The Sunday Photos: There’s no Poverty like Russian Poverty

The Chicago Tribune last week offered readers a photo gallery called “Poverty in Russia” filled with images instantly recognizable to anyone who has toured the real Russia:

Alexander Belan and his wife cannot take showers or wash clothes in the bathroom of their home in Ust-Kut in Siberia because the wooden floor has collapsed. Dilapidated Soviet-era infrastructure and a lack of jobs in Siberia and Russia’s Far East have the region losing population at a rate of 103,000 people a year.

In the Siberian city of Biryusinsk, Russians have been struggling to survive ever since the city’s only employer, a solvents manufacturer, shut down in 2005. Much of the Biryusinsk’s youths have fled; older Russians here scrape by on $125 monthly pensions.

Former truck driver Anatoly Chubukov, 52, adjusts the antenna for his tiny television set in his dilapidated cabin in the Siberian village of Zvezdny. The building was condemned a decade ago, but poor residents have no choice but to remain.

Natalia Chernykh, 52, of the Siberian village of Zvezdny collects snow for drinking water at her long-condemned home.

The boom in Moscow belies the deep problems in Russia’s Siberia and Far East, where many cities are dying a slow, quiet death. Natalya Chursina (left) and her husband, who live in the Far East city of Amursk, feed and clothe their teenage son, Zhenya (right), on welfare payments that amount to $5 a day. Chursina desperately wants Zhenya to escape Amursk. “People die like flies here,” she says.

The Amursk pulp-processing plant, long idled like its workers. After the end of the Cold War gutted much of Amursk’s industry, many of its youths fled, and everyone else found themselves in a city without work.

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