Development in Russia

Development in Russia

23 April 2017

Версия на русском.
Colorblind-friendly version.

I got a hold of human development data for each Russian federal subject, contained in a report ( short version here) by Russia’s National Analytics Center. The report did have a map, but I didn’t particularly like how it was split between two PDF pages, let alone the wacky color scheme. Great opportunity to make a new and improved one!

Main takeaways

Russia as a whole has made massive progress in the last 10 years, across education, health care and infrastructure. Large differences still persist between the poorest and most prosperous parts, and the recent slump in oil prices has slowed down development.

Moscow and St. Petersburg lead the pack—their indicators put them alongside countries like Italy and Greece. Were it not for a low life expectancy, the two cities would be on par with the US, Canada and Scandinavia.

Northern Siberia, especially Tyumen Oblast (darkest green), also gets a high score. While health and education indices in this region are about average for Russia, incomes here are very high thanks to investment by large energy and mining companies. Despite the awfully harsh climate, cities like Tyumen and Surgut are attracting thousands of people due to high-paying jobs.

The Caucasus region lags in development, particularly the Republic of Chechnya, which is still recovering from multiple wars. Development here is similar to countries like Ecuador or nearby Ukraine—low by Russian and European standards, but still considered “High” by the United Nations.

Areas of far western Russia like Pskov, Tver and Smolensk oblasts also lag behind. This may seem surprising, due to their proximity to the powerhouses of Moscow and St. Petersburg, but this is a curse rather than a blessing. Seeking opportunity, talented young people flocked to the capitals, leaving their home regions to decay.

The Far East, meanwhile, is a mixed bag. The island of Sakhalin, as well as Yakutia—Russia’s largest subject—are profiting from mineral wealth. But border regions near China and Mongolia and languishing, with little industry or opportunity to dissuade residents from moving west.

How I did it

I started trying to use python or possibly javascript to make this one, but it turned out that manually coloring an SVG in Illustrator would be much faster and less frustrating—I would have to do some post-processing in Illustrator anyway. So no fancy computational tools this time.

Comparing the development of internal regions with that of entire foreign countries is very risky, but useful to gain perspective. The formula by which these scores were calculated was developed for internal Russian use only, a modified version of the (pre-2010) United Nations formula that uses the same concepts but relies on data that exists for Russian regions. I used this formula to compute the HDIs for several countries, and they largely corresponded with the UN’s official reckoning. Nonetheless, there were some inconsistencies, and the country comparisons are very approximate. I tried to use relatively small and homogeneous countries, rather than saying “China” or “USA”, which have huge internal variations.

I can update this section with more details if people ask.