Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Number of Russian Hospital Beds for Pregnant Women Down by Almost Half Since 1990

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 31 – As a result of the collapse of public services in the 1990s and Vladimir Putin’s health optimization program more recently, there has been a massive reduction in the number of birthing homes in rural Russia and an almost 50 percent decline in the number of hospital beds allocated to pregnant women. 

            In 1990, government statistics report, there were 122,000 hospital beds for women about to give birth; in 2015, the last year for which comprehensive statistics are available, that number had fallen by almost half to 69,400, just slightly more than the 62,900 that had existed at the end of World War II (

In major cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, improvements in equipment and personnel in the remaining hospitals has driven down both maternal mortality and infant mortality; but in rural areas, the reduction in hospital beds for pregnant women has had disastrous consequences, undercutting Moscow’s hopes for demographic improvement.

For Russia as a whole, maternal mortality has indeed fallen significantly, to 10.1 deaths per 100,000 births in 2015 and infant mortality during pregnancy and the first days of life has also fallen countrywide to 8.29 deaths per 1,000 births. But in many regions, the situation is very different and very bad.

In Magadan, maternal mortality is 57 deaths per 100,000 births – almost six times the all-Russia figure; in Tomsk, it is 48; and in Buryatia and Oryol 35. Infant mortality is also higher in many regions. The RBC report notes that it is now 18.8 deaths per 1,000 live births in the Chukchi Autonomous District.

These higher death rates reflect the fact that with the closure of birthing houses in rural areas, many Russians have to travel enormous distances over often impassable roads if they go by car or by air if they can afford it – or if in a particular locale, the health ministry is willing and able to send a plane.

Russia Spends Far Less on Human Capital than EU Countries – and That Isn’t Even the Worst News, Khachaturov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 31 – As percentages of GDP, the Russian government in 2015 spent half as much on healthcare and three times as much on national defense as the average countries of the European Union, Arnold Khachaturov says, a situation that if sustained will lead to national degradation over time.

            But the far worse news, the Novaya gazeta journalist says, is that the government’s lack of interest in investing in human capital is mirrored by a lack of interest among most Russians in investing in themselves through health care and education and thus putting themselves in line for a better future (

            Many have pointed to “the passive adaptation” of the majority of Russians to the current economic crisis.  Most have simply accepted that the way things are is “the new normal” and that they cannot do anything about it, an attitude that is making it even more difficult for the country and its people to escape the current situation.

            “Only 15 percent of Russians,” he says citing the findings of the Institute of Social Analysis and Prediction of the Russian Academy of the Economy and State Service, are engaged in any active efforts to improve their situation via raising their qualifications through education or seeking additional sources of income. 

            The other 85 percent is “paralyzed by a feeling of its own impotence and does not see any prospects for itself.” Consequently, members of this large group “do not invest in education, their own health, and so on,” a pattern that feeds on itself and makes the situation ever worse for themselves and Russia as a whole. 

            Only two groups of the population have a positive outlook: “workers of the force structures and those in the bureaucratic apparatus of the state, i.e., the representatives of the two most promising professions in the eyes of Russians … a manifestation of the paternalistic model of power in which the state plays the key role in solving economic problems of the population.”

            This is especially so in economies based on the extraction and sale of raw materials and a search for rents.  That search “rapidly becomes the norm not only for elites but also for the entire society, and shifting away from such arrangements is very difficult even after a reduction of the size of ‘the pie.’”

            Many have argued that Moscow needs to promote change by providing more assistance to the power strata of the population and to the creative classes. But there is little money to do the former and no particular political inclination to do the latter, Khachaturov suggests.  Instead, the Kremlin has been moving in the opposite direction.

            As a result, he continues, “the share of social payments in the incomes of Russians last year reached a historic maximum of 19 percent, four percent more than the same measure in the USSR in which people were building socialism.” Indeed, “for 40 percent of the population [now,] transfers from the budget exceed half of their incomes.”

            Once again, many in the Russian capital are talking about improving the situation with regard to human capital. But “the country has fallen into the trap of paternalism: above there aren’t the former resources and political will and below there isn’t a readiness to struggle for economic freedoms.”

            One need not be an expert on economics to understand, Khachaturov says, that “the scenarios of innovative development require a quite different social atmosphere.”

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Moscow’s Campaign against Jehovah’s Witnesses a Threat to All Believers in Russia

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 30 – The Putin regime has had undeserved success in presenting itself as a defender of Christianity, but its campaign against Russia’s 170,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses, who now face criminal charges and abuse just for practicing their faith, not only shows how false those claims are but also represents a threat to all Christians and others in that country.

            Not only have Russian courts classified the Witnesses as “an extremist organization” on a par with Al-Qaeda and ISIS, but the regime has sent a signal that some in Russian Orthodox fundamentalists have taken to mean that they can attack the followers of this denomination with impunity. 

            The staff at the world headquarters of the Jehovah’s Witnesses have compiled a list of 50 violations of the rights of believers just since the April 20 Russian ban was imposed. These range from official warnings to dismissals to refusal to allow Jehovah’s Witnesses to perform alternative service to acts of violence, arson and vandalism (

                Among the most horrific of these incidents were an April 30th fire set at the Jehovah’s Witness hall in Lutsino on April 30, vandalism of a hall in Voronezh oblast, threats to parishioners in Yekaterinburg oblast, a pogrom of violence directed at Jehovah’s Witnesses in Izhevsk, and the firebombing of a hall in Zheshart in the Komi Republic.

            Importantly, reports on these crimes have been corroborated by rights activists in Russia itself (, but those responsible have yet to be brought to justice.

            If such actions had been inflicted upon almost any other religious group, there would have been an international outcry; but sadly, that has not been the case in these instances.  However, for the reasons Pastor Niemueller outlined nearly 80 years ago in Nazi Germany, there should be lest those who are attacking the Jehovah’s Witnesses today attack others tomorrow.