State that extends into Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. Russia or Russian Federation at the 2010 census had about 142,900,000 residents, while in 2014 the country reached 142,467,651 residents, according to an estimate by UNDESA (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs), with a percentage of urban residents equal to 74% of the total (table 1). The distribution is very uneven, with a clear prevalence of the Central federal district: in 2013 the central district which includes Moscow had 38,700,000 residents, 81.7% of whom were urban residents. According to Sergei Zakharov (2008), after the turnaround recorded in the mid-1990s in the models of marriage and fertility, Russia has entered a “second demographic transition”, while still showing some traditional characteristics. The scholar identifies the most worrying element of the Russian demographic dynamics in the deterioration of living conditions, in particular for men of working age.
This situation was reflected, still in the second half of the first decade of the new millennium, in the high mortality, mainly generated by external causes and diseases of the cardiovascular system. The latter still represent one of the main causes of death in Russia, although since 2010 there has been a progressive decrease in deaths. A report (Rybakovsky, Ryazantsev 2005) highlighted the positive role of migration in compensating for the demographic decline due to negative natural balances. The research underlines that, in the context of current migratory processes on a global scale, the Russia assumes – and most likely will also in the future – assume an important role because it boasts an area that is not densely populated (8.4 people per km 2to 2013), which also constitutes an attractive space for migrants from highly populated countries such as China. In the second half of the first decade of the new century, the reduction of mortality, the attraction of migrants and the increase in the birth rate have become fundamental objectives for overcoming the demographic crisis. A new demographic policy was therefore launched in 2007, called maternal capital, in order to stimulate fertility, granting benefits for pregnancies and births, better-paid maternity leave and advantages for the procreation of second children (Zakharov 2008). World Bank data indicates that the fertility rate, from 2007 to 2012, actually increased from 1.4 to 1.6. Returning to the health conditions of the population, according to the European observatory on health system and policies (2011), alcohol consumption has played a very important role in the decline in life expectancy that followed the dissolution of the USSR and continues still have a negative impact on the state of health of the residents of the country, although since 2009 their life expectancy has increased. Looking at a broader time frame (1980-2013), the United Nations development program (UNDP) indicates that life expectancy at birth has in fact increased from 67.4 years to 68 (a figure lower than that of the World Bank, which reports an expectation of 70.5 for 2013), that the average years of schooling (the average number of years of education completed by a given population) have increased by 4.6 and the expected years of education (the number of years a child can expect to spend in a given education system) of 1.8. The three components contributed, between 1990 and 2013, to increase the HDI (Human Development Index) – whose value went from 0.729 to 0.778, by 6.8% -, with an average annual increase of approximately 0.28%. This increase is to be assessed in relation to a situation which, in the middle of the first decade of the century, still appeared very complex: in the two-year period 2006-07, 6% of the Russian population lived in regions with an HDI below 0.730. In addition, poverty, which since 2004 has been a phenomenon that mainly characterizes rural areas, contributes to further widening the gap between these spaces and urban ones. To this gap are added others, very significant, on an urban scale: in the period 2000-05, the incomes of the richest 20% of the Muscovite population were 21-28 times higher than the incomes of the poorest 20%; or, although the income inequality in St. Petersburg represented, in the first years of the millennium, only half of that recorded in Moscow, in the short period between 1999 and 2005 it almost doubled (UNDP data). Poverty is also often accompanied by an increase in food insecurity, so much so that overcoming it has become a central objective in the country’s economic policy and foreign trade. Although poverty levels have dropped significantly in recent years, a recent reported estimate (Wegren 2013) calculates that 18 million Russians are still in poverty and food insecurity.
Economic conditions. – After what has been defined as the transitional recession of 1991 and the subsequent recovery starting from 1998, the Russian economic transition has been accelerated, according to some scholars, by the new processes of globalization, which have emphasized the role of Russia as a supplier of natural resources (Bradshaw 2009, 2012). This issue is closely linked to the so-called global energy dilemma, aimed at identifying ways to procure safe and reliable energy services, but reconciling them with sustainable services from an environmental point of view. Michael Bradshaw, borrowing data from the Statistical yearbook of British petroleum, reported that, at the end of 2007, Russia could boast 6.4% of the world’s oil reserves and, in the same year, had produced 491.3 million tons, a value that represented 12, 6% of world production (Bradshaw 2009). Compared to natural gas, still in 2007, Russia housed 25.2% of reserves worldwide and had produced 607.4 billion cubic meters (or 18.8% of the world total). These performances led to define Russia as one of the main export oriented resource economies, which benefit from a strongly export-oriented globalization (Knox, Agnew, McCarthy 2014). According to surveys by the International Energy Agency, in 2010 Russia even surpassed Saudi Arabia in the production of crude oil (with 502 million tons, compared to 471), thus becoming the first world producer. In relation to energy supply, Russia represents an important trading partner for the EU: Eurostat data as of 2011 indicated that 63% of the total value of EU27 imports from Russia in 2010 was made up of oil and another 9% from gas, without neglecting the importance of Russian coal for some EU countries. The volume of total trade between the EU-27 and Russia, also in 2010, was equal to 246 billion euros, registering a remarkable increase (185%) compared to 2000, part of which is due to the increase in prices. The source Eurostat also notes that primary energy production in Russia has increased continuously: only between 2008 and 2009 (due to the financial and economic crisis) was there a decline, which had repercussions on different categories of products, but not on crude oil (which in any case recorded a slight increase of 1.4% in the two-year period). The energy sector is of primary importance to Russia, not only as regards trade with the EU. Self-sufficiency in this sector and its export capacity place the country in an advantageous position, although there are many unresolved issues relating to the unsustainability of a system still largely based on fossil fuels. According to Bradshaw (2012), there are two reasons for this unsustainability: firstly, doubts about the future ability of fossil fuel supplies to meet the growing demand; second, even if such supplies were sufficient, climate change theories argue that combustion would generate such increases in greenhouse gases as to produce catastrophic effects.
The dynamics of the energy sector greatly affect the Russian economy. The latter, after growing in the period 1998-2008 (mainly due to the rapid increase in oil prices), was one of the most affected by a crisis directly related to the drop in crude oil prices and the difficulty in attracting foreign direct investments., which had immediate repercussions on the slowdown in GDP growth rates. The IMF (International Monetary Fund) notes that in 2013 growth slowed by 1.3%, due to a contraction in investments; in the same year, although net exports contributed positively to growth, the share of non-oil exports continued to decline. At the end of 2013, therefore, the ministry of economic development reduced its growth forecast until 2030 to an average of 2.5% per year, down from the previous forecast, which referred to a growth of 4, 0-4.2%. The World Bank said that the Russian economy is almost stagnating, as evidenced by the gradual decline in domestic demand. The international organization highlights that, in the first part of 2014, economic activities were severely damaged by the increase in geopolitical tensions, from the new conditions of political uncertainty and sanctions, even coming to envisage substantial medium-term risks (2014-16) for growth, albeit within a framework of substantial macroeconomic stability. The current phase in fact follows the almost doubling of real GDP per capita that characterized the country over the period 2000-12. During this period, growth also contributed to a significant drop in poverty and unemployment rates. The IMF therefore emphasizes the importance of a new reform agenda, some of which have already begun, such as the partial pension reform and the new procurement law. In response to mounting pressure on the ruble, the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) has also raised interest rates, to address medium-term inflation risks and intervened more to support the ruble. The IMF points out that this is a crucial moment for the country, in which there is an urgent need to accelerate greater diversification of the economy, especially through new investments that also include foreign technology.