March 10, 2017 Approximately one year from now, on March 18, 2018, Russia will hold a presidential election against the backdrop of an economic crisis that will continue to plague the country in the coming year. Internal developments are the key issue facing Russia this year, and the countryside will increasingly show signs of crisis.
Russia faces a number of social and economic problems that have resulted in unrest. After oil prices dropped in late 2014, the country began to experience economic and labor protests. Since then, unrest has continued to spread across Russia. Wage arrears (workers owed back pay), which affect both public and private workers, have become increasingly problematic in oil-dependent and single-industry economies throughout Russia’s interior and in port cities. Cuts in social programs that affect payments to veterans and children have also led to public protests.
As economic and social problems persist, so do Putin’s moves to consolidate power in the security sphere and political arena. Severe financial constraints prevent him from solving the economic crisis in advance of the 2018 election, so he seeks to suppress and control economic unrest through increased security measures. For now, the protests are still small, numbering in the low hundreds at most. However, Putin has signaled that he has no intention of tolerating dissent through his reshuffling of internal security bodies and governorships. To learn more about how Putin plans to deal with growing unrest in Russia and how that unrest may intersect with political opposition forces, check out our recent Deep Dive, “Russia’s 2018 Presidential Election.”