EDITORIAL: “Living” in Russia



“Living” in Russia

The image above, courtesy of the Moscow Times, is a photograph taken from the Moscow subway.  It shows two advertisements plastered on the wall next to each other.  The one on the left is an ad for “Domestos” cleaner, and boasts that it wipes out germs of every kind, including those that cause the dreaded Swine Flu.  It warns gravely: “Don’t economize on the health of your child!”  The one on the right comes from the Moscow City Council, and urges voters to turn out on election day, October 11th.  It advises voters that “City Council will decide how to guaranty health and safety” and that “Moscovites will decide who sits on the City Council.”

The juxtaposition is profound. 

One would be hard-pressed to explain what powers have been vested by the national government in the Moscow City Council to “guaranty health and safety.”  Russia is ever more a totalitarian state where local government is enslaved by the Kremlin.  One would be even harder pressed to explain how either government, plagued as they are by pandemic corruption and incompetence, to say nothing of  a wanton disregard for the value of individual human lives or the welfare of the nation (leading to Russia not ranking in the top 130 nations of the world for adult lifespan) could possibly hope to make any significant progress in protecting the citizens of Moscow from disease.

Indeed, as we reported in an editorial just days ago, there is a breaking scandal in Moscow as it is revealed that the Putin regime is lying brazenly about the level of infection Russia faces from Swine Flu, making neo-Soviet denials that would make even Leonid Brezhnev blush crimson with shame.  And that’s just one specific disease of the many Russia faces, from AIDS to tuberculosis.  The Kremlin has adopted the same attitude towards all of them:  Ignore the problem, and lie about it. 

And that of course is where the heroic “Domestos” comes in.  It will do, or so it claims, for the residents of Moscow the job that their City Council should be doing, but isn’t. What the national parliament should be doing, but isn’t. What the national dictator should be doing, but isn’t.

It’s difficult to believe, of course, that a little bottle of soap could carry all that weight.

Then again, it’s also difficult to believe that a nation’s government could adopt such a rabidly hostile attitude towards its own people, liquidating them in their tens of thousands as if they were the enemy.  Indeed, a convincing case can easily be made that the Russian government is the Russian people’s worst enemy, far more lethal to them than any foreign government ever dreamed of being.

12 responses to “EDITORIAL: “Living” in Russia

  1. United Nations: Russia must adapt to shrinking population
    Yesterday, 19:23 | Associated Press

    Russia’s population has fallen by 6.6 million since 1993, despite the influx of millions of immigrants, a United Nations report said Monday, and by 2025 the country could lose a further 11 million people.

    The result could be labor shortages, an aging population and slower economic growth, the U.N. said.

    Recent Kremlin efforts to reward women for having more babies have caused a surge in the birth rate, the report said, but won’t make much difference in the long term.

    It urged Russia to reduce its high mortality rate _ similar to that in parts of sub-Saharan Africa _ through reform of its public health system and by encouraging lifestyle changes _ especially a reduction in alcohol consumption.

    The United Nations Development Program report, titled “Russia Facing Demographic Challenges,” predicted that Russia will be forced to adapt to a smaller population and work force.

    “Efforts to resist the unfavorable trends must be combined with efforts to adapt to what cannot be resisted,” the report says.

    Population levels in many developed countries have stagnated and are expected to fall by 2025, but Russia’s population, currently around 142 million, has been in retreat since 1992. Russia’s mortality rate is among the highest in the developed world, with average life expectancy for males at barely 60 years.

    For reasons that are not fully understood, Russians suffer very high levels of cardiovascular disease. But most experts blame the country’s overall high death rate on one factor, alcohol. It has been linked to everything from liver disease to Russia’s high number of murders, suicides and fatal accidents.

    According to a 2007 U.N. report, in 1950 what is now the Russian Federation had the world’s fourth-largest population. By 2007, the report said, Russia ranked ninth globally, behind Bangladesh and Nigeria. By 2050, the U.N. estimates, Russia will rank 15th, with a population smaller than that of Vietnam.


  2. Russians are on their own in protecting themselves from so many things in that godforsaken country.

    If they ever get sick of their dependency on rotten predatory governments they know where the main street in every city is to protest their wasted civic lives.

    We can’t do it for them.

    • Penny wrote:
      > We can’t do it for them.

      Oh no, Penny. Please don’t refuse! Whenever I visit Russia, thousands of people there all beg me: “Please, please have Penny and LR solve our health care problems!”

      Similarly, President Obama told me recently: “With tens of millions of Americans living with no health insurance, only LR and Penny can resolve the American health care crisis!”

  3. > The one on the right advises voters that “City Council will decide how to guaranty health and safety”

    No it doesn’t. Who translates from Russian for you? Tech supports from Mumbai?

    It says: “The Moscow Council is in charge of deciding how to improve the quality of healthcare. But it is up to you to decide who will be in the Moscow Council “.

    Given that Russians have government-operated health insurance, I can’t see anything outrageous in this ad, which tells the people to come out and vote, because their votes will effect their lives and even health.

    • BTW, note that government-operated health insurance is the norm in Europe and Canada, and now Obama wants the US Congress to improve the quality of American healthcare by also going to a government-operated health insurance.

    • On the role of the Moscow City in providing health care:


      Among the city’s administrative responsibilities are managing more than half of the housing occupied by Muscovites, managing a primary health-care delivery system, ….


      Regional variation in Russian medical insurance: lessons from Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod

      Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, USA

      Two areas in particular illustrate this phenomenon: for the last five years Moscow has enjoyed a sophisticated, well-developed insurance system, while the Nizhny Novgorod region has only recently taken the most rudimentary steps

      • I guess it’s hard to reconcile Russia’s pathetic life expectancy and Moscow’s “sophisticated” and “well developed” insurance system. I bet Nairobi has a better system

        • 1. At least, unlike Americans, all Russians have health insurance and don’t have to die every time they get sick.

          2. Unlike some other places in Russia, Moscovites have excellent health care.

          • Yes Michael,

            Thats why so many Russians die from preventable (and in the west including the USA now almost unheard of) diseases such as typhoid, cholera, and other nasty viruses and infections the developed world defeated in the late 19th and early 20th century.

            For example:

            “MALOYAROSLAVETS, Russia – Health care is supposed to be free in Russia, but Russians know that everyhospital has its under-the-table price list.
            That’s why the family of Khazerya Ziyayetdinova, a 70-year-old womansuffering from severe bedsores, brought cash every time they visited her atHospital 67 in Moscow. To have Ziyayetdinova recover in a room instead of thehallway, relatives slipped an orderly $300. They paid nurses $20 to giveinjections, change bedpans and unclog catheters. Every chat withZiyayetdinova’s doctor cost $40.
            “Our health-care system is still in the Middle Ages,” said Vera Pavlova,Ziyayetdinova’s daughter-in-law, sitting in her home in this small town 54miles southwest of Moscow. “There’s low professionalism, corruption – itmakes me very worried about finding myself in a situation where I might needmedical treatment.”
            Russia is an unhealthy nation, and its health-care system is just as sick.Its hospitals are understaffed, poorly equipped and rife with corruption.
            The biggest reason Russia’s population plummets at a rate of more than700,000 people each year is not that its birthrate is so low, but that itsdeath rate is so high. The average life expectancy for Russian men is 59. Inthe U.S. it’s 75; in Japan it’s 79.
            Alcohol and smoking are major culprits. Both are linked to heart disease,and in Russia, the rate of men ages 30 to 59 dying from heart disease isfive times that of the United States, according to researchers at ColumbiaUniversity.
            Prevention and better health care can help reverse that trend. The Russiangovernment is pumping $6.4 billion into revamping health care; much of thatmoney is paying for the construction of eight high-tech medical centers acrossthe country, new X-ray machines, electrocardiograms and ambulances athospitals, and raises for family doctors.
            But doctors and nurses in the Russian Far East city of Amursk are stillwaiting for the overhaul to reach their hospital. In January 2007, thehospital ran out of syringes and asked patients to bring their own, said OlgaCherevko, a nurse at the hospital. Even something as fundamental as keepingpharmacies stocked can prove problematic for Russia’s beleaguered health-caresystem. A bureaucratic breakdown in late 2006 led to a severe shortage ingovernment-supplied prescription drugs.
            Russians with enough money were able to buy medicine privately. Buthundreds of thousands of Russians with high blood pressure, diabetes, asthmaand other diseases had to do without the drugs for weeks.
            Russian officials have promised that the errors that led to the drugshortage won’t happen again. They can’t be as reassuring when it comes tocorruption that demands bribes for everything from surgery to clean sheets.
            Researchers at the Open Health Institute estimate that corruption siphonsoff as much as 35 percent of money spent on health care (this sentence aspublished has been corrected in this text). Low wages perpetuate the problem;yearly doctor salaries in Russia average $5,160 to $6,120. Nurses make anaverage of $2,760 to $3,780 annually.
            Pavlova estimates that Ziyayetdinova’s family shelled out nearly $5,000 inbribes during the time Ziyayetdinova was hospitalized.
            At a skin clinic in Moscow, nurses charged $20 each time they appliedointment to Ziyayetdinova’s bedsores. One of her sons began sweeping up herward during visits because a nurse said room cleanup was the responsibility ofpatients or their families – not hospital staff.
            The money never really helped. Ziyayetdinova died. Doctors said she died ofa heart deficiency, but Pavlova and Ziyayetdinova’s sons are convinced theindifference and neglect Ziyayetdinova endured during her hospitalizationcontributed to her death.
            “It was as if their goal wasn’t to save someone’s life,” Pavlova said, “asif they thought their role was to be a last stage before death. To be a placethat prepares a person to die.””


            So much for free healthcare, of for any healthcare in Russia. Corruption and incompetance, the Russian way of life (and death too)!!!

            Mike, you truly are a pathetic individual.

  4. Something even larger is blocking Russia’s march. Recent decades, most notably since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, have seen an appalling deterioration in the health of the Russian population, anchoring Russia not in the forefront of developed countries but among the most backward of nations.

    This is a tragedy of huge proportions — but not a particularly surprising one, at least to me. I followed population, health and environmental issues in the Soviet Union for decades, and more recently, I have reported on diseases such as the HIV/AIDS epidemic ravaging the Russian population. I’ve visited Russia more than 50 times over the years, so I can say from firsthand experience that this national calamity isn’t happening suddenly. It’s happening inexorably.

    According to U.N. figures, the average life expectancy for a Russian man is 59 years — putting the country at about 166th place in the world longevity sweepstakes, one notch above Gambia. For women, the picture is somewhat rosier: They can expect to live, on average, 73 years, barely beating out the Moldovans. But there are still some 126 countries where they could expect to live longer. And the gap between expected longevity for men and for women — 14 years — is the largest in the developed world.

    So what’s killing the Russians? All the usual suspects — HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, alcoholism, cancer, cardiovascular and circulatory diseases, suicides, smoking, traffic accidents — but they occur in alarmingly large numbers, and Moscow has neither the resources nor the will to stem the tide. Consider this:

    Three times as many Russians die from heart-related illnesses as do Americans or Europeans, per each 100,000 people.

    Tuberculosis deaths in Russia are about triple the World Health Organization’s definition of an epidemic, which is based on a new-case rate of 50 cases per 100,000 people.

    Average alcohol consumption per capita is double the rate the WHO considers dangerous to one’s health.

    About 1 million people in Russia have been diagnosed with HIV or AIDS, according to WHO estimates.

    Using mid-year figures, it’s estimated that 25 percent more new HIV/AIDS cases will be recorded this year than were logged in 2007.

    And none of this is likely to get better any time soon. Peter Piot, the head of UNAIDS, the U.N. agency created in response to the epidemic, told a press conference this summer that he is “very pessimistic about what is going on in Russia and Eastern Europe . . . where there is the least progress.” This should be all the more worrisome because young people are most at risk in Russia. In the United States and Western Europe, 70 percent of those with HIV/AIDS are men over age 30; in Russia, 80 percent of this group are aged 15 to 29. And although injected-drug users represent about 65 percent of Russia’s cases, the country has officially rejected methadone as a treatment, even though it would likely reduce the potential for HIV infections that lead to AIDS.

    And then there’s tuberculosis — remember tuberculosis? In the United States, with a population of 303 million, 650 people died of the disease in 2007. In Russia, which has a total of 142 million people, an astonishing 24,000 of them died of tuberculosis in 2007. Can it possibly be coincidental that, according to Gennady Onishchenko, the country’s chief public health physician, only 9 percent of Russian TB hospitals meet current hygienic standards, 21 percent lack either hot or cold running water, 11 percent lack a sewer system, and 20 percent have a shortage of TB drugs? Hardly.

    On the other end of the lifeline, the news isn’t much better. Russia’s birth rate has been declining for more than a decade, and even a recent increase in births will be limited by the fact that the number of women age 20 to 29 (those responsible for two-thirds of all babies) will drop markedly in the next four or five years to mirror the 50 percent drop in the birth rate in the late 1980s and the 1990s. And, sadly, the health of Russia’s newborns is quite poor, with about 70 percent of them experiencing complications at birth.

    Last summer, Piot of UNAIDS said that bringing Russia’s HIV/AIDS epidemic under control was “a matter of political leadership and of changing the policy.” He might just as well have been talking about the much larger public health crisis that threatens this vast country. But the policies seem unlikely to change as the bear lumbers along, driven by disastrously misplaced priorities and the blindingly unrealistic expectations of a resentment-driven political leadership. Moscow remains bent on ignoring the devastating truth: The nation is not just sick but dying.


    So much for Russian healthcare.

    Once again Michael, you are truly pathetic.

  5. Another excellent article about Russia and its demographic bomb.


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