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

Homelessness in RussiaLike many social issues, the homelessness crises around the world has a multitude of underlying factors. To be homeless is not just about having no physical home. Being homeless is about economic, social, familial, poverty, mental health and community factors. Like many countries, homelessness in Russia has been perpetuated for decades by the historical stigma which has prevented transitional change since Russia’s move to a market economy.

Historical Ties

Homelessness in the Russian Federation dates back centuries, but the inception of its modern homelessness can be traced back to the fall of the Soviet Union in December of 1991. After this, the Russian Federation was formed and communism was replaced with a market economy. Five years after the transition, roughly 1.5 million of Russia’s 147.2 million population found themselves homeless.

In communist Russia, vagrancy and begging were punished with a minimum two-year prison sentence so many homeless were classified as felons. In addition, the state government would aggravate the problem by revoking residency permits, so many felons would assume transient lifestyles after leaving prison. After Soviet-era vagrancy laws were repealed in 1992, major cities experienced an influx of homeless populations. The new market economy saw major disparities in wealth, driving people from their traditional roles and into the streets.

The implementation of the registration system in Russia worsened the homeless crisis. The registration system required those without housing to either acquire sponsorship from a relative who already had adequate living space or to purchase real estate. This system, coupled with the new market economy, lead to widespread real estate crime. Individuals with little to no knowledge of the real estate market were easily manipulated and scammed out of affordable long-term housing.

Homelessness Today

Today, homelessness in the Russian Federation is the problem everyone knows about but no one wants to address. According to Rosstat, the government organization responsible for tracking homelessness in the Russian Federation, there are 64,000 homeless people in Russia. However, the organization has not compiled new data since 2010.  The real number is estimated to be roughly 5 million, approximately 3.5 percent of Russia’s population.  These estimates correspond with reported numbers on Russians living below the poverty line. Out of Russia’s 144.5 million population, 13.3% live below the poverty line.

One of the most common issues that the homeless in Russia face is the loss of legal documents, such as passports and residency permits. Once Russian citizens lose these documents, they are no longer eligible to receive free social or medical care and have no path to recovering these benefits.  Compounding the problem is the widespread exploitation of those without legal documents. Companies who rely on homeless populations for inexpensive labor often do not follow through on paying wages. When homeless workers are paid, they face scrutiny and exploitation from the police who are at liberty to take advantage of undocumented people.

Social Stigma

The unofficial mantra of the Russian Federation in regard to homelessness is, “out of sight, out of mind”. Although there are more homeless shelters in Russia today than in the past, they are sparse and inaccessible, many times located in the outskirts of districts. The Lyublino shelter has served as the primary center tackling the homelessness crisis for the last ten years. The shelter provides much-needed aid such as food, shelter, clothing, legal and medical services to its patrons. There are currently six shelters on the outskirts of Moscow including the largest, Lyublino, and five smaller ones. Plans for a homeless shelter in the city center were scrapped after widespread backlash from city residents. Instead, 30 vans patrol the city, picking up homeless and driving them to shelters nearly 15 kilometers outside the city center. Although these shelters are proof of progress, the societal response to ignore the issue prevents a head-on approach to tackling homelessness.

Other cities in the Russian Federation are addressing both the issue of homelessness and social stigma. In St. Petersburg, the Nochlezhka NGO feeds, counsels and shelters homeless populations. Funded mostly by donations, the crown jewel of the organization is a four-story rehabilitation center that houses roughly 50 people.  In 2017, The Moscow Times reported that 145 people passed through the shelter and 51% now live in permanent homes. In 2018, in addition to their rehabilitation program, the organization provided food, shelter and legal services to 9,000 homeless in St. Petersburg. The organization also helps to educate Russian citizens on how people become homeless and what can be done to help. Through educational efforts, they hope to eliminate the decades-old stigma of homelessness. The organization’s work has been largely successful in St. Petersburg; however, the homeless stigma still persists in Moscow where an estimated 100,000 people are homeless. Nochlezhka hopes to employ the same measures that worked in St. Petersburg to Moscow.

Unraveling the decades-long homeless crisis in the Russian Federation cannot be done overnight. The largest challenge is not just overcoming homelessness itself by providing more shelters, but eliminating the stigma associated with it. As mindsets change, organizations educate and the Russian state government stops pushing homelessness out of sight, the state can ultimately overcome one of its most trying challenges.

– Max Lang
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in the Russian Federation
The Russian Federation is the biggest country in the world, covering more than 6.6 million square miles. It is also the ninth most populated country with almost 146 million citizens. Despite Russia having universal healthcare, most people are unable to obtain an adequate form of it. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, healthcare conditions have not improved and many expect it will worsen due to government corruption, consequences of COVID-19 and a lack of government funding for medical supplies. Here are 10 facts about healthcare in the Russian Federation.

10 Facts About Healthcare in the Russian Federation

  1. Life expectancy increased by eight years over the past 20 years but still remains lower in males than in females. In 2000, estimates determined that the average lifespan of both genders was 65 years old, but in 2018, the number increased to 73 years old. In 2020, estimates identified that females live to 77.8 years old, while males only live to an average of 66.3 years.
  2. The Russian Federation provides its citizens with compulsory insurance, known as OMC, or free universal healthcare. Russia also allows its citizens to purchase privately-owned insurance or DMC. People who are on the OMC do not receive coverage for the majority of vital treatments and everyone has to pay in full for the provided medical services. Poor healthcare in the Russian Federation stems from a lack of governmental funding, hence more than 17,500 Russian villages and towns have no medical infrastructure and salaries for doctors and nurses are often as low as $250 a month.
  3. In 2019, a large number of imported medicines disappeared from Russian pharmacies and the sanctions against Russia further escalated the drug shortage problem. The Russian government failed to supply basic drugs like glucose, Prednisone and Lamivudine to its hospitals. There is also a painkiller deficit for terminally ill patients which is linked to the suicides of 40 terminally ill cancer patients in Russia in 2014. The problem with drug shortages and low wages has escalated in the previous years because Russia has implemented policies that not only cut spending on imported Western products but also only promote domestic businesses.
  4. The Russian government plans to cut its healthcare budget by 33% in the near future, bringing it down to $5.8 billion a year. Russia’s current health expenditure from GDP is only 5.3%, which is less than Guatemala and Madagascar’s annual GDP healthcare spending. The current global average health expenditure is at 10%. According to a 2014 Bloomberg report, healthcare in the Russian Federation placed last out of 55 developed nations.
  5. Moscow, the capital of the Russian Federation, has the best hospitals in the country, some of which have national rankings. Moscow’s Children Hospital ranks 250th in the world, while the Bakulev Center for Cardiovascular Surgery ranks 291st. Despite dire shortages of medicine, both hospitals operate at a national level. Russia also has more than 17,000 pharmacies and 17% of them are privately owned, while the rest either belong to the city’s authorities or regional governments.
  6. In Russia, 98% of children between the ages of 12-23 months receive vaccinations for measles and skilled health staff attend 99% of all births. However, the general rate of vaccinated children has recently declined because not only did the parents receive the option to not vaccinate their children, but many citizens noticed that their children get ill more frequently after receiving the vaccines. Because the measles vaccine became widespread since 1993, cases in Russia have drastically decreased, dropping from almost 80,000 to only 2,539 in 2018. In addition, there were 51 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15-19 in 1990, but in 2018, it has decreased to 20 births per 1,000 women. Russia’s teenage pregnancy rate is decreasing because of an increase in contraceptive counseling and laws, one of which stipulates young women older than 15 years old to receive sexual health consultations without their parents’ permission.
  7. Only 5% of people hold private medical insurance or use private healthcare in the Russian Federation because many are unable to afford it. The cost of private health insurance in Russia can vary from 10,000 to 45,000 rubles per year, and on average, a living wage family has an income of 23,700 rubles per month. There were no governmental attempts to make insurance more affordable and the Russian Federation will cut its health expenditure next year by 33%. In addition, many Russian citizens have to seek appropriate healthcare in neighboring countries.
  8. There are only 8.4 psychiatrists, 2.4 social workers and 4.6 psychologists per 100,000 people. Despite the Russian law guaranteeing psychiatric care to its citizens as a civil right, Russia underfunds medical programs due to its corruption. The Corruption Perceptions Index ranks Russia 137th out of 180 countries worldwide, and the Global Corruption Barometer also estimates that 27% of public service users paid a bribe in 2016. In 2018, the Russian government added new amendments to its Administrative Code, which allows courts to freeze one’s assets if they are under investigation for bribery. It also exempts businesses from liability if they are willing to cooperate with the authorities to uncover other criminal schemes. Both actions are promising in terms of battling corruption. Unlike the seeming battle with corruption, Russian psychiatric hospitals have been struggling immensely from governmental underfunding. Psychologists and social workers are unavailable in 13 territories within Russia, and findings determined that one-third of Russian in-patient psychiatric hospitals have unsanitary conditions. It has been numerously reported that Russian psychiatric hospitals have 15 people in one room, which has bars on all windows and no partitions or toilet access.
  9. In 2017, the seven leading causes of death were ischemic heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiomyopathy, Cirrhosis and lung cancer. Many of them decreased in frequency since 2007. Only Alzheimer’s has increased by 34% between 2007-2017, while strokes have decreased by 19.2% and cardiomyopathy by 29.5%, despite the lack of improvements in Russia’s medical system.
  10. Small Russian nonprofit organizations and civil societies like Patient Control, Eurasian Women’s Network on AIDS and the EVA Association have been fighting an uphill battle with the Russian government. The EVA Association is a nonprofit organization that helps women with HIV or any other immunodeficiency disorder, by bringing together a network of activists, 72 medical specialists and eight other nonprofits from more than 39 cities in Russia. Patient Control, on the other hand, advocates for citizens who have not received the necessary medication for tuberculosis, Hepatitis C and HIV due to significant healthcare budget cuts in Russia. In 2016, the Russian Red Cross branch also worked closely with the Regional Health Initiative, a Red Cross program, and it worked to supply civilians, particularly in Sochi, Irkutsk, Belorechensk and Tula, with food parcels and tuberculosis screenings.

While some are addressing the problems regarding healthcare in Russia, it is impossible to eradicate poor healthcare all at once because of corruption and lack of funds. As of June 2020, the quality of healthcare in the Russian Federation remains low. With anticipated health expenditure budget cuts and consequences of COVID-19, experts do not expect the situation to improve in the near future. However, because the nation’s citizens are staying united and helping one another through various associations and nonprofits, there is hope at the end of a very long tunnel.

– Anna Sharudenko
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

Living Conditions in Russian Federation
Much of what is generally known about Russia today is from generalized statements stemming from stereotypes. These stereotypes don’t acknowledge the rich culture the country harbors, nor do they acknowledge that despite the economy—which, in the last two decades, has been turbulent—the standard of living in Russia has significantly increased. Below are facts about the living conditions in the Russian Federation to combat the some of these stereotypes.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in the Russian Federation

  1. Housing
    As of 2018, the housing standard in the Russian Federation is lower than the standard upheld by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). For example, the average household net-adjusted disposable income per capita is about $16,657 per year, which is lower than the OECD average of $30,563 a year. Many in the Russian Federation take pride in owning property, and large properties at that. In fact, the main asset for the overwhelming majority of Russians is their residential real estate. However, real estate prices in city centers are outrageously high and can compete with prices in cities like Shanghai amongst others. Though many hold onto their properties, it is too expensive for some to maintain and thus, generates a cycle of debt that increases poverty. The OECD states that to combat this cycle, it would be in the best interest of many Russians to sell their property.
  2. Income
    Indeed, income in the Russian Federation has struggled to meet the rising prices of city life and the overall cost of living. In the years between 2011 and 2014, Russia saw an 11 percent increase in disposable income and an expansion in the consumer economy, however, the economic crises in 2015 and 2016 took its toll on the country. This has thus ranked the Russian Federation as below average in income, wealth and earnings. According to a survey named the Global Wealth Report, within the 12 months between 2015 and 2016, the average income of households decreased from $12,086 to $10,344. In fact, this fall in income continued in 2016, where wages fell nearly 95 percent. Moreover, the ruble—the currency used in the Russian Federation—has decreased in value. In 2007, the U.S. dollar was equal to about 25 rubles, yet it fell in 2016 to 64 rubles.
  3. Poverty
    Many steps have been taken to improve the poverty in the Russian Federation, however, it remains one of the largest impoverished countries with a developed economy. As of 2017, 89 percent of the overall wealth of the country is controlled by 10 percent of households—this is higher than both the U.S. and China. In 2016, 13.4 percent of the Russian population lived below subsistence levels, and though this number has improved, the poverty level in Russia is still very high. In fact, the Accounting Chamber predicts that by 2019 there will be about 20.4 million people, in Russia, living below the poverty line. The gap between the rich and poor is growing, and it is hindering the possibilities of improvements to living conditions in the Russian Federation.
  4. Transportation
    Overall transportation in the Russian Federation is struggling. Though public transport exists, again, many Russians, out of pride, opt for owning a car. In fact, in 2016 it was found that Russia had 58 cars per 100 households. In 2017 alone about 1,595,737 new cars were sold in total. Yet, the preference of cars over public transport has made traffic unbearable nearer to the cities. It is said that the traffic around Moscow is far worse than rush hour in many cities worldwide.
  5. Health
    Overall health and life expectancy have been rated as moderate by Forbes. In 2005, life expectancy for men and women was low, 58.8 and 72 years respectively. Though it has drastically improved and is close to the average of OECD, it remains that access to health care and education is not guaranteed for all.
  6. Climate and Environment
    The climate and environment have proven to be one of Russia’s biggest enemies in maintaining a high rating in living conditions. There is a high level of pollution in the cities, and though not as bad as other cities, it remains a noticeable problem. Secondly, the weather which though not in the direct control of the Russian people is often too extreme for many humans to handle.
  7. Life Satisfaction
    Many in the Russian Federation share an overall low satisfaction with life. Though it is not alarmingly low, the numbers still put Russia on par with other countries like Ukraine. On average, Russians gave their satisfaction a rating of 6 (on a 0-10 scale) which was only slightly lower than the average OECD rating of 6.5. It was stated by many that amongst other things listed here, water quality and safety could improve.
  8. Civic Engagement
    Unfortunately, the Russian Federation also has a below average rating in civic engagement and social connections. Much of this can be tied back to wealth, and many of the poor feeling that they do not have the capability of changing their environment. In fact, the voter turnout in the Russian Federation was at 65 percent, which though not much lower than OECD’s 69 percent, is still quite low.
  9. Education
    Though access to education is not guaranteed for all, the Russian Federation actually ranks above the average in education. Over 95 percent of 25-64 aged adults aged have completed upper secondary education. This is significantly higher than the OECD average of 74 percent. Moreover, test scores are much almost 10 points higher than the OECD’s average. There is not a divide between genders in education either, as 94 percent of men successfully complete high school, while 96 percent of women do the same.
  10. Employment
    Though there has been a turbulent past with unemployment in the Russian Federation, the country has, in the last 8 years, seen a huge effort towards ending unemployment. Currently, the unemployment rate is 4.1 percent as of July 2018; this is only slightly larger than the U.S. at 3.8 percent.  It was found that about 75 percent of men have paid work, while 65 percent of women have the same. Overall, about 70 percent of people from ages 15-64 have a paid job, which again, is above the OECD employment average of 67 percent.

Indeed, there is much work that can be done by the Russian Federation to improve the standard of living. These top 10 facts about living conditions in the Russian Federation demonstrate that the country is taking steps towards bettering their country, but there remains a lot to improve.

– Isabella Agostini
Photo: Flickr