Events and trends in Russia over the week of May 16-20th
1.Casualties in the Russian Federation:
“The poor citizens are sent to die in Ukraine”
In the last review, we provided information about the recognized Russian losses in Ukraine in relation to the population of the federation subjects – the number of recognized (by local authorities) casualties per 100,000 population. As a base for analysis, we took the data from the calculation of BBC Russia and Rosstat data on the population of the federation subjects as of the end of 2021.
In this review issue, the field for analysis has been expanded by assessing the level of income of the population and the level of unemployment in the subjects of the federation. The conclusions are obvious: to fight in Ukraine (and die for Russian interests) go primarily from regions that lag in development even on the average Russian level. This also explains the level of looting among the occupiers: theft from Ukrainians is perceived as a “natural” way to improve their financial situation and get goods not available to them.
Methodology and basic data
- The calculation is based on the data from BBC Russia (last updated on May 13th, 2022) and data from the Federal Statistics Service of the Russian Federation on population and average wages in the constituent entities of the federation.
- Based on this, we derive the number of recognized losses per 100 thousand of the population for each federation subject. In a separate column, we give data on the average wage in the selected region and its relationship with the average Russian level.
|Place||Region||Number of losses||Per 100 thousand population||Average salary (Russian rubles), 2021||Average salary in % to the all-Russian level||Unemployment rate (Rosstat, 2021)|
|1||The Republic of Buryatia||105||106.9||41724||81.68%||10.4%|
|3||Republic of North Ossetia – Alania||60||87||30508||59.72%||14.6%|
|5||Jewish Autonomous Region||9||58.8||35527||69.55%||6.1%|
|9||Mari El Republic||32||47.7||47172||92.34%||6.2%|
|10||The Republic of Dagestan||146||46||30109||58.94%||16.4%|
|Regions with the smallest share of recognized losses|
|84||Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug||1||0.18||100506||196.75%||2.4|
|86||Nenets Autonomous Okrug||0||0||110759||216.82%||7.9%|
* Sevastopol is given in the table with the provision that this is the territory of Ukraine, occupied by the Russian Federation, where recruiting to the law enforcement agencies is carried out.
Even a brief comparison of the table allows us to draw the following conclusions:
- There are relatively few combatants from the central (European part) of the Russian Federation fighting in Ukraine. For the most part, Russian troops are staffed by people from national autonomies and remote regions of Russia.
- All regions with the largest share of losses have an average wage below the national level. Moreover, in most of these republics, people have especially low incomes, even if the analysis does not take into account the subjects of the federation where the “northern allowances” operate).
- All regions with the largest share of losses have an unemployment rate that exceeds the national average (average unemployment in the Russian Federation is 5.2%). The exception is the occupied Sevastopol.
- The regions with the smallest share of losses have an income level that exceeds the national average and the minimum (by Russian standards) unemployment levels. The exception is the Nenets Autonomous Okrug and the Yaroslavl Region (according to the share of the unemployed).
Russia is a large country with varying levels of economic development across regions. Therefore, the average figures for the country do little to reflect the real state of affairs in a particular region. In particular, there are increasing wage rates for residents of the northern and hard-to-reach regions. In general, in the Russian Federation, incomes at the level of 80 to 90% can be considered “normal” compared to the all-Russian ones – this is an accurate indicator without taking into account the influence of the “northern allowances”.
All regions with the largest share of losses can be classified as depressive or lagging in development. Only in three of them (Tyva, Buryatia, and Sevastopol) the average salary level can be considered acceptable. But at the same time, Tuva and Buryatia have the highest rates of recognized unemployment. Residents can earn, but mainly in the public service (officials) or in law enforcement agencies. The level of income of managers and the military just provides high statistics on salaries. Sevastopol is an exception due to its specifics – it is the base of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation and, accordingly, the city’s performance is higher due to the proportion of military personnel with their salary levels.
The remaining seven regions from the TOP-10 in terms of losses lag behind the average Russian indicators both in terms of income levels and employment levels. Simply put, the locals have neither jobs nor incomes.
The second feature is remoteness from the center, belonging to the inner Russian “periphery” on a national or economic basis.
And vice versa, regions with the smallest share of losses are either resource-rich (mining) or a place of business concentration, naturally, with an income level significantly higher than the national one.
Thus, we have a simple fact – residents of the least developed territories are sent to die in Ukraine. We are talking not only about income but about the availability of work, infrastructure, and the availability of civilizational benefits. Therefore, what Ukrainians think is wild in the behavior of the occupiers is often quite normal and ordinary for their “smaller” homeland.
A significant difference in the proportion of confirmed losses in the population of the regions (for example, residents of Moscow were buried 450 times less than residents of Buryatia) may look like a possible basis for social discontent and protests in the regions.
However, only in three regions – Buryatia, Tyva, and North Ossetia, the share of losses approached or exceeded 1% of the population. At the same time, all of them are considered “national outskirts”, and military service for their residents is an opportunity to achieve the status of a “full-fledged Russian”. There are no alternative options to make a career (given the unemployment rate). With such high losses at this level, they can be perceived as a “natural price for success”.
It will be dangerous for the Kremlin to reach the level of recognized (!) losses of 1-2% of the population in the European part of the Russian Federation. With such a development in the situation, any victory statement will look doubtful – the price is too high for a “special operation”.
2.USSR-2 is the main idea of the Russian power, which could be
possibly leading to the re-establishment of the Soviet Union
During the previous week, from May 17th to 18th, there were made three (as if unrelated!) statements in Russia:
- Crimean State Duma deputy Mikhail Sheremet said he was proposing to return the red flag of the USSR, which in Russia is called the Victory Flag, as the new state flag of Russia;
- The State Duma has stated that it is considering canceling the gubernatorial election in the fall so that there is no criticism of the “special operation”;
- Putin’s spokesman Peskov said that Putin knows where he is leading the country (this phrase in various interpretations is regularly repeated on all Russian TV shows).
All these statements could mean the following:
- Russia is preparing for the tightening of screws and the remnants of democracy can be destroyed under the guise of.
- Russia continues to think about the restoration of the USSR-2. So far, there is no clear or realistic plan; however, there are desires and some sporadic movements. But the USSR-2 is the main fixated idea of Russia’s government, for which rising from the knees should logically end with the re-establishment of the Union.
- Putin remains the only cementing factor for the elites.
However, it is not the conclusions that are more important to us, but their psychological aspects:
The frequency of the mentions of Putin, who knows what he is doing, speaks about the confusion of elites who are beginning to lose one of the essential things in life: predictability of their future. The restoration of the USSR is good, but what it will look like, especially given the economic sanctions and the closure of half the world for these elites, is not clear yet.
Tightening the screws and possibly destroying the remnants of democracy must still provide some core on which the entire power vertical with its counterbalance systems will hold. Elites are now beating themselves in the chest and shouting about the Ukrainian fascists, primarily because they are waiting for a change in the game’s rules.
The model where there were security officers, four political parties, etc., in the absence of remnants of democracy, must be transformed (because the pyramid will collapse). So far, no one understands how this transformation will occur in the elites. Therefore, we see many mentions that “Putin is our everything.”
When someone does not know what to do, the key solution is to “praise the king”. The war has already shown that Russia is a colossus on clay feet without a change in governance. Today the Russian Federation is facing a challenge: to change the system and “lose” part of the elites or pretend that nothing is happening.
Putin is a nuclear weapon in the Russian PR system. The one who launched and actively supported this narrative is either an idiot or a traitor. The issue is that this approach will either make Putin an even greater deity than he is now or, most likely, turn him into an aging dictator played by a retinue.
3. CSTO anniversary summit demonstrates the unwillingness of member states to openly support Moscow’s position on the war in Ukraine
The meeting of the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) leaders held in Russia, dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the organization, was a blatant attempt by the Russian leadership to prove its regional ambitions and create a picture that would show support for their international politics by member countries.
The results of the meeting were modest and mostly reduced to political PR. Even the event’s media coverage was quite limited and did not go beyond a dry statement post-factum the meeting, quoting speeches by leaders of states and especially the President of the Russian Federation. The final document approved by the participants, which is rather superficial and politically weak, does not contain any points that would show the organization’s evolution or the countries’ intentions to work on this platform.
Moreover, the statements of the leaders of the CSTO member states were contrasting. They once again showed reluctance and unwillingness to support Moscow’s position on the war in Ukraine openly, drew more attention to those issues of regional cooperation that concerned them more than Ukraine, or spoke very abstractly and tried to avoid Ukraine as such:
President of Belarus A. Lukashenko acknowledged that the CSTO is not a single and solitary organization, once again spoke about the “Western threat,” and made several formal statements about the Union State of Belarus and Russia, which is still not fully functioning, despite Moscow’s pressure on official Minsk. Despite reiterating Russia’s main theses on Ukraine and the West, Lukashenko has not made any promises or statements that indicate that the Belarusian government is ready to change its position or do more to support Russia in the war in Ukraine;
Armenian President N. Pashinyan reiterated the criticism of the Belarusian President for the lack of full solidarity in CSTO and stressed that the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh is deteriorating, complaining that CSTO did not respond to Yerevan’s request for help during last year’s meeting and that the CSTO member states sold weapons to Azerbaijan that were used during the war against Armenia;
The President of Tajikistan E. Rahmon, stressed the aggravation of the situation in Afghanistan. In particular, according to him, the CSTO should be ready to escalate the situation on the borders of Central Asia with Afghanistan;
President of Kazakhstan K-Zh. Tokayev also decided to focus on the situation in Afghanistan, which he believes is a threat to the security of Central Asia. He also raised the issue of further development of the CSTO peacekeeping forces and called for their integration into international peacekeeping operations conducted by the UN;
The President of Kyrgyzstan S. Zhaparov, made several statements about the May 9th holiday, praised the development of the CSTO, complained about attempts by foreign forces to interfere in the internal affairs of member countries, and also touched on the threat of Afghanistan. He called for making the issue a priority for the CSTO member states, particularly to work on humanitarian aid to Afghans and the security of the southern borders of Central Asia. Moreover, the Kyrgyz leader criticized the sanctions, saying the situation that led to the sanctions was exacerbating the situation in Kyrgyzstan itself.
Analysis of the CSTO summit allows us to draw the following conclusions:
- The role of the CSTO in regional and international security systems is limited and modest, as its members are well aware of it;
- The CSTO will be weakened by the war in Ukraine and the international turmoil associated with it, as the organization is not sufficiently unified and powerful and will, therefore, lose to competitors such as bilateral cooperation projects or regional organizations such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) led by China and India;
- The CSTO summit showed that all member states do not want to help Russia in the war in Ukraine but prefer to avoid this topic and deal with regional security issues that interest them more and in which Russia has limited influence;
Nevertheless, the CSTO member states understand the issues associated with the situation in Ukraine. However, they prefer not to abandon ties with Russia to balance their position in international affairs, as for them, the monopolization of influence by the West is no better than the dominance of Russia or China.