Staunton, Nov. 23 – Since the beginning of the pandemic, independent demographers have documented that the Russian government has routinely understated the number of people in that country who have died from covid in order to make itself look good. But now there is evidence that in some cases, it is overstating covid deaths for the same reason.
As ever more commentators have observed, Moscow is using the pandemic to distract attention from and even to disinform about the impact of Vladimir Putin’s health care optimization program that has reduced medical services to large swaths of the population and contributed to increases in mortality from other diseases.
By boosting the number of reported covid deaths relative to all deaths over the past 18 months, experts like Moscow medical researcher Aleksandr Yevshin say, Moscow can hide excess deaths in other categories that reflect not the impact of the pandemic but are the result of Vladimir Putin’s mistaken policies.
Yevgeny Chernyshov, an investigative journalist does the math in an article for the Nakanune news agency. And his analysis also calls into question Russian government claims about covid being responsible for the radical rise in deaths from medical causes in the Russian Federation over the last year (nakanune.ru/articles/117905/).
That the Russian government should reduce death figures to make itself look good, of course, is no surprise; but that it should boost them for the same reason is likely to appear counter-intuitive. Unfortunately, this is not the first time this has been the case – or the first time Moscow will likely get away with it.
The more troubling precedent for this concerns Russian losses in World War II relative to Russian losses from Stalin’s collectivization, deportations, and purges in the 1930s. Again and again, because there was no reliable census between 1926 and 1959, those who want to make Stalin look good boost Soviet war losses.
That is a problem even today because historians who challenge the inflated figures for World War II that are designed to hide the losses from Stalin’s crimes are routinely attacked as unpatriotic or worse. But what is happening now with covid shows that the same rules of the game apply in this case as well.