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DagestanOnce seen as a dangerous and violent place, the Republic of Dagestan in Russia has recently experienced a dramatic shift in visitation. Amid a strict lockdown, Russian tourists have swarmed to Dagestan during COVID-19. Although the republic remains one of Russia’s poorest regions, its tourist sector has thrived under pandemic conditions while Russian tourists scour for affordable trips and avoid capricious international borders.

A Brief History of Dagestan

Two consecutive wars in its neighbor region, Chechnya, greatly afflicted Dagestan. The Chechen revolution produced a “breeding ground for latent animosity” for both Chechnya and Dagestan. The spillover from the Chechen wars scarred Dagestani territories.

In the late 1990s, many Dagestani villages seceded from Russia and established Islamic law. The ensuing deployment of Russian troops to Dagestan resulted in 10 years of fighting.

Today, Russian soldiers are still present in Dagestan. However, the insurgency that gave the republic its fearsome reputation has been mostly suppressed.

Dagestan and COVID-19

From the beginning, Dagestan was an easy target for COVID-19. Many Dagestani men are truck drivers who travel across Russia to Iran and beyond. Furthermore, many citizens of Dagestan returned to villages unchecked when the lockdown was first declared in March 2020.

Low resources plagued Dagestan during COVID-19. The republic suffered from poor COVID-19 testing capacity, little to no PPE and a shortage of medicine/medics. In the summer of 2020, the immediate crisis had lightened and volunteers were a huge help, saving villages from turmoil.

However, Dagestan did its best to fight COVID-19. A new hospital in Gurbuki, Dagestan, opened in December 2019 and 50% of medical personnel fell ill. Instead of waiting for the government to provide aid, locals rounded up volunteers who began working in the wards. Additionally, volunteers set up checkpoints at the village’s entrance, attempting to control the spread of COVID-19. When the hospital started running low on oxygen, volunteers trekked 75 miles round trip to Makhachkala, Dagestan’s capital, to refill gas canisters. Dagestan’s efforts proved worthwhile as the region became attractive to tourists during the pandemic.

The Effects of Tourism in Dagestan

Dagestan has benefitted from the recent influx of visitors. Tourism brings in revenue and the increasing popularity of the region might save its culture.

In recent years, thousands of young people have left the isolated mountain villages of Dagestan to live in towns and cities. The departure of this many young people is enough to worry about the survival of villages in Dagestan. The abandonment of the ancient mountain villages, or auls, inevitably leads to the disappearance of the village altogether. Additionally, with the loss of the villages comes the loss of culture.

Chokh villager, Zaur Tshokholov, came up with the idea to save the villages using income from guesthouses. After gaining some fame from a documentary, Man of Chokh, Tshokholov’s guesthouse is now almost always full. Recently, more rooms have been added and other buildings have been renovated.

The guesthouses have sparked tourism potential across Dagestan. Tourism has provided income and job opportunities. Additionally, tourism has the potential to break down past political barriers that were put up by terrorist attacks from a different era. Not to mention, the increased interest in Dagestan could help save many villages. Dagestan during COVID-19 has been revitalized in a way once thought impossible.

– Addison Franklin
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in RussiaWhile Russia is a very resource-rich country, it suffers from intense social inequality. The top 1% of the Russian population control 71% of the nation’s wealth. 13% of Russians are currently living in poverty. Unfortunately, the majority of people living in extreme poverty are children. 60% of those living below the poverty line in Russia are families with children. As a result of social inequality, child poverty in Russia continues to rise.  Currently, one in four Russian children lives below the poverty line.

Poverty in Russia

Russia is one of the world’s largest exporters of oil. As such, those that control the oil industry generate great wealth.  However, this leaves many others to suffer in poverty. The nation has a high unemployment rate, but people who have obtained employment often suffer as well. The minimum wage in Russia is among the lowest of all developed countries. The monthly minimum wage in Russia is 12,310 rubles, which is the equivalent of $196.

Additionally, 26% of Russian children live off of close to $150 per month. Child poverty in Russia is most prevalent in rural areas, as many do not have access to employment opportunities in the city. The majority of children living in poverty reside with their families. Most families have three children and are often unable to sustain themselves with their current income.

Aid in Russia

USAID has worked with the government to create programs and opportunities that aim to remedy child poverty in Russia and help foster the economy. Specifically, USAID has created a child welfare program for Russian children living in poverty. The program provided services that focused on reducing child abandonment and finding foster families for children without homes. Fortunately, this program has already increased family reunification by 33%, and there was an 85% increase of children finding foster families.

Various programs helped diversify the Russian economy and uplift struggling families. USAID has worked to increase the development of Russian small business sectors. Small businesses make up 12% of the economy, which is only one-fifth of what is found in other developed nations.

By 2024, Russia aims to reduce the poverty rate by 50%. Russia must work to decrease the extreme amounts of social inequality and provide more opportunities for people in rural areas to alleviate poverty. Additionally, an increase in minimum wage will allow families to sufficiently provide for themselves.

Many programs have been implemented to help reduce child poverty in Russia.  While substantial change has been made, the Russian government must continue to increase its efforts to uplift the economy and families struggling in poverty.

– Christopher McLean
Photo: Flickr

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

How the Media Misrepresents Russia
The fourth estate continues to plays a very crucial role in representing Russia on the global stage, especially as it remains at the epicenter of international political discourse (and even propaganda) in recent years. Yet, at the same time, the media misrepresents Russia and and helps create a subject of polarization and contentious, worldwide debate.

Over the years, media portrayal of current affairs in the country — particularly its involvement in the Syrian Civil War and the Ukrainian crisis —  as alleged human rights violations and treatment of dissidents has sparked a great deal of controversy.

How Does the Media Misrepresent Russia?

Historically, the media misrepresents Russia largely in regard to the country’s fractious relationship with its western counterparts, divisions that date back to the Cold War era and the entrenched divisions between East and West. Consequently, many ordinary Russians strongly believe that the way the media misrepresents Russia has not altered much since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Given the ubiquitous influence of the mainstream media globally, there is a definite positive correlation between media and poverty reduction due to the medium’s power and impact on public opinion and global political agendas. At the same time, the mainstream media caters to a wide array of stakeholder groups and other parties within their target audiences.

Global Representations

As a result of the misleading representation, perceptions of poverty and other important social and economic issues in Russia can become distorted. For example, Russian poverty rates and economic growth and recovery figures tend to vary with different sources. These can grow to be major impediments to understanding long-run social progress and development in the country.

Moreover, the inordinate amount of coverage dedicated to geopolitical issues in Russia greatly debilitates the already preexisting lower levels of coverage for poverty-related issues. Additionally, Russian President Vladimir Putin is often branded a pariah in regard to the intense international media attention and scrutiny placed on his actions, decisions and Russia’s foreign policy goals.

The Ramifications of International Media Attention

There seems to be a near-constant deficiency in the presentation of domestic social issues in the country, particularly President Putin’s promised six-year poverty reduction plan and the country’s economic recovery after the fall in global oil prices.

There could be a significant number of effects on the perspective and reputation of the country due to the media misrepresenting Russia. Media coverage can also become an important precursor for international credit ratings and global economic and financial rankings. These scores may have unforeseen impacts on important trade relationships, diplomatic relations and future investments to the country.

Overall, eradicating inconsistencies in media coverage can perhaps serve as a stepping stone to address social issues with more clarity and look past the lens of double standards that can often impact a nation’s representation. Hopefully, the international community will be able to participate in this new news coverage, and take on a more effective role in aiding the world’s poor.

 – Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Russia
Almost 145 million people live in Russia. Despite placing emphasis on unity, some enjoy a much higher quality of living than others. This is evident in the country’s large income discrepancy, and the accompanying poverty in Russia. Below are 10 facts about poverty in Russia:

1. Poverty is on the Rise in Russia

In the early 2000s, income levels increased in Russia and drove down the poverty rate from 29 percent in 2000 to 10.7 percent in 2012. Unfortunately, the income levels didn’t remain and the poverty rate has grown slowly back to 13.5 percent in 2016.

2. Oil is Partly to Blame

One of the greatest threats to the Russian economy has been decreasing oil prices. In a country that greatly depends on oil, a shift in prices can be catastrophic. Given the falling oil prices over the past few years, from more than $100 per barrel to less than $30, Russia’s economy is vulnerable. Although there has been modest improvement as barrel prices are now at $60.

3. Agriculture is Also at Fault

As a country with vast amounts of tundra, agriculture is not a prime industry in Russia. Soil that lacks productive capabilities places a limit on economic expansion. Although Russia plays to its strength with oil, decreasing its dependency is a must. Diverse industries create jobs – something that could help alleviate poverty in Russia.

4. Wealth Inequality is Common

Wealth inequality exists in both developing and developed countries; including the U.S. Russia is no exception. The richest 10 percent of Russia’s population control three-fourths of wealth. This raises flags for a country with a rising poverty rate. With a dwindling middle class, Russia faces a problem on the horizon. Improving wealth distribution will take a creative solution.

5. President Putin has Vowed to Help

Acknowledging the issues that many Russians face, Vladimir Putin committed to improving conditions. He mentioned nearly 20 million Russians are living below the poverty line and promised to cut the number in half by 2024. Some had concerns that the plan lacked specific methods of action. Regardless, starting a conversation on poverty in Russia is a step in the right direction.

6. Rural Areas can Offer Relief

Russian citizens in rural areas often enjoy a better quality of life. Due in part to the wealth inequality that plagues the country, city living can be expensive. For this reason, those living in rural parts of Russia often experience less poverty than in the city. Rural living is beneficial in Russia; despite the country’s lack of agricultural capabilities.

7. The Future Remains Unclear

As a whole, the economic future of Russia is hard to predict. Poverty can be a direct result of economic conditions. In a country like Russia, this principle holds true. Growth in key industries is slow. With bankruptcy being commonplace in many regions of Russia, the time for the country to act is now.

8. Slow Economic Conditions Inspire Change

One positive of a struggling economy is the Russian government’s shift toward improvement. Adopting a pro-growth policy, the Russian government has launched infrastructure improvements. When paired with methods to fight poverty, this could lead to success for Russia.

9. Russia Needs Political Advocacy

As one of the most powerful methods of change a country has, utilizing politics can help Russia. An absence of a cohesive strategy to combat poverty is a key reason for Russia’s struggle. Developing and executing a policy on a national level has achieved success elsewhere. Local, regional and national policies could provide a piece to Russia’s poverty puzzle.

10. The Road to Poverty Reduction Could be Long

Russia’s economic woes might not see a quick resolution. The country’s economy is slow to change with the rest of the world. And with oil prices still below what they were during prosperity, Russia needs to adapt. Until it does, poverty in Russia will continue to be a problem.

– Robert Stephen

Photo: Google

Poverty in Russia
The Russian economy has taken more than its fair share of hits in recent years, with poverty in Russia affecting nearly 20 million Russian citizens.

The stagnation of Russia’s economy has its roots in the low oil prices in recent years, as well as sanctions imposed by the West. Russia produces the most crude oil in the world, and energy is by far Russia’s largest market. However, oil prices have dropped heavily since 2014, from around $100 per barrel to $50.

The effect on the Russian economy has been severe: the economy shrank 3.7 percent in 2015. The economic tightening has increased the inflation rate to 12.9 percent, reducing the purchasing power of Russian companies. This makes it significantly more difficult for other markets to fill the gap the declining oil industry has left.

The inflation rate also adds to the burdens of the working class, with rubles buying less nowadays than just a few years ago.

According to one Russian woman, “When you get home and unpack your shopping bag, you realize you have barely bought anything.”

Poverty in Russia is not located in large cities like Moscow and Saint Petersburg. The majority of Russia’s poor live in small, single-industry towns with declining populations.

The Kremlin itself, not exempt from the economic downturn, is currently operating at a severe budget deficit. This deficit makes it difficult for the Russian government to offer anything but lip service to the populace in regards to the decline.

Nonetheless, President Vladimir Putin’s approval ratings remain at an incredibly high 83 percent. Many Russians are faithful to Putin; when he took office in 2000, poverty was at a dangerously low 29 percent.

Furthermore, despite Russia’s current economic troubles, the country has seen significant economic improvement in the past 15 years.

Prior to 2014, Russia’s poverty rate had been dropping several percentage points every year since 2004. In addition, its GDP growth rate was on par with India until 2009.

Perhaps most encouraging is that despite the recession, Russia’s unemployment rate remains at a mere 6 percent. The low unemployment rate suggests that if oil prices stabilize, poverty in Russia will see a rapid decline.

John English

Photo: Flickr

Poverty_in_Russia
Poverty in Russia has been a prevailing issue for years now, but a host of causes has finally brought it to its worst point yet.

According to a recent report by Rosstat, a Russian state statistics service, the amount of people living below the poverty line in Russia hit 22.9 million earlier this year. Russia’s population was roughly 144 million at the end of 2014.

Russia’s poverty crisis has worsened steadily over the past few years due primarily to embargos and resulting inflation. As a result of Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine crisis, many countries embargoed food imports to Moscow. This caused inflation in the country to rise to 16.9%, its highest point in 13 years.

“Unfortunately, predictions are coming true: According to official statistics, the number of poor people has reached 22 million,” Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets told a Russian television station.

Additional Western sanctions have caused a steep decline in the price of oil, Russia’s largest export, further damaging the country’s economy and job market. In 2014, the amount of social service agency employees in Russia was cut by 6.5%. Experts are predicting that far more job cuts will follow, affecting 33 different regions of the country over the next few years.

Poverty in Russia is also proving to be immensely damaging to education. According to the Accounts Chamber report, 9,500 towns with populations between 300 and 1,500 had no preschool facilities, and one-third of these towns had no public transportation.

Between this year and 2018, 5.6% of Russia’s preschools are expected to close, as well as 6% of primary and secondary schools, 14.7% of orphanages and 16.1% of vocational schools.

As conditions in Russia continue to worsen, work must continue to be done to improve the quality of life within the country.

Alexander Jones

Sources: World Socialist Web Site, International Business Times, Moscow Times
Photo: Business Insider

poverty in russia
In 2008, there were approximately 18.5 million people in Russia living below the poverty line.

Moreover, since the economic crisis poverty rose by 1.1 percent leaving about 13 percent of the population living below the poverty line. The income inequality gap is currently the most pervasive issue with economic growth not lifting all socioeconomic classes.

President Vladimir Putin has realized that the Russian government is not doing enough to support the impoverished people living in his country. One problem is that social services are not strong enough to support the growing amount of people living in poverty in Russia.

Concurrently, more billionaires live in Moscow than in either New York City or London. The global crisis in 2008 crippled the Russian economy and shrunk it by 9.5 percent.

“The official poverty rate has gone up by precisely six million people. All of the gains in fighting poverty during the period 2000-2008 have been utterly wiped out,” writer Dmitri Butrin said.

There are immense disparities between the rural poor and the urban elites living in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Yet the Kremlin remains politically unaffected by the increase in economic instability due to the tightly controlled Russian media. The problem is mainly in the integrated global economy.

Rising oil prices in 2010 brought reprieved the Russian economy and boosted economic fortitude. However, oil prices fell steadily for several months which is causing the ruble to collapse; the Russian poor are in a much worse position than before.

Russia also has serious budget problems contributing to the economic slump. One-third of the budget is committed to defense and the military industrial complex. Mr. Putin’s commitment to putting up a strong front to the West over the Ukraine is taking priority to the current economic problems facing the poor.

“For Putin the priority is the army, the secret service and the bureaucracy. And also financing pensioners, the main supporters of the regime,” Boris Nemtsov, an opposition leader and former deputy prime minister.

Mr. Putin is not swaying from his plan of investing 20 trillion rubles into rearmament. Former economic advisor, Alexei Kudrin stated “I have the impression that at all levels of power, including the first person (Putin), there isn’t an objective assessment of the challenges before Russia.”

Vladimir Putin is not assessing his priorities with the poor populations of Russia in mind. In this case, geopolitical concerns are taking precidance and this is hurting the people in the lower socioeconomic classes.

– Maxine Gordon

Sources: The Guardian, Yahoo News
Photo: Motor City Times

Poverty in Russia and the Wealth Gap
Russia is a massive country with a population of 143 million.  With 18 million people living in poverty in Russia, however, the issue of alleviating poverty has become a serious issue for the administration of President Vladimir Putin.  According to the Russian auditing company FBK, the minimum wage in Russia is grossly incompatible with the cost of living. The average monthly living cost is 210 US dollars/month in Moscow.  The average monthly salary for a minimum wage worker there is 155 US dollars.  Statistics from the government of Russia indicate that the wealthier classes have been hoarding wealth at an exponential rate while the abject poor remain stagnant.  There are currently 97 billionaires in Russia, and their wealth is only increasing.  The fall of the Soviet Union was the impetus for this growing income gap, as moguls were able to take advantage of an increasingly more free-market economy.

On a positive note, poverty levels have gone down in Russia since the late 1990s, when over 20% of the population was below the poverty line.  Russian sociologist Natalya Bondarenko notes that “15 to 20 % of Russians (in the late nineties) considered their income enough only to buy food as opposed to just 5 to 6 % of Russians who say the same thing now.”  President Putin has also alluded to a policy in which politicians as well as the heads of companies would be required to make their salaries public.  Hopefully, the government of Russia will take steps to confront the issue of extreme poverty within her borders.  In order for stability to be maintained in post-Soviet Russia, the Motherland must look after her children.

– Josh Forget

Sources: The Telegraph, Forbes
Photo: Guardian