“The young, the poor, and the dead” is the headline of an article in Important Stories (rus. Важные истории) by Russian journalist Alesya Marokhovskaya. “The war with Ukraine has accelerated the extinction of Russia. The death rate of young men in the regions has already significantly increased.” she wrote at the beginning of May. In their research, she and her team determined places of residence and dates of birth of the 1855 dead Russian soldiers.
RF soldiers from Buryatia are buried in almost every day / Source baikal-daily.ru
During the two months of the war, all regions of Russia reported the deaths of soldiers, except for the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District (Russian: Ямало-Ненецкий). However, the death toll was very unevenly distributed across regions. For example, from Moscow, where 9% of the Russian population lives, only 3 dead soldiers were listed, while from Buryatia, where less than 1% of the Russian population lives, there were as many as 91 dead soldiers.
Source:Telegram channel Goryushko (rus. Горюшко), calculations by Important stories
If to compare those deaths with the size of the male population aged 18 to 45 then the regions of Buryatia, Tuva (rus. Тыва), North Ossetia (rus. Северная Осетия), the Kostroma region (rus. Костромская область) and the Republic of Altai (rus. республика Алтай) are very clear anti-leaders. Mostly young soldiers die in this war. The average age of the dead soldiers is 28 years. More than 80% died between 18 and 35 years old, and 40% were under 25.
Because of the war death rate of young people in Russia has already risen by more than a quarter. In peacetime, the average number of deaths in two months of men aged 18 to 30 was 3400. Within the first two months of the war, at least 903 more people of the same age died. And these are only those whose death was able to confirm and year of birth determined. In reality, the death toll is much higher..
Another Russian magazine Mediazona (rus. Медиазона), in cooperation with the BBC and a team of volunteers, counted 4238 dead military personnel. These calculations took the period from February 24 to June 30. As they write, this number is far from real numbers, as they monitored only public death announcements here.
Like Important Stories, Mediazona also comes to the same conclusions: soldiers from national republics die more often, among which Dagestan and Buryatia are in the lead. The reasons are the same - low wages and unemployment make the army an attractive employer for young people. The vast majority of messages come from poor regions, where the average salary is lower than the national average.
Why are these young people so eager to join the army?
Most soldiers who died in the war in Ukraine lived in small towns. Almost two-thirds of the dead were from small regional towns and villages. The standard of living there is much lower than the average in Russia. For example, in small towns and villages of Tuva, only 3% of all residential premises are equipped with water supply, sewerage, heating, hot water supply, and gas.
In small towns and villages of Tuva, only 3% of all residential premises are equipped with water supply, sewerage, heating, hot water supply, and gas.
According to the stories of the Ukrainian soldiers, who interrogated Russian soldiers in the basements of the Chernihiv region, the Russians did not understand how the villages got asphalt roads, electricity, and tiles in the yards. The Russians looted TVs, washing machines, laptops, and refrigerators from Ukrainian homes. In those regions where came most of the dead Russian soldiers, not everyone could afford any household appliances. TVs and washing machines in these areas are less than in the average Russian family.
Source: Important Stories
“In our country, the prestige of the army service is extremely low. People often go there only out of hopelessness: poverty is all around, lack of prospects, lack of the opportunity to make a career, provide for themselves, feed their families,” a researcher from the Free Buryatia Foundation told Important Stories (before the war, the organization was monitoring violations in the elections, now - the search for information about the dead soldiers) Maria Vyushkova. - "And at the same time, in regions, the situation is such that the army is one of the largest employers, which constantly needs people. And this is an opportunity to get a decent salary. In some cases, you can also get a military mortgage. The state of the labour market and the employment of the population plays an important role. Some of the dead had specialized education, a civilian profession, maybe even not so bad one. But they could not find any work and were forced to serve in the army under the contract".
In 2020, Buryatia ranked 81st out of 85 places in terms of quality of life among the entities of the Russian Federation (neighbouring Irkutsk region - in 55th place). 20% of the region's residents had incomes below the subsistence level, and in 2013 there were 17.5% of such people. Currently, Ulan-Ude ranks last in terms of quality of life among 78 Russian cities with a population larger than 250,000 inhabitants.
For God, Tsar and Fatherland
For God, Tsar and Fatherland - a slogan common during the period of the Russian Empire. Such a slogan in the 19th century was as an expression of patriotism. But we are not in the 19th century anymore. Moods in big cities of Russia are very well reflected by the disappointment-filled post of the Russian propagandist Akim Apachev on his Telegram channel. He writes - "After Donetsk, where everything saturated with the spirit of the struggle, in Moscow, my T-shirt with "Z" looked something alien, alien, wrong for this environment. I noticed that my T-shirt was catching different types of views. From something angry, from something sympathetic, from something smirking. How strange it is, I thought, that in the middle of the Russian capital, it is so uncomfortable to feel like a real Russian".
Such sentiments are probably the main answer to the question of why Putin avoids involving residents of wealthier regions in the war. Although residents of big cities tend to be apolitical, the Kremlin is well aware that this herd of sheep is peaceful, only as long as it is not led to the slaughter. Distrustful of the inhabitants of big cities, Putin tends to bet on remote regions, which are more motivated by obvious economic motives than the dubious ideas of the “Russian World”. He is more inclined to rely on people who have nothing to lose, for whom war is the only adventure in life and a chance to achieve something. On the mercenaries, from the impoverished outskirts of Russia.
The article was prepared for publication by volunteers of the Res Publica – Civic Resilience Center.