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How Russians Live
March, 2008

The following resource is meant to quickly introduce the reader to everyday life in Russia: how Russians live, earn, spend, study, relax, and worship. This news review is part of SRAS's monthly "obzor" publications. For more reviews, see the newsletter for this corresponding month.

To receive the free monthly newsletter and obzori by email, simply sign up.   


Health and Demographics
Public Health Struggles, Five Star Hospital Opens

Russia's Health and Demographic Situation
An entire issue of Russian Analytical Digest devoted to the subject. (pdf)

Russia's population down 0.17% in 2007 to 142 mln
The statistics service said that last year the mortality rate in Russia declined 4% compared to 2006, reaching some 2 million deaths, while the birth rate grew 8.3%.

A Robust State Fails To Resuscitate Health Care
"The doctors didn't suspect anything either because my medical card said everything was fine. So it was a shock for everyone when the baby was born with multiple congenital defects."

How Doctors Battled the Bureaucrats - And Won
When doctors at the Tarusa regional hospital teamed up to open a cardiology center, they got their knuckles rapped. It was a typical story of red tape run amok just waiting to happen.

Life Expectancy Rates among Russian Men to Continue to Fall
Demographers in the Russian Academy of Sciences are predicting that life expectancy among Russian men will continue to fall over the next four decades.

More than Half of Russians Can't Afford Medical Care
Fifty to seventy percent of Russians – some 70 to 100 million people -- do not get the medical care they need because they lack insurance or sufficient funds to pay for it.

Russian Poverty Blights A Nation
Russia's demographic crisis is one of the biggest challenges facing its next president - a low birth-rate and early deaths mean the nation is literally dying.

First Clinic For Millionaires Opens In Moscow
It became the first-ever hospital of the kind that has ever been organized in Russia.

Russian politicians learn to say goodbye to vodka?
The tradition to drink alcohol for any kind of success (from winning elections to passing bills) and to celebrate all the holidays of the calendar is too deep-rooted in Russia.


Infrastructure and Development
Roads, Water, and Social Mobility

Paradise For Rich Is Hell for Villagers
Voronino residents have no doubt who is behind their troubles: Araz Agalarov, a flamboyant, Baku-born businessman with a fortune that Forbes estimates at $1.2 billion.

Villagers despair as Russia elects new leader
A lot of people feel disenchanted and abandoned, blaming the Kremlin for its failure to let some of the booming oil wealth trickle down to the poor.

Putin generation: Opportunity – and corruption – test a young entrepreneur.
It took the help of her husband, a businessman, to get $180,000 in start-up loans and complete a six-month slog through Russia's formidable bureaucracy to obtain a license.

Middle Class Grows Atop
Of all population groups, the families with annual income of $125,000 to $250,000 manifested the record growth of 164 percent past year.

From roads of ruin to roads to prosperity
Russia’s poor roads were in the spotlight as the country’s top transport officials met on Tuesday to discuss the strategic development of the country's transport system over the next 20 years.

Half of Russia's Public Water Supply Unfit for Human Consumption
Half of Russia’s tap water does not meet basic health standards, a shortcoming that cuts decades off the lives of that country’s population, according to participants in last week’s Duma debate on a new federal program that seeks to address it.

Nikolai Gogol had it right - fools and roads should not mix
Anyone who drives in Russia is familiar with Nikolai Gogol’s observation that its two greatest misfortunes are fools and bad roads, although many wonder why one appears to have been in charge of the other for so long.


Xenophobia and Violence
Women, Religious and Ethnic Minorities Targets 

Nationalists Obsess Over Medvedev's Roots
"We are categorically against him because he is an ethnic Jew and does not conceal his sympathies toward Judaism."

Antisemitism down in Russia but up in Ukraine
Antisemitism is decreasing in Russia but still needs to be fought, Rabbi Berl Lazar told Interfax on March 18.

Nationalism, xenophobia "a time bomb" under Russia's sovereignty
"Belligerent nationalism, xenophobia, appeals to violence and ethnic hatred have always been and will always be a time bomb under our sovereignty," Putin said.

National pride revives Russian soul
The Russians I met had a strong sense of patriotism.

Congratulations, President-elect Dmitry Medvedev. Now confront record levels of racist violence in Russia's streets.
Increasingly, ordinary young men with no ties to hate groups take part in the attacks.

Over 90% of women in Russia suffer from family violence
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).


Metropolitan of Orthodox Church Abroad Dies at 80

Metropolitan Laurus Is Dead at 80
He was instrumental in healing the rift in the Russian Orthodox Church.

Russian priests consider guns to fight crime wave
Police in a central Russian region have advised priests to apply for firearms licenses so they can defend their churches from marauding thieves who have been stealing religious icons at gunpoint.

Alexy II wishes Dmitry Medvedev success in shaping new Russia of the 3rd millennium
He hopes that "good relations between secular and religious authorities will further develop and strengthen."

Orthodox Church calls on the West not to view Russia as "aboriginal country"
The priest called on Western politicians not to view Russia as "society of aborigines, which should grow up to share the patterns and values of colonists."


Education and History
Anniversary of Stalin's death, Educators spar with government

A Trip to the (Russian State) Library
To get a library card, which is required for admission, simply show up at the registration desk with your passport and 100 rubles.

The Great Memory Purge
Today marks 55 years since the death of Joseph Stalin. But in Russia, his terrible legacy will receive scant attention.

Russia-published Reference Books Brim With Nonsense
Experts distribute the blame among the publishers, who hire incompetent authors, and the state - for failing to exercise the proper control.

Corrupt academics, bureaucrats and politicians
A Siberian university student bit back when a bribe he was asked to pay a teacher to pass an examination failed to deliver the success.

Russian Academia Under Fire
On any given day, the Russian media is filled with reports of restaurants, clubs, factories, hospitals, schools, and apartments succumbing to the searing flames of Vulcan.

Activist Students Expelled
The students from Moscow State University's sociology faculty claim they were singled out after lobbying against suspect academic practice and unaffordable canteen prices.

Records On USSR Collapse Could Be Declassified By 2021
According to the chief of the Russian National Archives.

Bologna about to take root
After years of dragging its heels, Russia is preparing to roll out the Bologna process' two-tier skills and competency-based higher education reforms within a year.

Putin legacy: In the classroom, a more controlled view of history
Brought up amid the Soviet empire's collapse, many 20-something Russians received an education rich in varied historical viewpoints. Today's youths may not get that opportunity.


European University

Students Protest Uni Closure
Students, graduates and teachers of the European University in St. Petersburg staged a theatrical event in the city on Friday to protest against the closure of the university last month.

Banned university stages blog protests
Protests were expected when last month authorities shut down St Petersburg's European University, one of the city's most respected higher education institutions.

Academicians' Open Letter on European University at St.Petersburg
…to the President of the Russian Federation V.V. Putin and the Newly Elected President of the Russian Federation D.A. Medvedev…


Internet, Newspapers, and TV

NTV's Past Points Toward REN-TV's Future
A new public advisory board has been created to oversee REN-TV. The board will most likely eventually oversee the entire National Media Group which will be headed by a Unified Russia Duma Deputy.

Liars Without Borders
Does anybody really believe that in every other country around the world except the former Soviet Union, journalists never die from car crashes or suspicious suicides, never have untimely heart attacks or other fatal illnesses?

Russia Pumps Tens of Millions Into Burnishing Image Abroad
When Svetlana Mironyuk became director general of the Russian news and information agency RIA Novosti, she discovered that the descendant of the Soviet Union's global propaganda machine was dying on its feet.

Peter Savodnik, Postcard: Moscow
The paper still relishes its role as a combatant. There is no pretext of objectivity. Novaya Gazeta may be pro-Western, but the kind of journalism the paper churns out would hardly sit well at a newspaper in, say, the U.S., where reporters are expected to see both sides.

Chechnyan President Joins Union of Journalists
The Chechen chapter of the Russian Union of Journalists had conferred membership on Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov for services rendered to Chechen journalism.

Media Interest
Dmitry Peskov is a press attaché to the Russian president, the main link between the leader and the media. He appeared on Russia Today to discuss his career and the president's relations with the media.

Watchdog notes hidden campaigning in Russian election run-up
"This means the presidential candidate engaged in hidden campaigning and enjoyed free airtime."

Russians' political apathy frustrates feisty young journalist
"People here do not need my truth," says Chukovskaya. "Why should I risk my life when they don't care?"

Invasion of the Media Snatchers
I can't say how many times I have read the phrases "loss of media freedoms" in the same sentence with "rollback of democracy." But if this were really the case, how do we explain the fact that the MT can be found - free of charge - at about 500 establishments across the capital?


Internet Concerns

Russia not to introduce any special restrictions in Internet
"It is a personal business of the site author whether or not to register the website."

Kremlin Moves To Rein In Last Media Refuge
One new bill proposes tighter state control over Russian online news sites. Another restricts foreign ownership of Internet service providers (ISPs).

No Internet Thaw Under Dima
The Kremlin seems to be moving toward the Chinese model, in which the government denies citizens access to anything other than officially approved web sites.

Blogger Charged in Russia
Prosecutors have charged a Russian blogger who wrote on a popular Internet site that police should be publicly incinerated in what is believed to be the country's first such case against a blogger.

Russia Toying With Internet Censorship?
Site administrators at the popular muckraking news aggregate site learned that their site was being blocked by about a half dozen Russian Internet providers.


Art and Culture
Maslenitsa, Theatre, and Mindsets

Words to remember from Russia
The unequivocal custom of speaking your mind is one aspect of Russian village life I've never quite become accustomed to.

Celebrating Winter's End In Russia
A tradition that goes back hundreds, maybe thousands of years, Maslenitsa is a week-long festival that celebrates the beginning of the end of the Russian winter. With Video.

Putin adds theater critic to credentials
He's driven trains, sailed on a submarine, flown a fighter jet and holds a black-belt in judo. Now Russian President Vladimir Putin is dabbling in a new area -- theater criticism.

Griboyedov’s Woe to Wit
President Vladimir Putin’s surprise visit to see “Gore ot Uma” at the Sovremennik Theater and his criticism of the rendering of the principal role has sparked interest in the play itself.

Chechnya Hosts Top Russian Soccer Game for First Time Since War
Grozny is preparing for its first major soccer game in 14 years as Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov tries to revive the capital after two wars between rebels and Russian forces.

Soviet rule is back at Bolshoi as iron-fist director returns
Fifteen dancers protested against Grigorovich's departure with a one-day strike.

Russia Is Luring Back N.H.L. Stars
They are seeking to reclaim a sport viewed here as a national tradition that has been crippled, many say, by the pilfering of hockey stars over the last decade and a half by the N.H.L.

Moscow Tretyakov Plans $150 Million Growth After Censorship Row
While the Paris censorship row created a divide between the museum and the contemporary-art scene, Rodionov is determined to "fill in the gaps" in the collection.

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