Gulnaz Sharafutdinova
Articles by Gulnaz Sharafutdinova

Identity Politics and the Reality of Pandemic-Era Russia: A Clash in the Making

From the beginning of the pandemic, the Russian government instituted very tight control over all information related to the spread of the coronavirus in Russia. It highlighted Russia’s lower mortality rate and focused on advances in developing and registering the first COVID-19 vaccine. The label of “Sputnik-V” hearkened back to the Cold War-era space race and Soviet achievements in this sphere. Meanwhile, the truth about the spread of the virus in Russia was kept secret. Medical authorities, responding to executive pressure, controlled reporting about the infection, diagnosing many cases of the virus as pneumonia and attributing the causes of death to other, more proximate reasons like cardiovascular or renal failure — even when these causes were spurred by the virus. At the same time, alternative means of getting to the truth about coronavirus spread in Russia demonstrate that, contrary to official reports, the death toll from the pandemic is still rising as localized pockets of infection affect different regions, cities, and localities across the country. As hundreds of thousands of Russians sicken, they inevitably come into contact with the failing healthcare system and must come to terms with the fact that the Russian state does not have social safety mechanisms capable of alleviating the new economic problems the pandemic is causing. The public response to news about the Russian vaccine offers a snapshot of these new trends.

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