Three Decades after Soviet Collapse, Hunger is Omnipresent in Russia and Ukraine


A recent survey has revealed that nearly two out of every five (39%) Russians have gone without food and drink due to a lack of funds in the last six months. The country has seen rapid inflation of grocery prices during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The latest figures come over three decades after Perestroika and the market-like reforms introduced by then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, which led to worsened food shortages. After the collapse of the USSR, and the introduction of a hyper capitalist system, where a small oligarchy quickly took over key sectors of the economy. As a consequence, inequality remains a feature of the country’s economic make up.
The poll, published by Levada, also revealed that 52% of all Russians have had to forgo necessary purchases of clothes and shoes, while 71% decided not to go ahead with essential large purchases for the home. The new Levada figures come off the back of rapid inflation in food costs, with figures from July revealing that prices have risen 7.4% in just 12 months.
With elections just around the corner, the growth in the price of food has become a severe issue within Russia. The Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin is trying to skip off responsibility by accusing companies of pushing up inflation by hiking prices across the board. He pointed to the “greed of individual manufacturers and retail chains” as the main reason.
A new UNICEF study has revealed that Ukraine has more people classed as “severely food insecure” than any other European nation, with 1.1 million citizens regularly skipping meals or eating significantly less due to money issues. That number increases to 8.7 million when those classed as “moderately” food insecure are included.
The latest figure, published on Monday, also highlights Ukraine’s status as the only Eastern European nation to have seen an increase in the number of severely food-insecure people in recent years, having jumped from 900,000 since the 2014-2016 period. The growth in numbers of those suffering from food poverty is especially worrying, considering Ukraine’s significant population loss since the 2014 Maidan incident. According to a UNICEF study published last month, Russia has 400,000 people classed as ‘severely food insecure’. For comparison, in the same bracket, the UK has approximately 500,000 people, while Germany has 600,000 people. The US, which has roughly double the population of Russia, has 2.7 million severely food insecure people. Nearly eight millions of citizens have fled the country seeking employment abroad.
When looked at as a proportion of the population, the UNICEF report reveals that 2.5% of Ukrainians are forced to skip meals due to financial issues. This is far worse than in some of the country’s neighbouring states.
The same picture is present in other big capitalist countries. According to a UNICEF study published last month, the UK has approximately 500,000 people, Germany has 600,000 people and the US has 2.7 million severely food insecure people.
(Source: Articles by Jonny Tickle, Russia Times, 15-07-21 and 26-08-21)

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