Dilapidated and abandoned communal sheds used by homeless in Vladivostok, Russia (Image: vl.ru)
Sergey Mironov, head of the Just Russia Party, says there may be as many as five million homeless people in the Russian Federation. Moscow experts say that may be too high, but all agree that the official figure Rosstat gives – 64,000 – is vastly too low and the real number is somewhere in between.
Mironov offered his estimate, one based on his survey of the expert community, in support of a package of measures his party has proposed to deal with rising poverty levels in Russia. Rosstat’s number is from the 2010 census: the official agency hasn’t collected any data on this issue since that time.
In reporting this, Anastasiya Bashkatova, an economics journalist for Nezavisimaya gazeta, points out that gathering information on the homeless is difficult for any government, but she suggests that the Russian authorities are deliberately understating the size of the problem in this case.
Instead of trying to reach out to the homeless, she says, Russian census takers often have made use of records about residences or housing payments that by definition would not include the homeless. (See ng.ru and ng.ru.)
The 2010 Russian census listed 34,000 homeless households, “in which,” it said, “were included about 64,000 people;” and officials stressed that their number had fallen since the earlier enumeration in 2002. But now that poverty has increased, Rosstat has made no effort to try to find out just how many Russians are homeless.
The Russian statistical agency has a long history of understating problems that the regime wants understated, Bashkatova says. For example, and she provides detailed from an Audit Chamber accounting, Rosstat has routinely offered figures that undercount the number of orphans in the Russian Federation.
One way that Rosstat often inaccurately describes a phenomenon is by changing the years to be compared. When it announced earlier this year that 22 million Russians were poor, it pointed out that a year earlier, although it had not announced this then, 23.4 million had been. Thus, one could say that the situation had even “improved.”
But if one takes a longer period, then it turns out that “the level of poverty in Russia has fundamentally increased,” something the authorities don’t want to admit but must focus on if the situation of those at the bottom of Russian society is to have any chance of improvement.
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