Daily Archives: February 6, 2007

Russia by the (Horrifying Neo-Soviet) Numbers

Russian Poverty by the Numbers


According to the most recent data published by the Kremlin (as reported last week on
La Russophobe), the average wage for a Russian person is $100 per week or $400 per month or $4,800 per year.

Let’s assume this data is correct, even though it’s almost certainly an overstatement (because the Kremlin is run by a clan of professional liars who have every incentive to cook these numbers and make themselves look better). We know that Russia has a significant number of millionaires. What is the significance of the fact that it does on the average wage?

The significance is this: for every person with an income of $1,000,000 per year Russia must have over 200 people who only earn $100 per year ($8 per month or $2 per week, fifty times times less than the national average) in order for the national average to remain around $5,000 per year. {here’s the ghastly math: 200 people earning $100 per year earn a total of $20,000 plus one person earning $1,000,000 equals $1,020,000 in total income divided by 201 people equals $5,100 per person per year on average}

It’s been reported that Russia has roughly 90,000 millionaires today. Assuming that each of them has an income of $1,000,000 per year, that means Russia must have 18 million people earning just $100 per year in order to keep the national average at $4,800 per year. That is equivalent to the populations of Russia’s seven largest cities (Moscow, Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Nizhny Novogorod, Yekaterinburg, Samara and Omsk) COMBINED. It’s 12% of Russia’s total population.

Now, the picture is probably not quite that bleak, because a “millionaire” might merely be defined as a person who has a million dollars of net worth, and such a person could conceivably earn well under $1 million per year. So let’s say she earns only $100,000 per year. If Russia has 90,000 people with a net worth of $1 million each earning $100,000 per year, it would need 1.8 million people each earning just $100 per year ($2 per week) to keep the average for the group at $5,000. That’s more than the total population of Russia’s third-largest city, Novosibirsk.

And that’s probably a very conservative estimate, because the 90,000 millionaires could include any number of billionaires and many people with annual incomes of far more than $100,000. It’s quite safe to say that although Russia’s national average wage may be $400 (it’s probably lower) Russia has at least 2 million people “living” on less than $0.50 per work day in wages, or less than $0.06 per hour for an eight-hour workday.

That’s to say nothing of the fact that being paid $400 for four forty-hour weeks (160 hours) works out to an average hourly wage of $2.50 per hour in Russia, which is one-third the U.S. minimum legal wage ($7.50 per hour in California, $7.15 in New York). Russia’s minimum legal wage is 1,100 rubles per month as of May 1, 2006, or roughly $41 — so even those earning $100 per month are getting more than twice the legal minimum of $0.25 per hour for a 160 hour week.

In other words, Russia has a vast, vast underclass of desperately poor people propping up a tiny overclass of millionaires, just exactly the way it did a century ago in 1907, a situation that triggered the crazed Bolshevik revolution that led to the killing of more Russians by Russians than by any foreign enemy. Russians have learned nothing from this. They’re doing the same thing all over again.

And at the same time, Russia has exactly the same form of government, a KGB dictatorship, that it had in Soviet times (no local elections, no opposition political parties, no independent TV news, dissidents being jailed and murdered, ridiculous 70%+ approval ratings for the dictator, etc.), a situation that caused the USSR to implode and disapppear. Russians have learned nothing from that either. They’re doing that same thing all over again, too.

Litvinenko’s Widow on Julia Svetlichnaya

When last we heard, Julia Svetlichnaya was threatening to sue the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten and the British newspaper Times of London for reporting that she had undisclosed connnections to the Kremlin which could draw her credibility into question when she claimed that Alexander Litvinenko was a blackmailer and a crazy person.

Has anybody heard of Julia actually filing suit, or taking any further action against either paper? Has she made any further public comment of any kind? It seems this has not occurred. For sure, she’s ignored all the questions that La Russophobe asked her on the ZheZhe blog.

First we learned that Julia’s associate James Heartfield was a communist extremist, then the BBC aired two different documentaries showing Litvinenko for who he really was, images totally at odds with what Julia wrote, and now blogger David McDuff offers the following comments from Litvinenko’s widow about Ms. Svetlichnaya and her story:

What theory are you inclined to believe? Was it revenge for something in the past, or was it related to something he’d got mixed up in more recently? There was even a story in the press that he’d helped to make a “dirty bomb”, either for the Chechens or for Al Qaeda.

‘Well, it was dreadful when those insinuations began, when Yulia Svetlichnaya made those statements – I saw her at our house. Sasha invited her once, because she was writing a book. When she began to say that Sasha bombarded her with email messages – I mean, Sasha distributed messages to all his friends, sent them to hundreds of addresses. He believed that if you possessed information, you should share it, especially if it was something someone had written about Russia. And if you didn’t like it, then you could simply delete it, or start blocking it. But that statement, that interview about how he might have sold information and blackmailed businessmen, the FSB – that was totally absurd, it went against everything Sasha had ever done. Perhaps that was the real trouble – he was always open and frank. At the press conference he sat with his face uncovered, he didn’t wear dark glasses or a mask. If he wrote articles, he signed them with his own name, even if he didn’t need to. It was all on public record. As they once said, the system doesn’t forgive – and they will reach and punish anyone, in order to teach a lesson to others who might take it into their heads to speak openly. Anya Politkovskaya…. that was also a lesson, that it’s forbidden to write like that. Sasha was never a spy, he never sold out any interests. He was a regular employee of the FSB, with secrets of a completely different kind.”

Litvinenko’s Widow on Julia Svetlichnaya

When last we heard, Julia Svetlichnaya was threatening to sue the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten and the British newspaper Times of London for reporting that she had undisclosed connnections to the Kremlin which could draw her credibility into question when she claimed that Alexander Litvinenko was a blackmailer and a crazy person.

Has anybody heard of Julia actually filing suit, or taking any further action against either paper? Has she made any further public comment of any kind? It seems this has not occurred. For sure, she’s ignored all the questions that La Russophobe asked her on the ZheZhe blog.

First we learned that Julia’s associate James Heartfield was a communist extremist, then the BBC aired two different documentaries showing Litvinenko for who he really was, images totally at odds with what Julia wrote, and now blogger David McDuff offers the following comments from Litvinenko’s widow about Ms. Svetlichnaya and her story:

What theory are you inclined to believe? Was it revenge for something in the past, or was it related to something he’d got mixed up in more recently? There was even a story in the press that he’d helped to make a “dirty bomb”, either for the Chechens or for Al Qaeda.

‘Well, it was dreadful when those insinuations began, when Yulia Svetlichnaya made those statements – I saw her at our house. Sasha invited her once, because she was writing a book. When she began to say that Sasha bombarded her with email messages – I mean, Sasha distributed messages to all his friends, sent them to hundreds of addresses. He believed that if you possessed information, you should share it, especially if it was something someone had written about Russia. And if you didn’t like it, then you could simply delete it, or start blocking it. But that statement, that interview about how he might have sold information and blackmailed businessmen, the FSB – that was totally absurd, it went against everything Sasha had ever done. Perhaps that was the real trouble – he was always open and frank. At the press conference he sat with his face uncovered, he didn’t wear dark glasses or a mask. If he wrote articles, he signed them with his own name, even if he didn’t need to. It was all on public record. As they once said, the system doesn’t forgive – and they will reach and punish anyone, in order to teach a lesson to others who might take it into their heads to speak openly. Anya Politkovskaya…. that was also a lesson, that it’s forbidden to write like that. Sasha was never a spy, he never sold out any interests. He was a regular employee of the FSB, with secrets of a completely different kind.”

Litvinenko’s Widow on Julia Svetlichnaya

When last we heard, Julia Svetlichnaya was threatening to sue the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten and the British newspaper Times of London for reporting that she had undisclosed connnections to the Kremlin which could draw her credibility into question when she claimed that Alexander Litvinenko was a blackmailer and a crazy person.

Has anybody heard of Julia actually filing suit, or taking any further action against either paper? Has she made any further public comment of any kind? It seems this has not occurred. For sure, she’s ignored all the questions that La Russophobe asked her on the ZheZhe blog.

First we learned that Julia’s associate James Heartfield was a communist extremist, then the BBC aired two different documentaries showing Litvinenko for who he really was, images totally at odds with what Julia wrote, and now blogger David McDuff offers the following comments from Litvinenko’s widow about Ms. Svetlichnaya and her story:

What theory are you inclined to believe? Was it revenge for something in the past, or was it related to something he’d got mixed up in more recently? There was even a story in the press that he’d helped to make a “dirty bomb”, either for the Chechens or for Al Qaeda.

‘Well, it was dreadful when those insinuations began, when Yulia Svetlichnaya made those statements – I saw her at our house. Sasha invited her once, because she was writing a book. When she began to say that Sasha bombarded her with email messages – I mean, Sasha distributed messages to all his friends, sent them to hundreds of addresses. He believed that if you possessed information, you should share it, especially if it was something someone had written about Russia. And if you didn’t like it, then you could simply delete it, or start blocking it. But that statement, that interview about how he might have sold information and blackmailed businessmen, the FSB – that was totally absurd, it went against everything Sasha had ever done. Perhaps that was the real trouble – he was always open and frank. At the press conference he sat with his face uncovered, he didn’t wear dark glasses or a mask. If he wrote articles, he signed them with his own name, even if he didn’t need to. It was all on public record. As they once said, the system doesn’t forgive – and they will reach and punish anyone, in order to teach a lesson to others who might take it into their heads to speak openly. Anya Politkovskaya…. that was also a lesson, that it’s forbidden to write like that. Sasha was never a spy, he never sold out any interests. He was a regular employee of the FSB, with secrets of a completely different kind.”

Litvinenko’s Widow on Julia Svetlichnaya

When last we heard, Julia Svetlichnaya was threatening to sue the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten and the British newspaper Times of London for reporting that she had undisclosed connnections to the Kremlin which could draw her credibility into question when she claimed that Alexander Litvinenko was a blackmailer and a crazy person.

Has anybody heard of Julia actually filing suit, or taking any further action against either paper? Has she made any further public comment of any kind? It seems this has not occurred. For sure, she’s ignored all the questions that La Russophobe asked her on the ZheZhe blog.

First we learned that Julia’s associate James Heartfield was a communist extremist, then the BBC aired two different documentaries showing Litvinenko for who he really was, images totally at odds with what Julia wrote, and now blogger David McDuff offers the following comments from Litvinenko’s widow about Ms. Svetlichnaya and her story:

What theory are you inclined to believe? Was it revenge for something in the past, or was it related to something he’d got mixed up in more recently? There was even a story in the press that he’d helped to make a “dirty bomb”, either for the Chechens or for Al Qaeda.

‘Well, it was dreadful when those insinuations began, when Yulia Svetlichnaya made those statements – I saw her at our house. Sasha invited her once, because she was writing a book. When she began to say that Sasha bombarded her with email messages – I mean, Sasha distributed messages to all his friends, sent them to hundreds of addresses. He believed that if you possessed information, you should share it, especially if it was something someone had written about Russia. And if you didn’t like it, then you could simply delete it, or start blocking it. But that statement, that interview about how he might have sold information and blackmailed businessmen, the FSB – that was totally absurd, it went against everything Sasha had ever done. Perhaps that was the real trouble – he was always open and frank. At the press conference he sat with his face uncovered, he didn’t wear dark glasses or a mask. If he wrote articles, he signed them with his own name, even if he didn’t need to. It was all on public record. As they once said, the system doesn’t forgive – and they will reach and punish anyone, in order to teach a lesson to others who might take it into their heads to speak openly. Anya Politkovskaya…. that was also a lesson, that it’s forbidden to write like that. Sasha was never a spy, he never sold out any interests. He was a regular employee of the FSB, with secrets of a completely different kind.”

Litvinenko’s Widow on Julia Svetlichnaya

When last we heard, Julia Svetlichnaya was threatening to sue the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten and the British newspaper Times of London for reporting that she had undisclosed connnections to the Kremlin which could draw her credibility into question when she claimed that Alexander Litvinenko was a blackmailer and a crazy person.

Has anybody heard of Julia actually filing suit, or taking any further action against either paper? Has she made any further public comment of any kind? It seems this has not occurred. For sure, she’s ignored all the questions that La Russophobe asked her on the ZheZhe blog.

First we learned that Julia’s associate James Heartfield was a communist extremist, then the BBC aired two different documentaries showing Litvinenko for who he really was, images totally at odds with what Julia wrote, and now blogger David McDuff offers the following comments from Litvinenko’s widow about Ms. Svetlichnaya and her story:

What theory are you inclined to believe? Was it revenge for something in the past, or was it related to something he’d got mixed up in more recently? There was even a story in the press that he’d helped to make a “dirty bomb”, either for the Chechens or for Al Qaeda.

‘Well, it was dreadful when those insinuations began, when Yulia Svetlichnaya made those statements – I saw her at our house. Sasha invited her once, because she was writing a book. When she began to say that Sasha bombarded her with email messages – I mean, Sasha distributed messages to all his friends, sent them to hundreds of addresses. He believed that if you possessed information, you should share it, especially if it was something someone had written about Russia. And if you didn’t like it, then you could simply delete it, or start blocking it. But that statement, that interview about how he might have sold information and blackmailed businessmen, the FSB – that was totally absurd, it went against everything Sasha had ever done. Perhaps that was the real trouble – he was always open and frank. At the press conference he sat with his face uncovered, he didn’t wear dark glasses or a mask. If he wrote articles, he signed them with his own name, even if he didn’t need to. It was all on public record. As they once said, the system doesn’t forgive – and they will reach and punish anyone, in order to teach a lesson to others who might take it into their heads to speak openly. Anya Politkovskaya…. that was also a lesson, that it’s forbidden to write like that. Sasha was never a spy, he never sold out any interests. He was a regular employee of the FSB, with secrets of a completely different kind.”

Russia Flunks . . . Again

Siberian Light points to the most recent installment of the Heritage Foundation’s worldwide survey of ecnomic freedom, on which only 37 countries out of 157 under study had less economic freedom than Russia. Georgia ranks 35th, Kazakhstan ranks 75th, and Russia brings up the rear at 120th. La Russophobe has already documented a multitude of other examples of scientific evaluations of Russia by scholars and international organizations which demonstrate that the nation’s economic, political and social systems are in a state of doomed retrograde. This is just one more fact to add to a mountain of undeniable evidence of total failure as Russia recreates a Soviet state.

Annals of Russian "Justice": The Khodorkhovsky Persecution, Round II

Over the past few days the Kremlin has launched a shameless series of attacks on jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkhovsky, just as he was about to come up for parole. Reuters reports on the filing of new charges against him, which Forbes quoted Khodorkhosky attorney Yuri Schmidt as being “not simply absurd – they are insane. … Whoever wrote them was either mad or drunk.” What he means is that Khodorkhovsky has already been convicted of failing to pay taxes on this allegedly “laundered” money, and now he is being accused of the same “crime” again, but this time just for the mere act of laundering without regard to the consequences. In other words, he’ll be tried twice for the same offense, and conceivably sentenced to different periods of incarceration.

Russian prosecutors on Monday brought new charges against Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a move likely to bury the politically ambitious tycoon’s hopes of release from jail before 2008 presidential elections. Khodorkovksy, the founder of the YUKOS oil major and once one of Russia’s wealthiest and most powerful men , will now be tried on money-laundering charges, his lawyer said. He is already serving an eight-year sentence for fraud and tax evasion. Money laundering is punishable in Russia by up to 10 years in prison. If the charges are proved in court, some of the new sentence could be added to Khodorkovsky’s existing term. “One thing all lawyers agree on is that the new charges are absurd,” Khodorkovsky’s lawyer Karina Moskalenko said by telephone. “They are crazy from start to end.” Khodorkovsky’s business associate Platon Lebedev was also charged with similar offences on Monday. He too is serving an eight-year sentence for fraud and tax evasion. The Russia’s Prosecutor-General’s office later released a statement confirming the new charges against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev Khodorkovsky’s imprisonment has been widely seen as part of a Kremlin campaign to punish him for his involvement in politics, a taboo for tycoons under President Vladimir Putin. The Kremlin has denied any political motivation behind the trial, which ended in May 2005.

But the United State’s State Department said the new charges raised fresh questions about Russia’s commitment to democracy and free market economics. “The continued prosecution of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the dismantlement of Yukos raise serious questions about the rule of law in Russia,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said at his daily briefing. Under Russian law, Khodorkovsky could apply for early release from October this year, when he will have served half of his sentence.

2008 ELECTION

A member of the Khodorkovsky legal team linked the new charges with the 2008 presidential election, when Putin must step down and a successor is to be chosen. “(The) important thing is the tremendous fear Russia has … that Mr Khodorkovsky might either become politically active because he was due for a possible parole later this year or that he might finance political parties,” said lawyer Robert Amsterdam. Analysts say Khodorkovsky, who made a fortune in murky privatisations in the early 1990s, is not popular among voters and has no chance of becoming a key figure in the presidential polls. But his political independence, backed by solid financial resources, could cause headaches for a Kremlin keen to ensure a smooth handover of power to a new leader who will continue Putin’s policies. YUKOS, once Russia’s biggest and most profitable oil company, was driven into bankruptcy by back-tax claims. The firm’s receiver said last month that YUKOS owed its creditors 667.8 billion roubles ($25.33 billion), up from the previously announced 492 billion roubles. “The Prosecutor-General’s office views as criminal practically all YUKOS activities, its creation, oil extraction and sales,” Lebedev’s lawyer Konstantin Rivkin said commenting on the new charges. “Every step, every sneeze of theirs … has been found to be criminal.” Rivkin said the charges against Lebedev, similar to ones filed against Khodorkovsky, were contained in a 148-page document. It was officially announced to the two in the city of Chita, close to the Chinese border, where they are being held.

The International Herald Tribune reports on the attack on his lawyers:

Lawyers for imprisoned Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner were briefly detained at a Moscow airport on Sunday, a day before new charges were expected to be filed against their clients, one of the attorneys said. Five lawyers for Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev were detained by police at Domodedovo airport in the evening as they were waiting to register for a flight to the Siberian city of Chita, where their clients are in custody, Yuri Shmidt told The Associated Press. Speaking on his mobile phone as he headed for the flight, Shmidt said that he and the others were held for about an hour without explanation, and then were released. Police could not immediately be reached for comment. Khodorkovsky, founder of the now bankrupt oil giant OAO Yukos, has been serving an eight-year sentence in a Siberian prison camp near the Chinese border after being convicted in 2004 on fraud and tax evasion charges following a politically charged trial. He and Lebedev were moved in December to a detention center in Chita, a regional seat, for questioning. Before his arrest and the parallel tax probe that put most of Yukos in state hands, Khodorkovsky was estimated by Forbes magazine to be the richest man in Russia, with a fortune worth US$15 billion (€11.5 billion). The trial and tax probe were widely seen as Kremlin-driven punishment for his challenges of President Vladimir Putin and his perceived political ambitions, as well as part of a drive to boost state control over the strategically important oil sector.

Russia’s top prosecutor last month said new money laundering charges would be filed against Khodorkovsky and other former Yukos executives, raising the prospect of years more in prison. Shmidt said Saturday that prosecutors would file the new charges Monday, and had instructed Khodorkovsky’s legal team to travel to Chita for the indictment. Khodorkovsky could face up to 15 years for money laundering. He has been in detention since October 2003 and could be eligible for parole later this year. Kremlin critics suggested the new charges were aimed at ensuring he remains in prison and presents no political threat. Prison terms on separate charges are not usually served consecutively in Russia; convicts are jailed for the longest sentence. Prosecutors have not commented on the substance of the new charges. According to Shmidt, they allege Khodorkovsky was involved in laundering oil revenues defrauded from Yukos through his Open Russia foundation. Shmidt said he did not know why the lawyers were detained, but that police had hinted of suspicions that they possessed illegal documents. Lawyers and others linked to Khodorkovsky and Yukos have faced harassment from the authorities.

About that orange snow . . .

Press reports indicate that the Kremlin has stated the orange/yellow, oily, smelly snow that recently fell in Russia is not toxic.

The question is: If the snow WERE toxic, would the Kremlin admit it?

As if.

So then, what’s the point of asking?