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EDITORIAL: The Horror of “Life” in Putin’s Russia


The Horror of “Life” in Putin’s Russia

National Public Radio reporter Anne Garrels has produced a multi-part report on the horror of life in an average Russian city in Vladimir Putin’s neo-Soviet Russia called Chelyabinsk:  Then and Now. It’s full of jaw-dropping little-known facts about a nation that is teetering once again on the brink of collapse.

She reports for instance that a doctor at a state hospital in the city earns $200 per month, $400 with overtime.  For a 50-hour work week, that’s a stunning $2/hour.  For a 40-hour week, it’s $1.25/hour.  For a doctor. Working in a hospital. With people’s lives in his hands.  And the doctor must work what one describes to Garrels as “mess, pressure and horrible conditions.”  What sort of “physician” would agree to work on these terms? What sort of “care” would he provide?

There are more abortions than live births, and this isn’t surprising the way one mother described the conditions surrounding her childbirth:

“Horrible, horrible. A room with 10 women in it. You have to go to a pharmacy and buy everything — stitching, cotton wool. Everything you need during the birth, you buy and pay for. We were told to bring our own sugar. If you are a patient in a hospital, you better have a friend who can bring you food.”

Garrels notes:  “Life expectancy for Russian men — 59 years — remains astonishingly low, and well below current levels in Pakistan and Bangladesh. That has combined with anemic fertility levels to cause a drop in population. According to United Nations predictions, Russia’s population could fall by 30 percent by the middle of the century.”

She also finds other pandemic social ills. Alcoholism is rampant, for example. She quotes one local resident:  “You see 12-, 13-year-olds sitting in the benches, just drinking beer like soda. So young. That’s a problem.”

And that’s only the beginning

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