens of Russia truly feel about their leaders. In any case, poverty in Russia is a problem. From wealth inequality to political corruption, Russia’s poverty challenges are multi-dimensional.

Russia’s poverty rate is on the rise

In the late 1990’s Russia’s poverty rates rose to 29 percent. In the early 2000s, incomes increased and allowed a significant amount of people to rise above the poverty line. Poverty rates in the early 2000s stayed constant at around 10 percent. Unfortunately, the poverty rate has seen an increase in recent years, with 13.5 percent of Russians living in poverty in 2016.

Politics drastically affect poverty in Russia

Russia’s longtime leader Vladimir Putin secured a fourth term on March 18 and has been widely criticized by many leaders around the globe for aggressive military actions and corruption. The U.S. imposed sanctions on Russia after the annexation of Crimea and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. These sanctions have led to increased poverty in Russia, as well as food shortages.

Falling oil prices have led to an increase in poverty

Along with economic sanctions, rapidly falling oil prices have severely reduced Russia’s revenue from oil exports. As a result, the economy in Russia has been hit hard and its people have seen an increase in poverty rates.

Wealth inequality is a major problem

The contrast between the rich and the poor in Russia is apparent. Studies have shown that Russia’s most affluent 10 percent control roughly 77 percent of the wealth. Despite this, Putin has made it clear that he wishes to invest in infrastructure in Russia and do everything possible to decrease economic dependence on Western powers.

The embargo on western foods has not helped Russia

In 2014, the Russian government banned the importation of many food products from Western countries in response to Western-imposed sanctions. This embargo was meant to hurt the West, but it also led to a heightened food scarcity, especially for those struggling with poverty in Russia.

Russia’s agricultural sector struggles

Russia has been known to have large amounts of barren farmland, which makes food production difficult. Coupled with the embargo on Western products, it has led to a very turbulent economy and a lack of confidence in food security over the last 10 years.

Rural citizens are providing poverty solutions

Russia’s rural citizens often enjoy a higher quality of life due to their ability to grow food and produce products others need. With the food embargo, many of Russia’s rural citizens have been pressured to produce more and, as a result, have found new ways to produce more products domestically.

Short-term solutions are unlikely

Russia would undoubtedly benefit from more friendly relationships with Western territories and its neighbors in the East. While this is unlikely given Putin’s recent military actions and opinions on Western power, the poverty-stricken citizens in Russia would benefit from a long-term lift of sanctions and embargos.

Russia needs a more cohesive strategy to fight poverty

Russia needs to build more cohesive poverty-fighting strategies if it wishes to increase the quality of life for its citizens. Putin has said that his government wishes to increase domestic spending on infrastructure and poverty reduction, but have not clearly stated what actions it will take or where it will get the funding.

Russia’s battle with poverty is far from over

Russia’s economic hardships are not going to see an end overnight. Many of its issues are long-standing and notoriously difficult to improve. With new conflicts arising with the West and Russia’s neighbors, it’s hard to envision a quick path to poverty resolution.

Poverty in Russia is ongoing and multi-dimensional. Diminishing oil profits, one-dimensional economic conditions and government sanctions play a major role in the poverty problems in Russia. A struggling agricultural sector and sanctions on U.S. goods cause serious problems for food security in Russia. The country has a long road ahead in an attempt to reduce poverty within its borders.

– Dalton Westfall
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Russia
From extravagant ballrooms to bloody battlefields, the world of Russian literature tells a tale about one of the greatest nations on earth. But away from the elegance and high life looms another world full of poverty, not ignored by the great artists who witnessed it. In fact, many of the great Russian authors chose to write about poverty in Russia.

Fyodor Dostoevsky

The great novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, one of the few Russian authors to be born into a middle-class family and who lived in poverty himself for a number of years, highlighted poverty in Russia throughout his career. In his book, “Crime and Punishment,” Dostoevsky tells a story about an impoverished student who murders a pawnbroker for money. The reader soon learns, however, that money was not his whole motivation, nor did it benefit the main character.

In the tome, Dostoevsky writes, “In poverty, you may still retain your innate nobility of soul, but in beggary — never — no one. For beggary, a man is not chased out of human society with a stick, he is swept out with a broom, so as to make it as humiliating as possible; and quite right, too, forasmuch as in beggary as I am ready to be the first to humiliate myself.”

As the story goes on, Dostoevsky fills the reader in with details about the main character’s impoverished life. Dostoevsky’s solution to poverty in Russia boils down to his religious beliefs. He thought that one should be charitable, in a Christian manner, to help out those in need.

Nikolai Chernyshevsky

Dostoevsky’s contemporary and rival, Nikolai Chernyshevsky, had a much different view of the situation in Russia. Chernyshevsky, a radical communist and revolutionary, believed that instating a communist system of government would free the Russian people from the grasp of impoverishment. Chernyshevsky’s magnum opus, “What Is to Be Done?,” went on to influence a number of communist revolutionaries, including Vladimir Lenin.

Dostoevsky would battle communist ideals throughout his life, but most notably in his book, “Notes From Underground,” which was a response to, “What Is to Be Done?”. In rebuttal to Chernyshevsky’s proposals, Dostoevsky writes, “But man has such a predilection for systems and abstract deductions that he is ready to distort the truth intentionally, he is ready to deny the evidence of his senses only to justify his logic.”

“Notes From Underground” was largely an argument against Chernyshevsky’s ideas, but this argument is a great example of the ideas that battled each other in nineteenth-century Russia. Many saw communism as a way of repairing the broken state of the Russian people, particularly the ones living in poverty. Others thought reform in farming would bring prosperity to the Russian lower-class.

From Turgenev to Tolstoy, Russian authors in the nineteenth century all battled with the economic problems of the lower-class. Some ignored them, some wrote about them, but it was clear that literature had an impact on poverty in Russian. In events leading up to the communist revolution in 1917, revolutionaries would praise or criticize certain authors for their views on the economic situation in Russian; undoubtedly, writers had a great impact on the problem of poverty in Russia.

– Tristan Gaebler

Photo: Wikimedia Commons