Putin Raises Pension Age to 65 for Government Workers

May 24, 2016
A Russian editorial cartoon by Mikhail Zlatosky shows pensions racing ahead of Russians who can't keep up.

LIVE UPDATES: President Vladimir Putin has signed a law raising the pension age for officials from 60 to 65 for men and from 55 to 63 for women.

Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.

The previous issue is here.

Recent Analysis and Translations:

NATO Got Nothing From Conceding To Russia In the Past, Why Should It Cave To The Kremlin Now?
Who is Hacking the Russian Opposition and State Media Officials — and How?
Does it Matter if the Russian Opposition Stays United?
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov Has Invented A Version Of History To Meet His Needs
Getting The News From Chechnya – The Crackdown On Free Press You May Have Missed


Russian Poet Detained for Tearing Down Stalin Poster in the Moscow Metro

Russian poet Sergei Gandlevsky was detained by police in Moscow near the Lubyanka metro station for tearing down a portrait of Stalin from the wall, OVD-Info, the police monitoring group reported.
Gandlevsky was released after several hours without a police report filed. As Gandlevsky told OVD-Info (translation by The Interpreter):

“I was walking along [the platform] at the Lubyanka [metro station] when I saw a portrait of Stalin glued on the wall. Since he is a criminal, I tore it down.”

He said a man nearby saw him tear the poster and came up to him and asked him what he was doing. Gandlevsky explained his reasons. The man then disappeared, and soon two police came up to him along with the man, who was crying “That’s him!”.

Gandlevsky was taken away to a glass police booth inside the metro and told he would be jailed for “vandalism and petty hooliganism.” He said police were rude and used the “ty” [familiar] form of address in Russian. 

The police didn’t make any mention of Stalin. Eventually Gandlevsky was allowed to make one phone call, and then was released without any further explanation.
Gandlevsky is well known in Russia as a poet, prose writer, essayist and translator who has won a number of literary prizes including the “Anti-Booker Award.”
In a related story, Stalin’s portrait appeared in the metro on April 1 in what at first some media such as Moskovsky Komsomolets thought was an April Fool’s joke. The portrait showed Stalin superimposed over a map of Crimea.

Translation: Oohhh! At the Arbatskaya station, piece of plaster in the form of Crimea appeared and a mosaic with Stalin has been exposed.

As a prominent blogger Aleksandr Popov explained later, in fact the Stalin image was originally placed in the metro in a mosaic when it was built in the 1940s, but when the “cult of personality” was denounced by Nikita Khrushchev in 1956, officials plastered over Stalin’s portrait with a design. Then someone decided to cut the plaster out in the shape of Crimea to reveal Stalin’s face.

The management of the Moscow metro had no comment, said Moskovsky Komsomolets.

Then posters of Stalin appeared in the metro apparently related to preparations for the May 9th Victory Day celebration.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick 

Thugs Ransack Apartment of Russian Political Prisoner Dadin’s Wife
Anastasiya Zotova, the wife of political prisoner Ildar Dadin, came home to find her apartment trashed and a vulgar expression daubed on the mirror.

Translation: I came home, the door to the apartment was broken, things were taken out, and “filth” written on the mirror.

Zotova’s husband Dadin was sentenced last year for protesting multiple times on behalf of anti-corruption campaigner Alexey Navalny, and his brother Oleg, not active in politics but punished in retribution for Alexey’s criticism of the regime. 

His case as the first under a new law providing stiffer punishment for repeat offenders seemed to usher in an era of even greater penalties for opposition activism. 

Peter Shrank made a cartoon circulated by activists showing the Kremlin tower throwing the shadow of a Gulag labor camp watchtower. 

In an interview with Meduza, Zotova said she left home at 1:30 pm, then returned around 8 pm to get a laptop, only to find “a total pogrom” with all her things pulled out of drawers and closets and several tens of thousands of rubles missing. 

But the deliberate trashing of her home, a five-story building on Smolensky Blvd, and the scrawl on the mirror in lipstick seemed to indicate it was a political attack, not an ordinary robbery.

Zotova has been actively campaigning for her husband, and against the criminal code article that enforces harsher penalties.

Translation: These leaflets for the freedom of Ildar will go this evening to the human rights conference in Oslo [the Freedom Forum].

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick 

Putin Raises Pension Age to 65 for Government Workers; No Indexation for Inflation
President Vladimir Putin has signed a law raising the pension age for officials from 60 to 65 for men and from 55 to 63 for women, effective January 1, 2017, Novaya Gazeta reported, citing the governmental portal. The law was passed by parliament on May 11.
Those affected include government civil servants, municipal workers and others who hold government posts in regions and municipalities. 
The law also provides for gradually increasing from 15 to 20 years the minimal tenure required to receive a pension.
Raising the pension age is one of the measures the Russian government is taking to deal with the economic crisis which has seen the value of the ruble drop by a third. The ruble’s devaluation has come with the fall in the price of oil, and the economy has suffered other losses from Putin’s over-extension of the state budget to fulfill 2011 campaign promises as well as from Western sanctions over the war in Ukraine and Russia’s counter-boycott of food imports.
While the government also anticipates laying off workers, the Ministry of Economic Development, in a report this week, said that raising the pension age would help address labor shortages especially in the Far East.
The report says that demographic contractions and the drop in the number of those in the active work force means that the number of employed workers will go from 68.6 million in 2015 to 67.5 million in 2019.

Kommersant reported that payment of pensions for government workers does not come out of the Pension Fund but the state budget. That does not mean that there will necessarily be a raise of pensions for all workers, although that measure is being discussed and is recommended by economist Aleksey Kudrin, recently brought back as a government adviser. Kommersant believes the raise of the bureaucrats’ pension age will prompt a broader discussion about raising the age for everyone.

According to RIA Novosti, however, which obtained materials related to the Ministry’s report this week, Economic Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev plans to propose raising the pension age for all Russians at a meeting of the Presidential Economic Council tomorrow, May 25. A document says that raising the pension age would be done “not only to balance the pension system” but to “prolong the period of productive life of future pensioners” and also “lower the deficit of labor resources on the market.”

This document also noted that Russia would lose 200,000 to 300,000 active workers per year unless they raised the pension age. The Ministry also admitted that it would be “impossible” for Russia to return to its one-time growth of 5-7% a year, even if oil returns to $50/barrel. (It’s now at about $48).

Olga Golodets, the vice premier for social and labor issues, had earlier said that media reports of a “deficit” in the pension fund were a “myth” and also denied that the government would be raising the pension age.

Finance Minister Anton Siluanov has advised Russians to save for their own pensions.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, on a trip to Russian-occupied Crimea, told Crimean residents who complained about their small pensions that they would not be seeing indexes to inflation, Interfax reported.

Russian propaganda posters during the rigged referendum in Crimea regarding annexation promised people that they would see their Ukrainian pensions tripled. While they were raised, this quickly devalued with the drop of the ruble.
“We don’t have indexation anywhere, we haven’t passed that all all, we just don’t have the money,” Medvedev said.
“If we find the money, we’ll do the indexation,” he promised.
He further explained, “We will do pensions throughout the country, we can’t do [the indexation of] pensions just in one place.”
Putin had pledged in April that the government would return to the issue of indexation of pensions in the fourth quarter of 2016. Labor Minister Maksim Topilin said the Pension Fund budget would allow for “the issue of indexation of pensions in full to be resolved.” But now he has said “a decision was not made” although he remains “positive.”
The Russian press has run a lot of cartoons on the topic of pensions. In this one, the supervisor is saying “What do you mean, you’re dead? You have five years to go until your pension!”

Set as default press image
2016-05-24 15:18:48

This image by proforex.ru shows the average age of pensions in various countries: 81 in France, 79 in Germany, 78 in the US and shows Russia as the youngest at age 66. It also shows the amounts of the pensions — in France, 42,730 euros a year, but in Russia, the equivalent of 8,250 euros a year.

Set as default press image
2016-05-24 15:23:51

In Russia, 68% of males live to reach pension age and 86% of females, says proforex.ru.

The inadequate size of the Russian pension also makes for a lot of cartoons, like this one, where an old man’s cat is leaving him, saying “We can’t live together on one pension.”

Set as default press image
2016-05-24 15:20:10

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick