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Corruption in Russia and Its Effects on Poverty
In 2018, the Russian government set the goal of halving poverty levels in the country by 2024. However, recent revelations of corruption among Russian officials threaten progress towards such a goal. One is the case of President Vladimir Putin’s usage of ₽100 billion, about $1 billion, of stolen taxpayer money to build his extravagant palace. Here is an explanation of corruption in Russia and its effects on poverty.

“Comrade Capitalism”

Corruption in Russia is primarily based on the merging of public services and private interests. In 2005, President Putin created a $1 billion program to improve the country’s healthcare system, as average life expectancy declined significantly after the fall of the Soviet Union. According to a 2014 Reuters investigation titled “Comrade Capitalism,” this program helped to fund the construction of President Putin’s palace on the Black Sea and enrich two of his closest associates, Dmitry Gorelov and Nikolai Shamalov.

Shamalov was involved in the construction and preparation of new hospitals. Gorelov and Shamalov used multiple intermediaries to increase their profits while providing medical equipment to the Russian government. One of those intermediaries was a company based in Washington, D.C., that received approximately $50 million for providing construction materials for President Putin’s palace.

Poverty in Russia During COVID-19

Although the Reuters investigation is 7 years old, its revelations of Russian corruption are particularly timely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Working-class cities in Russia have experienced the most impact. A report from The Moscow Times covers Ivanovo, Russia, a city located four hours away from Moscow that was once the center of Russia’s textile industry but has struggled during the pandemic. High unemployment rates and low monthly salaries contribute to a broader trend of doctors leaving the city seeking employment elsewhere. Since many of the available jobs in the city are in construction, security and shop work, most residents are unable to shelter in place to control the spread of COVID-19. As a result, all hospitals in the city are almost at full capacity. Moreover, the city’s healthcare chief is looking to purchase more refrigerators because the morgues are full.

Expanded Social Welfare in Russia

In response to the increased poverty rates that the pandemic caused, the Russian government has expanded social welfare programs. The most successful and widely used type of social assistance is cash transfers. The integration of cash transfers with employment support and social inclusion services was highly successful in the Republic of Tatarstan. The Republic of Tatarstan created a program called the Tatarstan Social Assistance System Development Project in collaboration with the World Bank. Since the establishment of this program, an increase in opportunities and financial support has occurred for people in Tatarstan. Thankfully, experts expect this trend to continue.

“Palace for Putin” Hits a Nerve

Alexei Navalny, President Putin’s most public political rival, wrote a documentary in January 2021 called “Palace for Putin.” It covered President Putin’s rise to power, the extent of his estate on the Black Sea and the people in his immediate circle that enrich themselves at the expense of the Russian people. Navalny’s team enlisted the help of an outraged palace contractor to provide an insider view of the secretive estate. Leaked floor plans of the palace reveal countless swimming pools, halls and extra bedrooms for entertaining guests. The property also has a hockey rink and amphitheater, in addition to other lavish accommodations.

For many Russians experiencing a decreased standard of living and increased inequality, this documentary was the last straw. On January 23, 2021, protests broke out as a result of Navalny’s recent arrest and corruption in Russia. While other protests of Russia’s recent history took place exclusively in big cities, these are quite different. Not only are the protests spread across the country, but younger generations are leading them. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets, some in temperatures far below freezing, to express their frustrations.

Although the protests were mostly peaceful, police forcefully dispersed protests, citing COVID-19 concerns, and detained thousands of protesters, violating the freedom of assembly outlined in the Russian constitution. Navalny’s February 2, 2021 trial and sentencing for violating parole further attracted protesters, hundreds of whom authorities arrested outside of the Moscow court where the hearing took place.

Response from the United States

On September 23, 2020, Representative James P. McGovern [D-MA-2] introduced a resolution condemning Russian authorities for the suspicious poisoning of Alexei Navalny and calling for an investigation of the poisoning as use of chemical weapons, which is a violation of international law. The resolution passed in the House of Representatives on November 18, 2020.

One week after taking office, President Biden had his first phone call with President Vladimir Putin, in which they agreed to extend New START, the U.S.-Russia arms control deal. President Biden also confronted him about the recent SolarWinds hack and the arrest of Alexei Navalny. The U.S. president’s tone with President Putin was less sympathetic than that of his predecessor. Additionally, the Biden administration has taken interest in the recent protests in Russia. This is because they reveal weaknesses in Russian domestic politics that tarnish Putin’s image as a leader with complete control. The renewed desire for honesty and accountability among the Russian people presents an opportunity for the United States to engage with Russian society.

Moving Forward

Corruption in Russia is extremely frustrating to the average citizen. With corruption among top national officials, Navalny’s arrest and pandemic-induced decreased living standards, it is clear to see why. In order for average Russian lives to improve, the social safety net must undergo expansion. If Russia continues following the example of the Republic of Tatarstan and the Biden administration continues to invest in the well-being of Russian citizens, corruption in Russia and its effects on poverty should slowly but surely improve.

– Sydney Thiroux
Photo: Unsplash

Reducing Poverty in Russia
Russia is the largest country in the world by landmass, and it covers an expansive 6.6 million miles. The country spans from Europe to Asia and shares 14 borders with neighboring states: Azerbaijan, Belarus, China, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Mongolia, Norway, Poland and Ukraine. Despite the size of the country, it has a modest population of nearly 146 million people. However, poverty has taken a toll on the country’s people and reducing poverty in Russia will not be an easy task. An estimated 22% live in the “poverty zone,” which refers to the people unable to purchase anything other than items for subsisting. Furthermore, one-fifth of the total population lives in poverty, but Russian President Vladimir Putin has devised a plan to halve the poverty rate by 2024.

Poverty in the Soviet Union

The dissolution of the Soviet Union began on November 9, 1989, when the Berlin Wall, a structure intended to separate communist occupied East Germany from the west, came down. However, The Soviet Union dissolved on December 26, 1991, when Boris Yeltsin, the newly appointed Russian president, seized the reigns of an independent Russia from Mikhail Gorbachev.

Fifteen republics comprised the Soviet Union, and “at least 20 percent of the population” lived in poverty. As of 1989, the poverty level for a moderately sized family was $339.24 a month, or around $85 per person. At least 5 million families fell below the poverty line, and 20% of the overall population received 75 rubles per month.

At the time, there were no state plans to eliminate or reduce poverty, and no governmental support existed.

Poverty in the Pandemic

The pandemic has created a downward trend in the global economy, which has adversely affected Russia’s crude oil industry. This decline in the country’s economy is causing the ruble to weaken and Russia to enter a recession, creating an even bigger poverty problem for the 18.6 million people still living below the poverty line.

COVID-19 has proven to be an economic disaster for the Russian Federation and the World Bank projected a fall in GDP by 1% in 2020 due to the pandemic. Moreover, the World Bank anticipated a rise in the poverty rate to 2.2% in 2020 in comparison to 2.1% in 2019.

Poverty is Different Across Russia

Poverty in Russia is widespread and varies for rural and urban areas. For example, densely populated cities like Moscow and Saint Petersburg have a poverty rate below 8%, but in the case of rural regions, the Kalmyk Republic has 20% and the Tuva Republic has 40%.

People across the country experience poverty differently. In Siberia, villagers may struggle due to disproportionate job opportunities and little support from the state. In urban centers, citizens may lack proper skills to gain work or may have expensive medical bills, which hinders their ability to support themselves in other areas.

Reducing Poverty in Russia

As of 2018, the poverty rate was 13.2%, but the Russian Federation’s goal is to cut that in half. President Vladimir Putin aims to do this by 2024, reducing the poverty rate to 6.6%. According to the World Bank, the country would need a growth rate of 4.4% to achieve that reduction. The country could achieve its goal, but the annual growth would have to be 1.5% with the redistribution of 0.4% for GDP. Policy reforms that increase productivity and higher investment could boost the growth rate to 2.5%.

Russia’s progress at reducing poverty has been steady over the last decade due to oil prices, yet more work is necessary for it to improve. Additional assets could help push Russia, especially considering its low debt, energy resources and labor force. Russia is also ahead of other countries in space technology, which could bolster its economy further. Modernizing the economy is how reducing poverty in Russia will come into fruition. However, as of July 21, 2020, Putin has pushed his hefty goal of reducing poverty in Russia to 2030.

– Michael Santiago
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

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

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

Child Marriage in Chechnya

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

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

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

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

Reports on Child Marriage in the South Caucasus Region

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

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

Russia’s Steps Forward

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

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

Joelle Shusterman
Photo: Flickr

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

Poverty in Russia at the End of the 20th Century

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

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

Current Regime and the Economy

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

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

Halving the Poverty Rate

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

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

Elizaveta Naguslaeva
Photo: Piqsels

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

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Russia

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

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

– Anna Sarah Langlois
Photo: Flickr


After Ukraine’s 2014 revolution and reorganization of its government, several of the southeastern regions of Ukraine took up arms against the new government. These regions of primarily Russian-speaking Ukrainians, collectively termed the “Donbass,” feel that the new government of Ukraine does not represent the people, and so they have attempted to set up their own, separate government. Here are 10 facts about the War in Donbass, to help raise awareness around the current conflict:

  1. The war in Donbass has claimed about 10,000 lives since it began in 2014, between the forces of the new government and the pro-Russia separatists in Donbass.
  2. Though the Russian government continues to deny claims that it began the war in the Donbass, Russia has been providing supplies and arms to the separatists for years. Considering Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, Ukrainians fear that they are next on Russia’s list.
  3. Roughly 100,000 professional soldiers and volunteer combatants are scattered around the “gray zone” that exists between the opposing sides’ territories.
  4. The U.N. High Commissioner of Refugees reports that over 1.6 million Ukrainians have been displaced by the fighting, most of them moving away from the fighting towards Kiev. Russia reports that as many as twice that number have similarly fled the fighting eastwards into Russia.
  5. A peace deal, known as Minsk II, was agreed upon and signed by both sides in Minsk, Belarus in 2015, but the implementation of said deal has been a disaster. Neither Russia nor the new Ukrainian government wants to admit responsibility for the conflict, so the process of peace has stalemated.
  6. During the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, many Ukrainians had hope that the new president would be tough on Russia’s involvement in Ukraine and would provide aid for the people in the war zones. The election of President Trump – and his seemingly pro-Russia leaning – has led to much discouragement and disappointment that the aid they counted on is not forthcoming.
  7. Experts have come to believe that the conflict – which has never been an official war between Ukraine and Russia – will only end if Russia concedes a defeat in the Donbass – an outcome many consider highly unlikely – or if Russia ramps up into a full-scale invasion of the Ukraine.
  8. To that end, Russia has been quietly moving to improve its military infrastructure by creating new divisions that can be rapidly expanded should it mobilize its forces, as well as deploying existing forces along the Ukrainian border.
  9. In mid-September, Russian president Vladimir Putin stated that he was open to allowing U.N. peacekeepers into the separatist areas of east Ukraine, though the Ukrainian government insists that Russian forces not be among said peacekeepers.
  10. The U.S. envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, said in late September that the U.S. is against working with Russia to bring in the U.N. peacekeeping forces, as it would only further destabilize the country. Volker also stated that he believes Russia and the separatists are finally willing to come to the table with a resolution to the conflict.

The war in the Donbass is a highly complex and constantly evolving situation, and these 10 facts only serve to summarize some of the more recent developments and how they affect the overarching conflict.

Erik Halberg

Photo: Flickr

How US Sanctions Can Effect Accountability for Human Rights Violations Abroad
Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian lawyer who was imprisoned in Moscow. He was convicted of aiding tax evasion in 2008 and died in custody in 2009. Surprisingly, though, his legal troubles did not end there. In a trial in 2013, a Russian court further convicted Magnitsky of tax fraud–four years after his death.

Magnitsky’s death was more than just an untimely demise of a 39-year-old lawyer. While he is said to have died of acute heart failure and toxic shock caused by untreated pancreatitis, Magnitsky had been severely beaten while imprisoned. In fact, his colleagues even insisted that the convictions against him were falsified in order to obstruct Magnitsky’s own accusations of massive tax fraud by Russian officials.

An investigation into the lawyer’s death was opened in November 2009, only to be dropped in March 2013 with the conclusion that Magnitsky had been legally arrested and detained, as well as denying claims that he had been tortured and had been denied access to medical attention.

The United States passed a law in 2012 in Magnitsky’s name that imposed sanctions against Russian officials who were thought to be responsible for serious human rights violations. The law froze any U.S. assets held by these officials and went so far as to ban them from entering the United States.

In 2016, Congress took an important step in addressing global accountability for human rights violations by expanding the earlier Magnitsky law to the Global Magnitsky Act. The new act allows the executive branch of the United States government to impose visa bans and targeted sanctions on individuals responsible for human rights violations or corruption, as well as those officials who abetted or were complacent with such violations.

The Global Magnitsky Act acts as a deterrent, warning foreign officials that unlawful violence could result in serious repercussions from the United States government. Additionally, the act offers incentives to foreign governments for improving mechanisms to increase accountability for human rights violations. By working with the U.S. on human rights violations and corruption investigations, leaders from other countries can voice their contempt for human rights abuses in their own countries.

The effectiveness of these sanctions can be seen in Russia’s response to their imposition. As a result of the global embarrassment inflicted on the country following the enactment of the law, the act has become a fixation for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The act continues to endorse accountability for human rights violations in various cases around the world on the recommendations of senators as well as a group of human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch.

Richa Biplane

Photo: Flickr

Cruelest_DictatorsHere is a list of the top 10 cruelest dictators.

10. Vladimir Putin is the current president of Russia and has been in power since 1999. He spent four years as the Russian Prime Minister from 2008 to 2012, though most experts believe he was still calling the shots. Putin is a strong man who rules Russia with a fierce grip. His presidency has been lamented by human rights groups and Western governments. Putin maintains a terrible domestic civil rights policy, and viciously puts down political dissension and free speech. Moreover, under his command, Russia has engaged in military action in Georgia, Chechnya and most notably, Crimea, the invasion and annexation of which violated Ukrainian sovereignty.

9. Robert Mugabe is now in his seventh term of office as the President of Zimbabwe. Many political scientists and experts have cited massive electoral fraud and rigging in Mugabe’s favor during the 2013 election as the reasons behind his victory. According to both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Mugabe’s government systematically violates the right to shelter, food, freedom of movement and political expression. In addition, Mugabe made all acts of homosexuality illegal in Zimbabwe.

8. Muammar Gaddafi was the self-proclaimed “Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution” of Libya for more than 50 years. Gaddafi was, at first, a widely supported leader after he led the September Revolution in 1969. However, as he consolidated power, his regime became more authoritarian. His calls for Pan-Africanism were greatly overshadowed by his pitiful human rights record. During the Arab Spring, Gaddafi ordered his forces to fire on unarmed protesters calling for his resignation. The United Nations Human Rights Council called for an investigation into war crimes. Gaddafi was deposed and killed at the end of the Libyan Civil War.

7. Idi Amin’s paranoid administration was marred by rampant violence toward his political enemies. U.N. observers estimate that 100,000 to 500,000 were persecuted and killed in Uganda under his reign. Amin’s victims were originally his direct political opponents and those who supported the regime he fought to overtake. However, extrajudicial killings began to include academics, lawyers, foreign nationals and minority ethnic groups within the country.

6. Kim Jong Il continued his father’s fearsome policy of official party indoctrination. North Korea currently ranks as one of the poorest nations on the planet, with millions facing starvation, disease and lack of basic human needs. Under Kim’s reign, North Korean military spending quadrupled, yet he refused foreign aid and did not invest in his country’s farms, thereby indirectly killing millions. Kim’s policy of mass internment through the use of labor camps and virtually no political debate makes him one of history’s worst despots.

5. Pol Pot was the dictator of Cambodia for 20 years, from 1961 to 1983, as the leader of the Khmer Rouge government. His regime is characterized by the Cambodian genocide and the infamous “killing fields.” Pol Pot began a program of severe nationalization whereby he forced millions of people out of urban areas into the countryside to farm and work on forced labor projects. Due to the forced labor, poor food and medical conditions, as well as the addition of massive amounts of state-sponsored killings, nearly 25% of Cambodia’s population died under Pol Pot’s rule.

4. Bashar al-Assad is the current President of Syria. Assad’s authoritarian regime was called into question during the Arab Spring and was cited for numerous civil rights violations, including suppression of free speech, corruption and political freedom. Assad ordered massive crackdowns and thus triggered the ongoing Syrian Civil War. Government forces only grew more violent towards protesting Syrian citizens, and there have been allegations of chemical warfare. Assad has been accused of numerous human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

3. Joseph Stalin was the second leader of the Soviet Union. Though part of the original seven Bolshevik leaders, Stalin quickly consolidated sole power and became a tyrant. In the 1930s, he pursued a policy of political upheaval known as “the Great Purge.” From 1930 to 1934, millions of Soviet citizens were imprisoned, exiled or killed. Stalin also pursued a policy of massive economic reforms that led to the deaths of millions due to famine and forced labor in Gulag camps.

2. Mao Zedong was the first Chairman of the Communist Party of China, and in terms of numbers of deaths during his reign, he tops the list. Nearly 70 million Chinese died during his rule. Mao systematically broke down ancient Chinese culture and nearly ended political dissent and freedom in China. His revolutionary economic policies during “the Great Leap Forward” resulted in one of the worst famines in modern history. In addition, Mao also implemented forced labor and public executions.

1. Adolf Hitler was the Führer of Nazi Germany from 1934 to 1945. Hitler tops the list because of his disturbingly systematic genocidal policies. 5.5 million Jews and other “unwanteds” were deliberately targeted and executed in sanctioned ghettos, work camps and extermination camps. Hitler’s foreign policy and unrelenting desire to give the German people “room to live” were the major causes of World War II. Hitler also put down political dissenters and enemies and banned art, film, literature and teaching methods not sanctioned by the state.

Joe Kitaj

Sources: Forbes, List25, The Atlantic
Photo: Flickr

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

rubleEconomies of the world, listen up: the Russian economy is on the verge of a collapse with the fall of the ruble, which fell to a record low of 80 to the dollar on Tuesday, December 15, 2014. Over a month has gone by, and the Russian government and the Central Bank of Russia are still fighting to stop the free fall of the nation’s economy.

In a conference held on December 15, Russian President Vladimir Putin placed the blame for the ruble’s collapse on Western embargoes. During the three-hour speech on his country’s current economic situation, Putin focused on two primary topics: foreign policy and the economy.

President Putin offered a unique metaphor connecting Russia’s foreign policy and where the country stands on global politics. He said, “Sometimes I wonder, maybe the bear should just sit quietly, munch on berries and honey rather than chasing after piglets … but they will always try to chain [the bear] up.”

With Russia playing the bear in his metaphor, President Putin provided a closer look at his primary goal: to put a fallen Russia back on top. However, since Russia can no longer borrow money from Western banks after the invasion of Ukraine, the Russian government has been forced to dip into other savings, such as foreign aid and reserves.

According to Mr. Putin, Russia “will overcome the current situation. How much time will be needed for that? Under the most unfavorable circumstances I think it will take about two years.” Mr. Putin has high hopes for oil prices to rise and the territories in Ukraine and Siberia to become huge assets to Russia. Mr. Putin also aims to knock out political opposition within Russia and create a resilient, independent economy for Russia.

President Putin’s words during the press conference failed to gain much support in the crumbling market. While it did see a slight increase the day after his speech, the ruble has since continued to weaken against both the dollar and the euro.

The Russian Central Bank reportedly spent more than $80 billion in foreign reserves to slow the ruble’s downfall in December, and this rush to revive the ruble is continuing into 2015. Russian savings could potentially depreciate and push Russia further into an isolated economy. Mr. Putin hopes that the depreciation of the ruble will “make Russia’s economy more independent,” as it is weaned off of Western influence. With Russia being such an influential nation in Northern Asia, its continued isolation could have devastating effects on global poverty.

As Russia further separates itself from the Western economies, the world feels the weight of Russian policies.

– Alaina Grote

Sources: The Economist, The Guardian, Foreign Policy, CBS

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