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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ruble Millionaires: Dubious Distinction

Nearly one-quarter of Russians now make more than a million. Rubles, that is. Per month.


The sum -- which equals a little more than $200 -- sounds mind-boggling when compared to just five years ago, when several hundred rubles a month was a good salary. But it remains modest in Russia, where prices for many goods and services have risen sharply.


Another quarter of the population -- down from one-third a year ago -- earned less over the course of 1995 than the subsistence wage, according to Russia's State Statistics Committee.


In figures carried Monday by Interfax, the committee put the subsistence wage at 327,000 rubles -- a little more than $75 at current exchange rates.


The committee said its figures indicate that incomes for low-and middle-income Russians are stabilizing and that the dramatic stratification between rich and poor is slowing down.


The move toward the free market since the 1991 Soviet collapse has created a small group of very wealthy Russians and huge resentment among many of the rest.


The committee said 35.6 million people -- or about 24 percent of Russians -- earned more than 1 million rubles last month.


It said real incomes, too, were slowly rising, although the figures seemed inconclusive.


The number of Russians earning less than subsistence wages fell from 49.4 million in January 1995 to 28.9 million in December, or from 33 percent to 20 percent, according to the state figures.


Average national earnings last month were 710,000 rubles, or about $150 -- up 15 percent from November and 101 percent from December 1994, it said. But the increase in real terms, while up 12 percent from November, had fallen 13 percent from December 1994, the committee said.


Reported income figures in Russia are inexact. Many people supplement modest salaries with side jobs, barter and economic hustling that may not be reflected by official figures. Transactions are often in cash, often with U.S. dollars.