top of page

Poverty Kills

By: Taras Frolov

We all hope that the devasting war in Ukraine ends soon. Many people on our planet do what they can to bring us closer to that moment, to help the country under aggression. Time will pass and academics will evaluate why it could have happened, whether or not it could have been prevented and how we can ensure fewer wars on Earth in the future.

This article is not academic, and I didn’t make a deep research. But one reason for the war seems obvious to me even now. It is poverty.

After some search on statistics in the Internet and a not too complicated math exercise, I came to the conclusion that the percentage of Buryats killed in Ukraine by mid May is 257 times more than the killed Muscovites when calculated on a pro rata basis.

It is likely that the same ratio applies to the number of Russian military men engaged in Ukraine. Thus, there must be a much higher percentage of young men from Buryatia ready to go to Ukraine than those from Moscow.

Why did this happen? One reason may lie on the surface. The people in Moscow have substantially larger income than in Buryatia. Official numbers tell us that the average salary in Buryatia is 50’854 rubles per month while in Moscow it is 3 times higher – 146’000 rub/month. And there are reasons to believe that undisclosed income in Moscow is substantially higher than in Buryatia, so it is likely that the discrepancy is even larger.

But let’s not limit our thoughts to figures only. In an article for Radio Liberty, Radzhana Dugar-De Ponte says: “Buryats’ territory ..- is a large depressive region. Total unemployment, scanty salaries, huge debt burden. All these factors have led to the situation when to get out of an economical dead end a young man has two choices: illegal migration or contractual military.” On the contrary – Moscow is (or was before 24.02.2022) a civilized city with a lot of cafés, museums, theaters, night clubs and other attributes of any developed metropolis.

Many sources indicate that about 200 thousand rub/month are offered to military contractors by those who hold power in the Kremlin. Obviously, Moscovites can earn 146 thousand rubles on average working from home, without putting their lives in danger and without the necessity to make a deal with their conscience. For poor Buryats the situation is different. With high unemployment, they are suddenly offered a salary more than they could ever wish to make.

We can say, of course, that there is still a choice and military could be avoided, which would make the war end sooner. That is true. But my point is more general. The figures and common sense tell us that a poor person is much more likely to become a mercenary. This is the case not only for Russia but for the entire world. Many might agree that Putin must be ill mentally to start an entire war in 2022. But he would not be able to do that without any people ready to fight; without making some Russian regions so depressed that no moral thoughts can stop people from earning money.

So, when we ask ourselves how to protect the planet from wars, one of the answers seems to be that first of all we have to eliminate poverty. A prosperous man with a happy life, possibilities to do interesting things and see the world is almost certainly going to stand for peace and strongly oppose any military actions. To do this, the golden billion should look at those less fortunate than they are and not erect walls around their peaceful and beautiful civilization but on the contrary – extend their prosperity and values to each corner of the world; help others see the beauty of peaceful life, of humanity, equality and just society.

bottom of page