Sunday, October 10, 2021

Unique Nature of Russian Poverty Holds Country Together, Economists Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 5 – Many are inclined to compare poverty in Russia with poverty in Third World countries, but that is a mistake, economists at the Higher School of Economics say because “in the country there is no ‘universal poverty.’” Instead, it varies enormously from one region to another and what is poor one place isn’t in another.

             “In Rusisa, there are many variants of poverty and thus it is impossible to fight poverty ‘in general,’” as many assume, the HSE experts say. And that means, Dmitry Prokofyev of Novaya gazeta points out, poverty plays a different and from the point of view of the center even positive role (

            “The central power has gathered into its hands all the instruments of the struggle against poverty but cannot apply them because it is situated too ‘far from the people,’” the journalist continues. And those who are ‘next to the people’ do not have in their hands any mechanisms in order to overcome the poverty around them.”

            “In this situaiton, ‘poverty’ becomes a major element holding the social fabric of the country together,” Prokofyev says, citing the HSE studies. “And people understand this perfectly well, something that explains their surprising loyalty to the powers that be at the center. Everyone understands that making demands on local officials is senseless.”

            “In the best case,” such officials can only do a little to help local businesses. And therefore they must appeal to the authorities at the center for help. As a result, poverty plays a key role in keeping Russians in the regions loyal to Moscow because Moscow has made itself the only possible source for the improvement of the poor throughout Russia.

            And since the center proceeds from a one-size-fits-all approach, it does little to alleviate poverty in many places and thus keeps in place a major source of loyalty to itself, poor Russians in the regions who assume that the only powers who have any chance of helping them are in Moscow even if those powers do not address their issues.

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