Buggered

rossiya This bankrupt agribusiness was called Rossiya (“Russia”). Photo courtesy of Maxim Kemmerling/Kommersant and Republic

“The Data Leaves Us at a Loss”: A Few Figures That Might Surprise the Kremlin
Yevgeny Karasyuk
Republic
April 4, 2019

“Why on shoes? Why a third? Where did they get these figures?”

Dmitry Peskov, President Putin’s press secretary, responded with questions to journalists who questioned him yesterday about Rosstat’s depressing report for 2018.

According to Rosstat’s study, in which sixty thousand Russian households were surveyed, every fifth Russian skimps on fruits and vegetables. Every other Russian family cannot afford to travel anywhere when they have a week’s vacation, while every fourth family does not have enough money to invite people over to celebrate birthdays and the New Year’s holiday.

And, indeed, the report does conclude that 35% of Russians are unable to purchase each family member two pairs of seasonally appropriate footwear.

“I would be grateful to Rosstat if they clarified these figures. The data leaves us at a loss,” Peskov added.

Meanwhile, there are other figures—lots of figures—that would probably also bedevil the Kremlin if they were aired in public. Let us recall a few of them.

Nutrition
Consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor concluded that 63% of deaths in Russia were associated with bad food and poor nutrition. According to official figures, Russians spend approximately 35% of their household budgets on food, while independent researchers put that figure at over fifty percent. However, the average Russian household skimps on all purchases and tries to do without everything it can, claim the researchers behind Romir’s Coffee with Milk Index, which charts the quantities of chocolate, coffee, milk, and bottled water purchased by Russians. Researchers at RANEPA recently described the diets of Russians as unhealthy, unbalanced, and lacking in energy.

Health
According to a report by RANEPA’s Institute for Social Analysis and Forecasting, 22% of Russians who live in straitened circumstances face the stark choice of whether to buy the bare minimum of the cheapest produce or the cheapest drugs, drugs they need to survive. It is typical of Russians, not only those below the poverty line, to postpone going to the doctor, if it involves costs, noted researchers at the Institute for Health Economics at the Higher School of Economics.

Education
According to the pollsters at VTsIOM, fifty percent of Russian parents experience serious financial difficulties when getting their children ready for the first day of the school year. Over the past five years, the average sum of money Russians claim to spend getting children ready for school has increased by sixty percent, rising from 13,600 rubles to 21,100 rubles.

Housing
According to the Construction Ministry, the Russian populace’s debts for utilities and housing maintenance bills have grown by five and a half times since 2015. The ministry reported that, as of the end of last year, the total amount of this debt was 1.2 trillion rubles [approx. 16.34 billion euros]. The rates for water, electricity, gas, and other utilities and services increase rhythmically year after year, and yet the real incomes of Russians have continued to fall five years in a row.

Transportation
Forty percent of Russian car owners “try not to use their own vehicles, taking public transport instead.” Another 22% of car owners follow their lead, but do it less frequently. VTsIOM has explained the outcome of its January opinion poll by citing the concern of Russians for the environment while failing to note that the price of petrol has skyrocketed in recent years. Last year, a liter of AI-95 rose in price three times faster than inflation. The government has resorted to artificial, decidedly non-market measures to depress prices, and yet petrol in Russia is now twice as expensive as it was when the decade kicked off.

Only twelve percent of Russians believe that, when it describes the economy and the social sector, the Russian regime always or mostly tells the truth. The Levada Center has done polls on the same subject since 2010. Russian society’s confidence in what the country’s leaders and senior officials say has never been as low as it is now.

By voicing surprise at Russia’s poverty, at least on paper, the Kremlin is, apparently, determined to convince people it inhabits a parallel reality in which Russia makes one breakthrough after another, and the rank and file enjoy “stability” by way of spiting the country’s numerous enemies. Peskov seemed genuinely puzzled by Rosstat’s claim that Russian families have trouble buying shoes, but he probably had not yet read the government’s report on the increase in mortality rates in every third region of Russia. Clearly, something is wrong with the figures. In short, we expect a reaction.

Translated by the Russian Reader

The Apocalypse According to Bastrykin

vilkin-red head

The Apocalypse According to Bastrykin
The Head of the Russian Federal Investigative Committee Describes a Russia on the Brink of Disaster Due to 16 Years of Putin’s Rule 
Fyodor Krasheninnikov
Vedomosti
April 20, 2016

One of the pillars of the current regime is not inclined to see Vladimir Putin’s Russia as a stable country with reputable authorities, and people who are united around them and ready to face any and all tests. This is the conclusion one draws from Alexander Bastrykin’s sensational article.

What is Bastrykin’s Russia like? First of all, it is a country standing on the brink of collapse. Things are so bad that only extraordinary measures, described at length at the end of the article, can save it. If you take the article at face value, you might imagine the enemy’s “hybrid” armies are literally camped outside of Moscow, while in the rear the “fifth column” is blowing up the last bridge, and only a miracle and Bastrykin can save the Fatherland.

However, none of this is surprising, for in the Russia described by Bastrykin, our intelligence services are practically dysfunctional, while their foreign counterparts, especially the Americans, are powerful and omnipresent.  Bastrykin literally howls,“It’s time to erect an effective barrier against the information war!” This appeal even serves as the article’s headline. It follows that, until April 18, 2016, there was no effective barrier against enemy propaganda and agitation whatsoever, and Russia’s foes could do literally anything they liked.

The vulnerability of Bastrykin’s Russia is quite easy to understand and not at all surprising, for, according to the article, the country has not been very lucky with its population. Bastrykin’s Russia is populated by two categories of people. The first are gullible and prone to react unreasonably to the most trivial things. The second are unprincipled scoundrels, ready to enlist in any intelligence service, extremist or terrorist organization for money.

The first category cause a lot of trouble. As soon as these excitable simpletons read something on the uncensored Internet, hear an unorthodox take on a story or find out someone does not recognize the outcome of a referendum, they immediately join forces with the second category, carefully recruited by foreign intelligence services, and commence destroying their own country. So the first category should be isolated from everything as much as possible, while the second, obviously, should be isolated physically and, preferrably, have their property confiscated as well.

Bastrykin’s Russia is a permanent victim and helpless puppet in the hands of the US. In Putin’s seventeenth year in power, Bastrykin unflatteringly reports on “the shaping of a pro-American and pro-western so-called non-systemic opposition in Russia, and the spread of inter-confessional and political extremism[.]” The author has nothing to say directly about the president, which is odd in itself, for it transpires that under Putin’s administration all kinds of extremism have flourished, and thousands of Russian citizens have traveled “to areas of heightened terrorist activity [through] Turkey and Egypt, where they travel both directly and through third countries[.]” They do this, obviously, because life is no bed of roses. The rest, as I have already said, are just waiting for someone to stir them up.

What about the president?

“Enough of playing at pseudo-democracy and following pseudo-liberal values,” Bastrykin tells him.

The trouble, it turns out, is he has flirted too long with pseudo-democracy.

Judging by Bastrykin’s article, the upper echelons of powers do not expect anything good from the future and Russia’s people, and are openly readying themselves for a merciless fight against any encroachments on their right to remain in power. The head of the Investigative Committee has issued an explicit warning. Whatever abysses the Russian economy plunges into, whatever misfortunes come crashing down on the heads of its people, any dissatisfaction with the authorities will be interpreted a priori as a consequence of the activity of western intelligence agencies, as extremism and terrorism, and will be decisively crushed. Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe Bastrykin is alone in thinking this way.

Fyodor Krasheninnikov is president of the Institute for the Development and Modernization of Public Relations, Yekaterinburg. Translated by the Russian Reader. Image courtesy of Alexander Vilkin