macrohistory & world report


Map of Russia

Russia (capital Moscow), including Kaliningrad and the Kuril Islands

World Factbook as of October 2014: "The protection of property rights is still weak and the private sector remains subject to heavy state interference. Russia is one of the world's leading producers of oil and natural gas and is also a top exporter of metals such as steel and primary aluminum. Russia's manufacturing sector is generally uncompetitive on world markets and is geared toward domestic consumption... Slowly declining oil prices over the past few years and difficulty attracting foreign direct investment have contributed to a noticeable slowdown in GDP growth rates. In 2014, following Russia's military intervention in Ukraine, prospects for economic growth declined further, with expections that GDP growth could drop as low as zero."

Economic growth rate
2013: 1.3%
2012: 3.4%
2011: 4.3%
2010: 4.3%
2009: -7.8%

Individual income taxes are around 13% (See "Taxes around the World.)

Russia has poor health figures compared to most other European countries – especially countries with much higher revenue-expenditure figures – and is not performing as well in some other areas. World Factbook ranks Russia 162nd in life expectancy, at 66.29 years.

Unemployment rate
2013: 6.8%
2012: 5.5%
2011: 6.8%
2010: 7.5%
2009: 8.9%
2008: 6.5%

Income Distribution – GINI index
Ranks 50th among 141 countries (lower rank number is less equal).

Health expenditures
2009: 5.6% of GDP

Percentage of GDP spent on military
2005: 3.9


Living in an urban area
2010: 73%

Most of Russia's poverty is in rural areas – not that people in urban areas are doing well in income. It is said that "extreme poverty is rampant" among those who are poorly educated and without polished skills.

As with most countries, life expectancy in Russia has been very slowly improving, as have infant mortality figures.

Figures published in 2005 show Russia leading the world in abortions – 19 for each thousand people per year, compared to a little over 4 for the US and Sweden.

Domestic violence
Nov 27, 2007: A report by the BBC describes Amnesty International stating that every hour a woman in Russia is killed by her husband or partner. The report describes domestic violence perpetrated by men as routine and accepted.

World Factbook, 2006 estimate: Russian Orthodox 15-20%, Muslim 10-15%, other Christian 2% (note: estimates are of practicing worshipers; Russia has large populations of non-practicing believers and non-believers, a legacy of over seven decades of Soviet rule)


Approximately 1.8 times the area of the United States but with only 71 percent of the arable land of the United States. Capital: Moscow


Russia is a federation, independent since 24 August 1991.

Recent History

May 7, 2000: Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin becomes president (chief of state).

Feb 2006:Twenty percent of those polled in Russia credit Stalin as having had a "very positive" role in Russian history, and 30 percent credit him with having had a "somewhat positive" role. It's an approval rating of 50 percent that gives little consideration to minority rights. Those sent to labor camps, executed, or shifted en masse to new locations in the Soviet Union were a minority.

2006: A conference supported by President Putin declares the Crimean War (1853-56) as a moral and religious victory and that Russians should honor the memory of that war's leader, Tsar Nicholas I, for standing up against the West. "Today," writes the author Orlando Figes in 2010, "on Putin's orders, Nicholas's portrait hangs in the antechamber of the residential office in the Kremlin.

November 2007: A Wall Street Journal survey give President Putin an 85 percent approval rating. It is written elsewhere that ordinary Russians appreciate his lifting Russia economically, including millions out of grinding poverty. They believe he is combating corruption and is restoring Russia's greatness.

December 2007: In parliamentary elections, Putin's political party, United Russia, collectively wins 64 percent of the vote. The only other political party to win seats in parliament's lower house, the State Duma, is the Communist Party, whose candidates collectively won 11.6 percent of the vote.

June 2008: An article in the Washington Post describes Russia as lawless to an uncomfortable extent and corrupted by police and judicial authorities. The descriptions include traffic accidents in which officials or their sons, or their hookers on cocaine, escape blame, which is put onto the victims.

2008: A Russian World War II veteran complaining about his pension, which barely allows him to survive, has been heard saying that it would have been better to have let the Germans win the war. Then, he said, we would be rich like the Germans. 

2008: A woman complains to a BBC reporter that under the old socialist regime she felt more secure, that now there are people who do not know how they will feed their family. She says that "Old ladies, who spent their lives building socialism, are now dying under capitalism.

May 24, 2010: The latest on Russia comes from Fareed Zakaria's CNN television program. It tells of police officials as gangster criminals. Their recent victim was Sergei Magnitsky, a tax attorney, who "testified that police, members of the judiciary, tax officials, bankers and the Russian mafia had been involved in a $230m tax fraud against the Russian treasury." He died in prison, not yet forty-years old.

Dec 24, 2011: The third and largest massive protest in three weeks, against election fraud, corruption and Putin's rule, occurs in Moscow – the largest crowds since 1991.

Aug 22, 2012: In his book The Origins of Political Order, published in 2011, political scientist Francis Fukuyama describes the government of Russia as "fundamentally authoritarian, controlled by a shadowy network of politicians, officials, and business interests, which nonetheless hold democratic elections to legitimate its continuation in power. The quality of Russian democracy is very low: the regime controls virtually all of the major media outlets and does not permit criticism of itself, it intimidates and disqualifies opposition candidates, and it provides patronage to its own candidates and supporters. (p 386)

Aug 22, 2012: In a column in the Washington Post, Anne Applebaum describes Putin's regime has permitting political dissent so long as it appeals only to a small elite. She writes, "Although most television stations are controlled in one way or another by the Kremlin, a few low-circulation newspapers have long been allowed to keep up some criticism. Although anyone with real potential to oppose Putin was put under financial or judicial pressure — or, in some cases, arrested or murdered — other critics have been allowed to keep talking, as long as too many people aren't listening." She adds that the internet is controlled in Russia. Applebaum is writing about three young women punk rockers sentenced to three years in jail for "hooliganism."

Feb 8, 2013: Last week, President Putin proclaimed: "At the heart of all Russia's victories and achievements are patriotism, faith and strength of spirit." He said the Russian Orthodox Church "should be allowed more control over aspects of Russian life and "get every opportunity to fully serve in such important fields as the support of family and motherhood, the upbringing and education of children, youth, social development, and to strengthen the patriotic spirit of the armed forces." The Church's patriarch, Kirill the First, has gathered his insight into spiritual matters and likened Putin's time in power to a "miracle of God".

Mar, 8 2013: A column by Anne Applebaum in today's Washington Post describes a legacy of Stalinism. People in what was the Soviet Union, she writes are still today "prone to think of the state as predatory and of public officials as distant and unaccountable. They are reluctant, even afraid, to become involved in public life and automatically assume that those who do so are motivated by greed and cynicism." She claims that another legacy is leaders who believe that the 'masses' need to be controlled by propaganda and their views "studiously suppressed."

Copyright © 2009-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.