Russia has one of the largest concentrations of millionaires in the world, and according to Forbes it is home to 96 billionaires. The country is also one of the richest in the world with a GDP of US $1.28 trillion. However, despite the country’s immense wealth, millions of Russians live below the poverty line. In 2015, the Moscow-based Financial University posted a report establishing the poorest cities in the country.
The Financial University report was conducted in Russia’s major cities with populations greater than 500,000 residents. In the report, respondents were asked to identify their income level, the lowest being people whose income was barely enough to buy food, and these were categorized as critically poor, while the highest level was residents whose income provided for everything including real estate.
Coming in at first place was the city of Tolyatti, the administrative center of Stavropolsky District. The city is among the largest in the country, with a population of over 720,000 people. Founded in 1737 as Stavropol-on-Volga, the city was renamed in 1964 in honor of former Italian Communist Party secretary, Palmiro Togliatti. While the city is home to few major industries, including the Russian car-manufacturer, AvtoVAZ, which is the largest employer in the city, 13% of Tolyatti residents were found to be critically poor, and struggled to afford a simple meal. Another 57% of the residents were found to be low-income. The young male demographic accounted for the largest number of the critically poor, which makes the city a fertile ground from which social problems may emerge.
The city of Astrakhan was ranked the second poorest. The large city has a population over half a million residents and is located along the Volga River, near the Caspian Sea. Financial University's study found that 56% of Astrakhan residents were low-income, while another 11% were found to be critically poor. Astrakhan's position in the list was a surprise, considering that the city is dubbed as the “Caspian Capital,” and has a thriving fishing industry.
Located about 370 miles south of Moscow, Penza is one of the largest cities in Western Russia, with a population of over 520,000 residents. The city thrived during the Soviet Era and was the city in which the Ural mainframe computer was produced. Financial University's report found Penza was the third poorest city in Russia. The report determined that 53% of Penza residents were categorized under low-income, while 12% of the city’s residents were found to be critically poor. The worrying statistic tarnishes Penza’s reputation as the Penza region’s eponymous capital.
Originally known as Stalingrad, the city of Volgograd is one of the most popular cities in Russia, with its rich history drawing foreign tourists. With a population of over 1 million residents, Volgograd is the largest city on the list. Volgograd was ranked the fourth poorest Russian city, where 63% (the highest on the list) of its population was termed as low-income, while another 18% were termed as critically poor.
Saratov is a Russian city situated in the Saratov Oblast, and is home to one of the busiest ports along the Volga River. The city is also one of the largest in the region, with a population of over 840,000 residents. The report from the Financial University established that 50% of Saratov residents were under the low-income bracket, while 10% of the city’s residents were categorized as critically poor. Saratov's ranking was baffling considering that the city lies in a region endowed with natural resources and is home to heavy industries.