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Measuring Sustainability in the Russian Arctic: An Interdisciplinary Study

by Votrin, Valery, PhD

Page 131

At least two Russian Arctic regions, Murmansk and Tyumen (together with Yamal-
Nenets AO), were among top 10 Russian regions measured by HDI between 1979 and 2001,
along with highly developed Moscow. In 1989, Magadan Oblast was also among the leaders,
and in 2001 another two Russian Arctic areas, Sakha and Krasnoyarsk, achieved high human
development results.
At the same time, Krasovskaya et al (2000) argue that in terms of HDI Chukotka was on
a par with Iraq and Nicaragua. It is worth noting that the authors compared the data for
Chukotka for the year 1998 with the 2000 UNDP Human Development Report data where Iraq’s
HDI score was 0.583 and Nicaragua’s 0.631. In 1998, HDI in Chukotka was 0.663, i.e. obviously
much higher than HDI in those two countries. The HDI calculated by that study seems in some
cases to be quite different from what is shown in Table 4.15: in 1998 the Russian HDI was
calculated to be 0.728, for Tyumen it was 0.791, Murmansk had 0.734, Krasnoyarsk - 0.732,
Sakha - 0.714, Arkhangelsk – 0.706, and Chukotka – 0.663. The year 1994 was reported to be
the most difficult of all years of reforms, and it is when the lowest HDI in Russia was reported.
Hence, the HDI value of 0.728 seems unbelievably low even for the hardest year of Russian
reforms. However, the authors’ conclusion that “all [Russian Arctic] areas… have per capita
GRP, individual indices and HDI below the national average” is right because in 2001 only
Tyumen had the HDI higher than the Russian average. As Figure 4.10 demonstrates, HDI for
the whole Russian Arctic is also below the Russian average.
Figure 4.10. Human Development Index in the Russian Arctic





0,763 0,764







1979 1985 1989 1994 2001

Source: author’s calculations based on Bobylev (2004)
The authors argue also that “all of the Russian Arctic regions are lagging behind the
Russian average in terms of the educational enrolment statistics for children and young

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people... because the regions with extreme climatic conditions do not have well-developed
systems of higher education and secondary vocational training: even under the Soviet regime, it
was much cheaper to send young people from those regions to be educated in large cities
designated as national educational centres. However, in terms of adult educational levels…only
the major cities of the Russian Federation are ahead of the northern regions. For many years,
there was a constant influx of young specialists into the North, and the regions have
accumulated a highly educated population”. It is useful to compare this result to the one from
Johansson et al (2004) who found strong differentiation in higher education in the post-Soviet
Russian Arctic and a strong academic drift by upgrading former colleges to various universities.
While, for example, in Murmansk and in Arkhangelsk there were no universities before
perestroika, today there are several in both cities, and in addition to the state universities there
are also private institutions of higher education. However, the authors note the educational
possibilities across the Russian Arctic when there are several universities in the Northwest,
whereas a fewer exist in the less populated northern Siberia and in the Far East.
Yet HDI is probably a good measure for those areas in the Russian Arctic that are highly
urbanised and industrialised and where human development is associated with the essentially
western concepts such as GDP per head. However, as Young and Einarsson (2004a) point out,
a good life for many Arctic residents, most of all indigenous people, is associated with the
maintenance of traditional hunting, gathering, and herding practices. It is therefore difficult to
use indicators like GDP per head to measure the health of subsistence systems or mixed
economy. A traditional way of life also aims to minimise consumption and the need for other
sorts of material goods and services included in calculations of HDI or GDP per head. Education
as perceived in industrialised countries raises similar concerns when applied to the Arctic as a
concept. Many Arctic residents have a highly sophisticated grasp of matters but this knowledge
does not translate into high adult literacy or school enrolments. Moreover, the Arctic residents
do not generally see themselves as lagging behind in terms of human development, education
or any broader conception of human well-being. Therefore, other Arctic-specific measures
should be elaborated to address some existing gaps in knowledge concerning human
development in the Arctic.
Another concern is the lack of an environmental or natural resource depletion dimension
to the HDI so countries must not be encouraged to “buy” a high HDI at the expense of
excessive consumption and environmental degradation (Morse, 2003).
Being the most populated area in the Arctic and having the most developed
infrastructure and industrial networks, the Russian Arctic regions have human and innovation
potential that can be well translated into regional sustainability strategies. However, human
development built on resource economy as observed throughout the Russian Arctic is not
expected to last long. Today, regional universities and innovation centres in the Russian Arctic


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should become the bridgeheads of promoting sustainability policies during the modern “dark
ages” of resource economy in Russia.

4.3.4 Crime and Punishment
The number of recorded crimes is a major indicator of social strain and instability in a
region that is used for assessing the state and dynamics of total crime rate as well as the
authorities’ progress towards fighting crime (Kozlovskaya, 2003). Crime rate has also important
economic implications and, especially for Russia, alcohol consumption links.
For Russia, this indicator is particularly important. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union,
the Russian society has become engulfed in a criminal deluge as a result of high stress from
reforms and worsened economic conditions (Andrienko, 2002). The surge in organised crime
has also had a major effect on the crime situation and became stronger during the early years
of the transition peaking in 1994-1995 and weakening after that (Gluschenko, 2005). As shown
in Table 4.16, total recorded crime rate in Russia between 1995 and 2003 has decreased from
1860 in 1995 to 1700 in 2003 per 100,000 inhabitants, with the distinct peak in 1999-2001.
Table 4.16. Recorded crimes in the Russian Arctic and Russia, 1995 to 2003, per 10000
Region 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2003 2002 2003
Murmansk 1419 1388 1171 1457 1865 1733 1871 1626 1678
Nenets AO 1856 2069 1683 1714 2212 1663 1697 1664 1981
Yamal-Nenets AO 1573 1526 1194 1476 1765 1728 1715 1527 1654
Taimyr 1399 1354 1319 1519 1447 1586 1506 1526 1818
Sakha 1483 1450 1373 1386 1683 1553 1630 1452 1528
Chukotka 1148 1144 1040 1376 1578 1581 1459 1256 1438
Russian Arctic average 1480 1489 1297 1488 1758 1641 1646 1509 1683
Russia 1860 1777 1627 1758 2052 2028 2051 1756 1700
Source: Rosstat (2004)
Most Russian Arctic regions except for Nenets AO had their crime rates below the
Russian average. However, the crime situation clearly worsened in 2003 in most regions,
particularly in Nenets AO and Taimyr.
In assessing the crime situation in Russia in the broad context of socio-economic and
demographic factors, Andrienko (2002) found that violent and property crimes were persistent
over time, largely due to the inability of the police to solve crimes and to prevent further crime
growth. High level of education was found to prevent people from committing either type of
crimes. The author’s very important finding in the Russian context is that higher alcohol
consumption is responsible for growth in violent crime as a statistical evidence of high share
(around 70%) of violent crimes committed by alcohol-intoxicated people has been found. Higher
drug consumption was found to significantly raise either type of crimes. Higher income
inequality was found to lead to higher violence but have no significant effect on larceny-theft.
The rise in real income causes the fall in violent activity of criminals and the rise in acquisitive

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crime. Unemployment rise was found to be associated with lower violence but higher property
crime cases. The rise in both violent and property crimes after 1998 can probably be accounted
for by lower policy financing inadequate to the new conditions which led to lower detection
rates. Despite the common belief in the West, the majority of homicides in Russia are reported
not to be associated with criminal gangs but rather with an outbreak of aggression within family
and neighbourhood generally caused by alcohol intoxication and family disruption.

Figure 4.11. Recorded crimes in the Russian Arctic


inhabitants 1200

1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2003 2002 2003

Source: author’s calculations based on Rosstat (2004)
As shown in Figure 4,11, total crime rate for the Russian Arctic tends to increase.
Average number of recorded crimes in the region rose from 1479,6 in 1995 to 1682,8 in 2003 by
12.7 per cent, with the highest peak of 1758,3 in 1999. Regional crime rates generally follow the
national trend with the dramatic rise in criminal activities between 1999 and 2001. However,
more detailed and structured data on types of crimes might be needed to perform a more
accurate analysis and to distinguish violent crimes and acquisitive crimes in those regions. This
is difficult, due to the lack of time series for crime data. Pridemore’s (2003) extremely useful
estimates of homicide rates in the Russian regions in 1994-1998, albeit poor recording and
reporting systems, compare crime rate and mortality rate and provide regional differences in
homicide rates and other forms of violence. The estimates are only available, however, for the
oblasts and krais without the autonomous okrugs. The homicide rates in the main Russian
Arctic oblasts in that period appear to vary greatly: 753 for Murmansk, 1393 for Sakha, and 111
for Chukotka. Compared to the official Rosstat homicide rate data for those regions, the results
seem quite different: 601 for Murmansk, 1125 for Sakha, and 93 for Chukotka. It should be
noted that homicide attempts are included together with completed homicides in official crime


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data, and the latter still seem much lower than the author’s estimates which probably highlights
the major data collection and reporting problem in Russia where “police officials… have a
vested interest in lower homicide rates” (Pridemore, 2003).

4.3.5 Morbidity – A Little More Serious than Just A Cold
Morbidity rate is a measure of complex socio-economic and environmental processes
affecting human health in a region. This indicator serves as a useful tool in managing public
health system (Kozlovskaya, 2003).
Most authors writing on the subject conclude that the transition has brought about a
dramatic rise in morbidity rate in Russia. According to Rimashevskaia and Korkhova (2004), the
Russian “shock therapy” reforms have had a very negative impact on the population’s health
and led to the long-term psychological stress which lowered the organism’s resistance and
brought on the development of a variety of pathological changes including peptic ulcers,
ischemia, arrhythmia, and allergic reactions, including bronchial asthma. Long after the reforms
in the 1990s, their impact on the population’s health is still perceptible. Table 4.17 shows that
after 1998 general morbidity rate in Russia continued to increase and reached 748,6 in 2003
that is the highest value for the whole period between 1995 and 2003.
Table 4.17. General morbidity in the Russian Arctic and Russia, 1995 to 2003, per 1000

Region 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003
Murmansk 743 738 774 739 821 815 812 774 826
Arkhangelsk 757 722 786 753 847 870 869 874 930
Tyumen 723 776 827 796 884 920 899 904 930
Krasnoyarsk 629 613 616 596 625 665 647 686 733
Sakha 784 765 782 708 729 752 761 819 847
Chukotka 758 712 823 711 733 805 676 788 852
Russian Arctic
733 721 768 717 773 805 777 807 853
Russia 679 649 674 670 710 736 726 747 749
Source: Rosstat (2004)
There is a direct functional relation between income and having to do without medicine
and medical assistance. Poverty has a direct impact on the population’s health in Russia. The
current situation in health care characterised by “an imbalance between state financing and
guarantees that citizens will be given medical service free of charge” contributes to an
increasing morbidity rate (Rimashevskaia and Korkhova, 2004). The latest increases in
HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and tuberculosis in Russia are worrisome. The actual number of AIDS
deaths in Russia was calculated to be at least 9,700 in 2004, compared to 4,800 according to
the official data. Likewise, multi-resistant drug tuberculosis is on the rise, albeit not fully reflected
by Russian official figures. In 2005, the full number of new tuberculosis cases (182,166) as
estimated by the WHO and the official numbers (123,340) as reported by Rosstat are one-third


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lower than the WHO calculation that includes the “missing” cases not counted in official data.
The number of tuberculosis deaths in Russia is more than 31,000 per year, compared to about
750 in the US (Feshbach, 2005).
Figure 4.12 shows morbidity rate in the Russian Arctic between 1995 and 2003.

Figure 4.12. Morbidity in the Russian Arctic



inhabitants 800




1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003

Source: author’s calculations based on Rosstat (2004)
From 1995 to 1999, average morbidity in the region was relatively steady and began to
rise from 2000, having reached the highest point of 853 in 2003 which is a 14 per cent increase
since 1995.
Poverty and adverse environmental impact are the key factors in increasing morbidity
rate in the Russian Arctic. Other important socio-economic factors include unemployment,
income differentiation, housing conditions, and labour safety. There is a proven correlation
between unemployment and morbidity and mortality that has been demonstrated within Arctic
populations (Berner and Furgal, 2005).
It is worth noting that of all Russian Arctic regions morbidity rate is lower than the
national average in Krasnoyarsk only. Berner and Furgal (2005) note among Arctic-specific
morbidity factors harsh climatic conditions leading to an increased incidence of cold injuries and
cold-related diseases. Increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation among Arctic residents has
the potential to affect the response of the immune system to disease, and to influence the
development of skin cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, as well as the development of
cataracts. The presence of environmental contaminants threatens the safety of traditional food
systems, which are often the central element of community health and well-being.


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Special concerns have been expressed regarding morbidity rates in the regions directly
affected by environmental contamination, or impact zones. Crisis situations have emerged in the
Kola, Severodvinsk, Norilsk, and Sredneobsk impact zones, critical ones in the Timano-
Pechorsk, Novaya Zemlya, Vorkuta and Pur-Nadym regions and acute situations in the Yano-
Indigirka and Valkumey regions. The current situation in the Bilibino impact zone (Chukotka)
may be considered potentially acute. If an accident were to occur at the Bilibino NPP, the
situation could change quickly and become catastrophic (the same is true for the Kola NPP in
Murmansk Oblast). The populations of these areas, especially children, are subjected to
increased incidences of chronic diseases including bronchitis, pneumonia, bronchial asthma,
skin diseases, and allergic reactions; women also suffer increased levels of complications
during pregnancy (Evseev et al, 2000).

4.3.6 Growing Malignancies
Malignant tumour incidence is an important social and environmental indicator in the
structure of general morbidity, especially for the regions with nuclear facilities or developed
chemical industry. The indicator is vital for the Russian Arctic where a large number of major
petrochemical plants and nuclear facilities are concentrated. In fact, as mentioned above,
several well-known polluting industrial plants are located in Murmansk Oblast. Most of the
industrial centres in Murmansk, Yamal, and Taimyr are surrounded by belts of technogenous
deserts with no vegetation. Environmental situation in the most industrial areas is very serious
(Andreev and Olsson, 2003). As seen in Table 4.18, cancer incidence pattern generally follows
geographical location of the Russian Arctic industrial regions.
Table 4.18. Cancers in the Russian Arctic and Russia, 1995 to 2003, per 1000 inhabitants
Region 1995 1998 2002 2003
Murmansk 5,9 9,2 10,3 10,4
Arkhangelsk 6,2 7,0 8,1 9,6
Tyumen 5,3 8,1 9,4 9,7
Krasnoyarsk 6,0 8,0 10,4 9,9
Sakha 3,7 4,1 6,7 7,2
Chukotka 3,7 5,1 6,2 10,1
Russian Arctic average 5,1 6,9 8,5 9,5
Russia 6,6 7,7 9,1 9,0
Source: Rosstat (2004)
After 1998, cancer incidence in Murmansk, Tyumen, and Krasnoyarsk, which are the
major industrial regions in the Russian Arctic, has increased and exceeded the national average
significantly. In the other regions, cancer incidence rose as well. In general, cancer incidence in
the Russian Arctic tends to grow as shown in Figure 4.13.


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Figure 4.13. Cancer incidence in the Russian Arctic


inhabitants 6
1995 1998 2002 2003

Source: author’s calculations based on Rosstat (2004)
Between 1995 and 2003, cancer incidence in the region grew from 5,1 in 1995 to 9 in
2003, or fourfold.
Most authors consider environmental factors the main cause of high cancer incidence in
the Russian Arctic. An extremely high stomach cancer incidence in Murmansk is most likely
attributed to the poor water mineralisation and nutrition quality (Gosudarstvenniy doklad
Murmansk, 2003). The increase in children cancers in Arkhangelsk between 1999 and 2003
seems to have been caused by “the bad environment”; adverse environmental factors reduce
the latent period of cancer and trigger the cancer development in younger age. The areas with
high cancer risk in the Arkhangelsk Oblast were found to be the industrial towns of Novodvinsk,
Severodvinsk and Mirniy where cancer incidence was 2.3, 1.9 and 1.6 times respectively than
the regional average (Gosudarstvenniy doklad Arkhangelsk, 2003). The incidence of lung
cancer is particularly high in the Russian Arctic large industrial cities such as Monchegorsk,
Norilsk and Vorkuta, where levels of air pollution are enormous. These centres of mining and
smelting industries are also characterised by increased levels of toxic compounds, their
accumulation in ecosystems including food products and increased human morbidity rates for
broncho-pulmonary and skin diseases and cancers (Evseev et al, 2000).
Apart from the adverse environmental factors causing increased cancer incidence in the
Russian Arctic, additional factors also contribute to the situation. The treatment of a tumour is
often delayed due to a late visit to the doctor and subsequent late diagnosis. Low cancer
awareness among medical staff and resulting quality of a diagnosis as well as access to
medical institutions and in some cases poor quality of health care are no less important.


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4.3.7 Infant Mortality – To Keep A Baby Alive
Infant mortality is one of the major factors affecting life expectancy and is crucial in
measuring quality of life.
The Soviet definition of live birth currently used in Russia, albeit partially, differs from the
WHO definition (see the methodology sheet in Section 3.4) in several important respects. Under
the Soviet definition, the only indicator of presence of life is breathing; other signs of life are not
taken into account. Russia adopted the WHO definition in law, but applied extra criteria for the
inclusion of birth and deaths into civil registries, some of these criteria being similar to those
involved in the Soviet definition of live birth. The proper application of the WHO definition in
Russia would result in an infant mortality rate that is 20 to 25 per cent higher since most of the
difference between the WHO definition and the Soviet definition should affect stillbirths and
early neonatal mortality counts, i.e. deaths occurring within seven days of birth (UNICEF, 2003).
In Russia, infant mortality has dropped from more than 100 infant deaths per 1000 births
in the early 1960s to 70 per 1.000 by the first half of the 1970s and 30 per 1.000 in the late
1990s (Bogoyavlensky, 2004). Since 1950s, infant mortality in Russia has decreased steadily,
although this trend changed briefly in 1972-1976, 1984-1985 and 1991-1993 when infant
mortality began to rise. However, after 1993 the decrease in infant mortality became quite
steady again, with the decline in all causes of infant mortality, including exogenous and
congenital causes (Andreev et al, 2004). However, many authors note to have serious problems
with data collection in relation to infant mortality in Russia. As UNICEF (2003) indicates, many
poor pregnancy outcomes are not registered as infant deaths because the foetuses are not
acknowledged to have been born alive. In many FSU countries, including Russia, a very high
proportion of pregnancies are voluntarily terminated through abortion, and numerous
pregnancies also end in involuntary miscarriages which are not officially recorded. Aleshina and
Redmond (2003) found little hard evidence on misreporting of infant deaths in the FSU but
mentioned that available data did suggest problems in many FSU countries, Russia being
among them.
Although decline in life expectancy in Russia was greatly hampered by the decline in
infant mortality (Andreev et al, 2004), the latter did not diminish in the Russian Arctic and in
some years was even increasing.


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Figure 4.14. Infant mortality in the Russian Arctic



born 15



1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003

Source: author’s calculations based on Rosstat (2004)
From 1998 to 2003, infant mortality in the Russian Arctic was rather steady, peaking to
22,4 in 2001, or by 14.7 per cent compared to 19,1 in 1998. After 2001, infant mortality fell and
then rose again to 19,7 in 2003.
As shown in Figure 4.14, this steadily high infant mortality rate in the Russian Arctic
compared to the whole Russia is rather noticeable. It is usually attributed to the adverse
environmental impacts and the presence of numerous hot spots in the region. Evseev et al
(2004) argues that contaminated atmosphere, surface waters and local food products greatly
contribute to the morbidity rates and mortality rates among children in the Russian Arctic that
are higher than the national average. Indigenous population is especially affected. According to
Bogoyavlensky (2004), the infant mortality rate among the indigenous peoples in the Russian
Arctic is twice as high as that of the non-indigenous population (15 per 1000). Infant mortality in
the Russian Arctic is the highest among all Arctic countries (Hild and Stordahl, 2004).
Table 4.20 demonstrates the dynamics of infant mortality in Russia and the Russian
Arctic between 1998 and 2003.


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