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Facts About Joseph Stalin
Born on Dec 18, 1878, Joseph Stalin served as the Soviet Union’s Premier and the General Secretary of the Communist Party. Here are 10 horrendous facts about Joseph Stalin.

10 Horrendous Facts About Joseph Stalin

  1. As the Communist Party’s General Secretary, Stalin conducted so-called purges throughout the 1930s during which his administration imprisoned, exiled or executed political enemies and ethnic minorities. The time between 1936 and 1938 was the Great Purge and Stalin had approximately 750,000 people executed and sent millions to forced labor camps. In a forest by Toksovo, a small town near St. Petersburg, human rights workers discovered a mass grave of more than 30,000 victims in 2002.
  2. The First Plan, implemented in 1928, had a motive to modernize the Soviet Union’s industry. Stalin introduced the concept of collectivization by taking control of farmers’ lands. As a result, many farmers had to move towards cities for work. Stalin created state-run farms in the usurped lands and introduced time-specific quotas for the remaining farmers. These farmers could not eat the food they produced unless they reached the quotas they had to send to the cities. Subsequently, between 7 and 8 million people died on these rural lands from starvation and severe working conditions.
  3. Stalin designed and nurtured a famine throughout Ukraine between 1932 and 1933 that resulted in the death of approximately 7 million people. The Communist Party specifically targeted Ukraine for its efforts in gaining independence from Soviet rule. Stalin enforced quotas on Ukrainian farms to agricultural products to the Soviet Union. These quotas continued to increase until there was not enough food to sustain Ukrainian populations. When Ukrainian Communists appealed to the Soviet administration, Stalin used military force to purge the Ukrainian Communist Party and subsequently sealed Ukraine’s borders to prevent the shipment of food into the country. Additionally, Soviet forces confiscated all food sources from private Ukrainian residences.
  4. In 1919, Vladimir Lenin established the first Soviet forced labor camps. However, these camps, called the Gulags, did not reach full notoriety until the early 1930s under Stalin’s rule. Prisoners at the Gulags had to work at least 14 hours of demanding physical labor every day. These tasks included felling trees and digging frozen Soviet lands with rudimentary tools or mining coal and copper by hand. Prisoners received food based on how much work they completed in a day, however, even a full ration was insignificant. This labor force comprised of robbers, rapists, murderers, thieves and political enemies. Yet the majority of the prisoners were those the Soviets arrested for petty theft, lateness or unexcused absences from work.
  5. During Stalin’s early reign, the communist regime promoted the elimination of religion by confiscating church property, belittling religious beliefs and believers as well as promoting the indoctrination of atheism in schools. The Soviets exected the majority of the Russian Orthodox Church clergy and followers or sent them to the Gulags. The communist regime almost completely blocked the practice of Judaism instigated the systematic suppression of Islam until 1941.
  6. One of Stalin’s most heavily used tactics of oppression was censorship. Stalin cultivated a personality cult of artists that the state forced to create work that glorified the dictator. Those who read literature, viewed paintings and listened to music that the Soviet administration did not approve would have to go to the Gulags. Many artists committed suicide or attempted to flee the country in response.
  7. The Communist Party strictly controlled Education in the Soviet Union and based it on indoctrination. The government dictated which subjects schools could teach and test on. Teachers would teach History classes using materials that Stalin appointed, like the book A Short History of the USSR.
  8. Children received encouragement to join youth organizations outside of schools. Three tiers of these organizations existed: for 8 to 10-year-olds, there were the Octobrists; for 10 to 16-year-olds, the Pioneers; and for 19 to 23-year-olds, the Komsomol. Such organizations taught children how to be good communists. Stalin’s motive behind these youth clubs was to indoctrinate Soviet children into unquestioning obedience to the Communist Party. Further, when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, children as young as those in the Pioneers tier received arms to defend the State.
  9. Stalin’s rule of the Soviet Union deported over 1.5 million people. The majority of these people were Muslim. Reasons for deportation included resisting Soviet rule, ethnicity, religion and collusion with Germany’s occupational forces. The Soviets had deportees rounded up in cattle cars and taken to resettlement locations like Siberia or Uzbekistan where almost two-fifths of resettled populations died.
  10. Following World War II, Stalin began a press campaign of attacks on Jewish culture and Zionism. In 1948, the Jewish Antifascist Committee, an organization promoting Soviet policies, Stalin’s forces had it disbanded and its chairman assassinated.

As seen by the aforementioned 10 facts about Joseph Stalin, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union created immense suffering and strife under Stalin’s reign. Scholars and historians assert that between 20 and 60 million people died as a result of Joseph Stalin’s dictatorship.

Bhavya Girotra
Photo: Flickr

 

Life Expectancy in Russia
The life expectancy in Russia has risen to an average of 72 years. This is a great rise compared to the average of 57 years in 1994. The leading causes of death in Russia are heart disease, stroke, cancer, HIV/AIDS, and alcoholism.

The Drop in Life Expectancy in Russia During the 1990s

Russia’s life expectancy had unexpectedly dropped in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union. However, the government turned it around at a quick rate and brought life expectancy back up. A study into life expectancy in the ’90s reports that the main causes for the drop were poor healthcare, economic and social instability and depression that developed in citizens during that period.

In 1992, the poverty rate was 34 percent. With the drastic change of political atmosphere and depression, alcoholism and suicide rates also rose in the 1990s post-Soviet Russia. At the same time, wages fell for most of the ’90s and only began to climb again after the turn of the century.

With the turn-around of the economy, a new government leader and various other improvements, the life expectancy increased. Some people attribute this change to the leadership of Vladimir Putin, but it mostly comes from an overall change in the governmental rule.

The Future Goal

The government, including Putin, does intend to increase the life expectancy further. The goal is to close the gap between men and women’s life expectancy rates. In Russia, men live almost more than a decade less than women. This is the highest degree of difference between genders in the world.

Women on an average live to the age of 80 while men barely hit 70. The lower rate for men comes from their high rate of alcoholism. Thirty-five percent of men in Russia drink more than 3 liters of vodka a week. Vodka is the cheapest alcohol in Russia and most readily available, as it is frequently produced in poor villages.

Because the demand for vodka is so prevalent, it is a booming industry that provides jobs and keeps some families out of extreme poverty. Unfortunately, this cycle benefits the people who get money but hurts the people who die because of their addictions. Due to this, it is hard to imagine the cycle will break anytime soon, especially since attempts to reform alcohol consumption in Russia has failed numerous times.

Current Focus: To Reduce Alcohol Intake in Russia

It is harder to deplete suicide rates, HIV/AIDS and cancer rates than it is to create a society that limits its alcohol intake. Alcoholism is supported as a way to cope with extreme poverty and harsh living conditions in Russia.

On the other hand, alcohol has been used as a means of political oppression in the country. As quoted by the Russian historian Zhores Medvedev in 1996: “This ‘opium for the masses’ [vodka] perhaps explains how Russian state property could be redistributed and state enterprises transferred into private ownership so rapidly without invoking any serious social unrest.”

When the outlook on alcoholism in Russia changes, then the life expectancy for men will increase. Though Vodka is not the most severe leading cause of death in Russia, it goes hand in hand with poverty and government action. Life expectancy in Russia has shown some improvement in recent years. However, it is important not to overlook those points that still need improvement.

– Miranda Garbaciak
Photo: Flickr

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

Uzbekistan Poverty RateAfter separating from the Soviet Union in 1924, Uzbekistan is finally getting its economic footing. This country has struggled with transitioning to a market economy, but it has finally found a solution. Because of this, Uzbekistan’s poverty rate has slowly been decreasing over the years. It has declined from 33 percent in 2004 to its current rate of just 12.8 percent in 2017.

Although Uzbekistan has successfully decreased its poverty rate, the country still faces the challenge of creating more jobs to keep the poverty rate down. Many urban cities – where most of the population live – lack adequate employment opportunities. An unsteady unemployment rate, high cost of basic necessities such as food and low wages are major factors contributing to the poverty rate in Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan boasts 92.3 points out of 100 for food production stability and 88.5 points for quality, meaning the country does not have a problem producing high-quality food products. The problem is that the low wages plus the high cost of food mean many residents cannot afford to buy this high-quality food. In fact, 75 percent of the population has a low income. Because of this, the country reports high rates of iron, folic acid and vitamin A deficiencies in its citizens living in poverty.

Thanks to the overall economic growth, decrease in unemployment and rise in the labor force have contributed to the decrease in the Uzbekistan poverty rate. In fact, the GDP has steadily increased in the last decade. In 2016, the GDP was estimated at $67.22 billion, a rise from 2014’s $63.067 billion.

Uzbekistan’s poverty rate now ranks seventh compared to its neighbors. It follows countries such as Afghanistan (39.1 percent), Armenia (29.8 percent), and Georgia (20.1 percent).

Although Uzbekistan has a long way to go to completely eradicate poverty, Uzbekistan’s poverty rate has significantly decreased over the years. Continuing to create suitable jobs for urban residents while increasing the GDP will help the country maintain its steady poverty decline.

Amira Wynn

Photo: Flickr

Holodomor Genocide

In 1933, Ukraine experienced a manmade famine orchestrated by Joseph Stalin’s Soviet regime. As a result of the Holodomor Genocide somewhere around 10 million Ukrainians perished. Whether the Holodomor (translated from Ukrainian as “extermination by famine”) was a genocide, as Ukrainian history insists, or a byproduct of the ongoing Soviet famine, as some contemporaries still suggest, the stories of the millions that died should be remembered to ensure that such a widespread tragedy does not happen again.

 

10 Facts about the Holodomor Genocide:

 

  1. The Soviet Union: Ukraine became a republic of the Soviet Union in 1922 and their agriculture became a major part of the Soviet economy. As Stalin took power he capitalized on Ukraine’s agricultural prosperity and created collective farms to spread grain and other products throughout the member nations. From 1932 to 1933, Stalin increased the quotas required by Ukrainian farmers and severely punished those who resisted.
  2. The Resistance: Many Ukrainians resisted Stalin’s rule over their farms. As a result of their resistance, these Ukrainians came to be considered enemies of the state and were shipped away to remote areas such as Siberia. Many died in transit or else starved to death due to the harsh conditions.
  3. The Policies: The mass expulsions of Ukrainian farmers meant that Stalin had access to all of their resources. For those that remained Stalin increased their quotas to impossible standards. Food and livestock were confiscated, and those caught stealing from the farms in which they worked were arrested. The heart of the famine saw the deaths of 25,000 people every day due to malnutrition and starvation.
  4. The Eyewitness Accounts: The lens through which the world sees famine is often abstract. For victims of the Holodomor, the experience is far more personal. According to surviving eyewitness accounts, Ukrainians survived on anything they could find. From the blossoms of acacia trees to the rotting flesh of cats and dogs, they tried to survive by any means possible. Despite the decreasing number of dogs and abounding malnutrition, denial of the Holodomor Genocide was, and, is still today abundant.
  5. Refusal of Assistance: The international community was by no means ignorant to the famine in Ukraine, however, Stalin refused assistance. The Soviet Union did not acknowledge the widespread problem and suppressed censuses that would help prove the genocide. Visitors to the Soviet Union were likewise confined to Moscow and denied entry to Ukraine.
  6. The Actual Number of Dead is Unknown: While the consensus is that the number of Holodomor victims is around ten million, there are a number of factors that skew the true number. Stalin’s suppression of the Ukrainian census and the large number of people exiled abroad distort the calculations. Denials of the famine both by the Soviet Union and Western publications further alter the number.
  7. Denial of the Famine: The Soviet Union was steadfast in their denial of the Ukrainian famine. Throughout the Holodomor, the USSR released propaganda material under-emphasizing the situation in Ukraine. Soviet official Maxim Litvinov went so far as to say, “there is no famine… You must take a longer view. The present hunger is temporary. In writing books, you must have a longer view. It would be difficult to describe hunger.” This view was by no means eradicated by the passage of time; since 1932 Russia has continued to deny its role in the Holodomor Genocide.
  8. Walter Duranty: Denial of the Holodomor was not isolated to Soviet propaganda. Walter Duranty, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for The New York Times, wrote articles that conformed to Stalin’s agenda. This included suppression of the famine in Ukraine, writing that “conditions are bad, but there is no famine.” Duranty’s misleading writing and the denial of the famine by the Soviet Union combined to mask the full extent of the Holodomor. The New York Times has since publicly acknowledged Duranty’s failures and called for his Pulitzer Prize to be canceled.
  9. Recognizing Genocide: In 2016, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko officially called for the Holodomor to be acknowledged as a genocide orchestrated by the Soviet Union, which, for decades, Soviet rule prevented Ukraine from doing. Now, memorials stand all over the world that honor the victims and officially acknowledge the Holodomor.
  10. Russia Still Denies Genocide: Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Russia has maintained its innocence. Discussion regarding the famine was banned and falsification of evidence took place and Russia, to this day, continues to deny their role in the genocide. Russian officials regard evidence of the genocide as “falsifications of history,” and claim that the famine was due to a natural disaster that affected the entirety of the Soviet Union.

The denial by the Soviet Union of their role in the genocide has prevented a nation from healing. While the U.S. and other Western nations believed accounts that lessened the famine or ignored Stalin’s complicity, they have taken steps to remedy their failure. Russia must do the same to ensure that nothing like the Holodomor Genocide happens again.

Eric Paulsen
Photo: Google

Causes of Poverty in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan is a mountainous country located in Central Asia, west of China and south of Kazakhstan. It gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and has had a rocky road, both politically and economically, since.

The GDP of Kyrgyzstan is $5.4 billion and it has the second lowest GNI in Europe and Central Asia, after Tajikistan. The poverty rate is 32.1 percent. Kyrgyzstan ranks 126th out of 187 countries on the Human Development Index and 66th out of 146 countries on the Gender Inequality Index. Poverty is a relevant issue, and there are three main causes of poverty in Kyrgyzstan.

1. No more Soviet support

Kyrgyzstan does not export many goods, though agriculture is the largest sector. While it has gold deposits that make mining attractive, the deposits do not make up for the other economic deficiencies. When Kyrgyzstan was part of the Soviet bloc, it could count on other Soviet satellite states for market opportunities, specifically on Russia for investment. Since independence, it no longer has this safety net.

Unemployment is 8.4 percent, so many workers leave the country and go to Russia to find opportunities. However, the remittances from former workers are not enough to sustain the economy. The economy has stabilized since the 1990’s, but it has a long way to go before it can support the 6 million citizens of Kyrgyzstan.

2. Insufficient agricultural development

Perhaps one of the largest causes of poverty in Kyrgyzstan is its dependence on agriculture despite gaps in knowledge and resources. Two-thirds of the population live in rural areas: however, these people are not adequately trained in land management, animal husbandry, veterinary practices and harvest techniques. This results in land that can no longer produce food and feed animals at full capacity and a group of people who cannot subsist on their agricultural efforts alone.

It is not surprising then that 75 percent of poor people in Kyrgyzstan live in rural areas and that 12 percent of the total population is food insecure.

3. Lack of financial resources

Another result of the Soviet collapse in Kyrgyzstan is weak financial institutions. Financial institutions – such as a strong banking system, investment capabilities, microfinancing and personal finance management – are all key to sustaining economic growth, regardless of the dominant sectors.

Few people, especially those in rural areas, have access to banks and therefore have no ability to invest or save. Even at a national level, money is frequently mismanaged and Kyrgyzstan ranks poorly on the Corruption Perceptions Index.

Kyrgyzstan may have a high poverty rate, but it has made great strides in reducing poverty in recent years. In 2000, the poverty rate was 62 percent: it has since been halved.

Economic and political uncertainty pose barriers to poverty reduction and economic development, but there is hope. The causes of poverty in Kyrgyzstan are not incurable. Since the political revolution in 2010, Kyrgyzstan has been steadily stabilizing and there is no reason to believe it won’t continue reducing its poverty rate.

Olivia Bradley

Photo: Flickr

58. Poverty in Former USSR States

The countries that once made up the USSR are complex and differ in nearly every way. During the most of the 20th century, however, they were ruled over by one central government. Since the peaceful fall of the regime, the Soviet Union has splintered into the different countries we know today, connected via the Commonwealth of Independent States. Although poverty in former USSR states has generally decreased when comparing the rates of today to the past, this does not mean that the road to alleviating poverty in former USSR states was easy.

For many of the former “-stan” countries, for example, the fall had a rather negative effect on those economies. Turkmenistan became a dictatorship whose elections were not deemed fair and democratic. As a result, the country became very corrupt. Uzbekistan was not ruled by a dictatorship, but corruption inside the country is very high, making foreign aid difficult to administer. Furthermore, due to a highly controversial massacre of protesters in the country in 2005, it is the only country to have cut ties with the Western world. Tajikistan suffered a civil war right after the collapse. Kazakhstan, on the other hand, is different. The country has grown its economy since its independence due to its robust energy industry. Except for Turkmenistan (no data) and Kazakhstan (2.7 percent), every single one of the countries has a poverty rate of about 20 percent or higher.

For the countries located between the Black and the Caspian Seas, the state of poverty does not look much better. Armenia has a poverty rate of over 30 percent due to political instability, while Georgia experienced a civil war that created a few frozen conflict zones (South Ossetia and Abkhasia). Azerbaijan was spared any wars and has plentiful oil fields from which to grow its economy. Alas, corruption is very high in this country as well.

The countries in Europe, however, have done relatively well. Estonia is rated as the least poor of the countries (despite a 20 percent poverty rate) due to embracing the free market system and capitalizing on electronics. Latvia has also grown its GDP. Although it is poor, it proved itself immensely resistant to the 2009 recession and recovered very quickly while putting itself onto a path to join the EU. Moldova, however, has been suffering for two decades because of political instability, leading to the self-proclaimed state of Transnistria forming within the country. Now though, it is on its way towards EU membership, with a poverty rate of about 10 percent.

Ukraine has actually had a fairly peaceful transition into post-Soviet politics, making the 2000s a prosperous period for Ukraine. Although recent events in the country make it sound like a dangerous place, the poverty rate is in fact at only 6.4 percent. Finally, Belarus, arguably the worst country to live in after the collapse of the USSR. The country has been led by a dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, since its independence. The country has been graded as having the worst human rights of all the countries summarized in this article, making foreign aid questionable. Still, the poverty rate is supposedly at only 5.1 percent.

Overall, such a quick summary of each country cannot completely summarize the state of poverty in former USSR states. Every country is independent, making their political outcomes as varied as any group of countries in the world. What we can learn from this information is that whatever past a country might have had does not predict how it will perform in the future in regards to poverty. Those states that have succeeded in transitioning and becoming more wealthy have set a good example. Now it is up to the oppressive and poor countries to learn from this and grow.

Michal Burgunder

Photo: Flickr

Help People in UzbekistanThe Republic of Uzbekistan was formed in 1991 after declaring independence from the Soviet Union. However, this independence came at a cost. After losing subsidies afforded by the Soviet government, this nation experienced a serious economic decline. Today, not only do 12.8 percent of Uzbekistan’s citizens live beneath the national poverty line, it has a steady unemployment rate of 8.9 percent. With an economy largely based around agriculture, Uzbekistan’s GDP has suffered during the last few decades due to the fragile ecosystem caused by climate change, rapid population growth and environmentally-damaging economic pursuits.

These financial hardships are not helped by the Uzbek government, which has a track record of corruption, non-transparency and numerous human rights violations. Though there have been improvements in terms of income distribution and income rates, the future of this nation is ambiguous, given the likelihood that their high commodity prices will decrease with the current environmental and market disruptions. This places a great deal of pressure to establish a market-based economy, which calls for both higher education rates and outside investors.

As of now, agriculture still employs over a third of Uzbekistan’s population of 31.8 million. In order to achieve a measure of financial prosperity while subsequently lowering poverty rates and raising income rates, this nation must invest in the 58.5 percent of its population below the age of 30. Let’s take a look at how to help people in Uzbekistan.

SOS Children’s Villages in Uzbekistan
One way to help people in Uzbekistan is by donating to SOS Children’s Villages International, or specifically to one of its many bases in Uzbekistan. Founded by Hermann Gmeiner in 1949, this organization worked to provide orphaned and abandoned children with loving families after World War II. Today, this program has placed 577,000 children into healthy alternative care. On top of this, last year 297,000 children were reported to be learning at SOS Children’s Villages’ schools, training centers, and social centers.

In Uzbekistan, many children are forced to drop out of school at a young age and are exploited within the cotton industry. Oftentimes, young children are sent out to live, work and earn for their families. This ends in this nation’s youth fending for themselves on the street in order to survive. Without programs like SOS Children’s Villages, these young people are placed into institutions, which only perpetuates the trend of young adults unable to act independently. Reports relay that the majority of girls leaving institutions marry early, start families young and never achieve the educational and professional potential of which they are capable. Allowing this institutionalization empowers the cycle of poverty prevalent in Uzbekistan. By helping or donating to SOS Children’s Villages in Uzbekistan, you could be a powerful force in the creation of better, safer lives.

The Cotton Campaign
Another way to help people in Uzbekistan is by supporting The Cotton Campaign, a coalition working in the service of human rights and the eradication of both child and forced labor. Each year during the harvest season, the Uzbek government is responsible for forcing adults and children alike out of their jobs, homes and schools in order to contribute to its annual cotton quota. While this is dangerous enough with consideration to the health of these forced laborers, who are more often than not placed into unsafe housing, exposed to harmful chemicals and forced to pick beyond their limits, the power the government holds over these citizens compromises both their education and their profession.

The Cotton Campaign works to help people in Uzbekistan by mobilizing communities, organizations and individuals to advocate against the exploitative terms of citizenship in Uzbekistan. In educating potential lobbyists about the necessary ramifications and laws that need to pass through the Uzbek government, this coalition gives each individual the power to work against this existing inhumanity. By supporting their efforts, you can contribute to the end of modern-day slavery.

Both of these organizations are doing important work to help people in Uzbekistan. By donating, volunteering or raising awareness, you can contribute to improving the lives of Uzbekistan’s impoverished people.

Briana Fernald

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in TajikistanSince its independence, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the government of Tajikistan has made incredible strides in reducing poverty across the country. Since 1991, its pace has placed it among the top 10 percent in the world. Despite this, approximately 32 percent of the country’s 8.6 million citizens remain below the national poverty line, with 3.7 percent living on less than $1.90 per day. With so much strong work already done to combat poverty across the nation, it is important to understand the remaining causes of poverty in Tajikistan in order to successfully continue the fight to eliminate poverty.

The first of these causes relates to Tajikistan’s economy. The poorest of the former Soviet states, Tajikistan has an economy that is largely reliant on remittances from Tajiks who are working abroad – such remittances comprise almost 50 percent of the nation’s total GDP. This leaves the economy open to external factors with the potential to heavily damage the economy, particularly in times of global financial crisis. Additionally, Tajikistan has an apparent inability to draw in foreign direct investment (FDI) due to a perceived unfavorable business environment, inadequate infrastructure and a weak legal system. Without significant change in policy in these areas, investment is unlikely to be forthcoming, limiting the ability of the country to lift itself fully out of poverty via economic means.

The lack of FDI and general private sector investment is also damaging to employment opportunities in the country. Tajikistan’s most valuable asset is its human capital and, at present, the country is incapable of creating enough jobs for the growing workforce. This has led to only 43 percent of the working age population being employed, with younger workers and women particularly hard hit by the lack of opportunity. With private sector opportunities only comprising 13 percent of jobs across the country, there are significant barriers to employment for much of the population, which can further exacerbate Tajikistan’s poverty dilemma.

The third of the primary causes of poverty in Tajikistan is related to infrastructure. An estimated 60 percent of the population is unable to access clean drinking water, leading to water from irrigation ditches – which is often polluted – being consumed instead. Adequate sanitation is similarly inaccessible, which has led to waterborne illnesses such as typhoid and diarrhea being widespread throughout the country. Both of these are particularly dangerous to children and infants and, as such, infant mortalities and malnutrition levels are above acceptable rates.

Through the aid of foreign governments and nongovernment organizations (NGOs), progress has begun in this area. UNICEF’s school-based hygiene project, for instance, is bringing fresh, potable water to schools through developing wells and pumping systems that the children can use, as well as improving sanitation facilities. Through projects such as this, thousands of children have seen living and health conditions improve exponentially. The World Bank is also extremely active in Tajikistan, with just under $370 million committed to a total of 23 projects across the country. These projects are aimed at supporting economic growth through developing the private sector as well as tackling the infrastructural and public service issues which ail the nation.

While foreign aid is certainly benefiting the country, it is unlikely to be enough to further reduce its poverty levels without governmental support. Government involvement is necessary to start seeing progress is overcoming the causes of poverty in Tajikistan, which would ultimately lead to a decrease in its poverty rate.

Gavin Callander

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in Armenia
Armenia is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe that saw a steady decrease in poverty after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. However, Armenia was hit quite hard by the recession in 2008, and the economy is still trying to right itself. Many families in Armenia struggle to find work and affordable necessities. The poverty rate in Armenia is 29.8 percent. The main causes of poverty in Armenia are a lack of jobs within the country, a high unemployment rate and a weak agricultural system.

Migration of Workforce

One of the main causes of poverty in Armenia is a lack of jobs. This is demonstrated through the number of workers who emigrate. The majority of men leave the country to earn wages in Russia. Some researchers estimate that almost 14 percent of the Armenian population has emigrated to find employment elsewhere.

In order to combat this problem, Armenia needs to create more job opportunities within the country. Currently, one-fourth of jobs in Armenia are low-paying jobs; thus, Armenia needs to create more middle-income positions. Formal businesses want the government to impose more regulations so that informal employers do not have advantages. If the Armenian government intervened, these businesses could create many more jobs.

Poverty and Unemployment

Unemployment and poverty in Armenia are closely linked. In 2010, when the head of the household was unemployed there was a 50 percent chance they lived below the poverty line. The reported unemployment rate in Armenia is 16 percent. The average job search is 20 months. Unemployment benefits in Armenia are minimal, so a large percentage of the unemployed do not register. The number of unemployed people in Armenia is estimated to be closer to 30 percent.

There is low labor force participation in Armenia. Around 70 percent of women in Armenia are unemployed and only 55 percent of women who are of working age are active in the economy. One way to solve this aspect of unemployment is for the government to create incentives to encourage women to join the workforce. The Armenian government can also work to remove barriers to working such as transportation or household responsibilities.

Weak Agricultural System

The agricultural system in Armenia does not create enough jobs or affordable food. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Armenia had to replace some of its industrial economy with agriculture to feed its people. The government rapidly created small farms and sold them to citizens. Many of the newly minted farms were created in mountain regions with difficult terrain. Farmers often lack agricultural knowledge. In addition, many of the small farms do not have adequate infrastructures or access to farming technology. Government policy has not bolstered the efficiency of farms; instead, changing regulations and policies have damaged the agricultural sector. If Armenia can develop its agricultural sector through education, infrastructure and policy, the country will be able to produce more of its own food and improve the standard of living.

While over one-quarter of Armenians live in poverty today, this number can be reduced. Creating more attractive jobs within Armenia will encourage citizens to work in their country. In addition, the development of programs to help people join the workforce will help decrease the unemployment rate. Finally, as Armenia improves its agriculture system, the price of food in the country will decrease.

Sarah Denning