November 17, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 9036

Russian Columnist Sergey Shelin: When Adjusting For Population Size, Russia's Handling Of The Coronavirus Is Even Worse Than The US Response; Russia's Centralized System Is A Prescription For Failure

November 17, 2020
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 9036

In an article for Rosbalt media titled "Covid: The Second Wave of Failures by the Authorities", columnist Sergey Shelin advises his readers to ignore the official Covid statistics that are already contradicted by Russia's statistical service and to focus on the excess mortality of 2020 over 2019 to view the true picture.

The emerging picture is unflattering to Russia despite its boasts about the superiority of a centralized authoritarian system and its claim to be the first to perfect a vaccine against the coronavirus.[1] For Shelin, the reason is obvious, far from being superior to Western systems, the second wave of the virus has again exposed the deficiencies of a system geared to flattering the leader and evading responsibility.

Shelin's article follows below:[2]


"Not everyone understands what a sorry place our country occupied on the COVID-19 “world map”.

"We have two contradictory statistics on covid deaths, and both are official. The Rospotrebnadzor [Federal Service for Consumer Protection Surpervision]’s website Стопкоронавирус.рф [“Stopcoronavirus.rf”] reports about 30 thousand dead. However, Rosstat [The Federal State Statistic Service] designates approximately twice (if not three) times Rospotrebnadzor’s number of deaths from covid. [Rosstat’s numbers] are “approximate” - because Rosstat information is published with a significant delay. But this data is also underestimated. It is enough to look at the figures for the so-called excess mortality, i.e., at the difference between the number of deaths in recent months and mortality for the same period of 2019. “The excess mortality rate in October was about 1,300 people per day, and this does not take into account the smaller number of working days (taking into account 1,587),” wrote demographer Aleksey Raksha, - Of this number, according to the developed countries’ data about 80% die due to covid, so we get about 1200-1300 deaths. At the same time, according to the official data from the “Stopkoronavirus.rf” website, in October, an average of 237 people per day died directly from the covid (which was confirmed by tests). It turns out a proportion of at least 5 to 1”. This data is just for October. And in toto, over the seven months since the beginning of the epidemic, excess mortality in Russia amounted to about 150 thousand, of which, 120 thousand apparently, are covid deaths.

"Let’s compare [these number] to other countries

"In the United States, where the actions of the central government during the epidemic are considered to be weak and confused, by the beginning of November, 230 thousand people had died, considering that the US population is 2.2 times larger than the Russian population. In the first days of November, 800-900 people die there every day. Adjusted for country size, both our figures are worse and especially these days. Raksha: “Over the past week, the average daily official mortality from covid is 320 people, and the proportion indicates, that about 1600-1700 are now dying because of covid.”

"Here are the countries, where the epidemic was stopped:

"Japan has the 80% the population of Russia. The total mortality from covid is 1.8 thousand. In November, the number of daily deaths is about 8.

"South Korea has population three times less than ours. Less than 500 people died, the daily death rate in November was 1-2.

"Australia has a population that is six times smaller. For the entire pandemic period, it had about 900 deaths, and in November, the average daily mortality rate is less than one.

"It is not enough to say that our situation is more difficult than that of many others. It gets worse. And this despite the fact that our regime stands by its supposedly centralized nature, the ability to manage everyone and the ability to prepare in advance for something.

"It is easy to understand what is the deal here. For example, this is a [quote from] an official report of the Security Council’s Friday meeting, conducted (of course, remotely) by Vladimir Putin: “A detailed conversation about the coronavirus epidemic situation was held, with an emphasis on the state of affairs in Russia's regions (taking into account the previously adopted measures to provide them with additional financial assistance). Other issues of the country's socio-economic development were also raised ...”

"That is, covid now is just one of the “issues of the country’s socio-economic development”. They are not trained to express their thoughts differently. Because the job of our state machine is the fabrication of successes. The system knows how to crow about its “socio-economic development”, but is unsuited to manage misfortune and disasters.

"Only in our country the head of state is not a person personally responsible to the people for the “situation with the coronavirus epidemic.” His job is to listen to servile reports from subordinates. And there is no reason to appeal to the nation, because there are no reasons to brag about anything.

"The administrative apparatus that he created by him is sluggish, illiterate and is not targeted at work, but at writing reports to the higher echelons and at blocking the initiatives of the lower officials via a system of total reporting and monitoring.

"With the advent of the epidemic, all this became apparent.

"It is clear that they did not prepare for the second covid wave - as in most other countries. But nothing prevented them to at least reimburse Russian doctors and medical institutions for the damage caused by the first wave.

"Instead, the bureaucracy, having somehow survived the 'covid spring', returned to [its] familiar parasitism in the summer. Even in the budget plan for the next year, they somehow managed to insert a cut in health care spending.

"Should we now be surprised at the overcrowding of hospitals, lack of oxygen[3] and paramedic demonstrations at the regional administrations? The showy dismissal of a few minor officials, does not make up for several months of irresponsible slacking.

"How one can erase the months of idle talk of greedy good-for-nothings, liars and bootlickers posing as experts on the problem – 'virologists', 'epidemiologists', 'infectious disease specialists'. The ruling apparatus does not have experts, not because there are no knowledgeable people left in the country. It hasn't removed everyone yet. But this apparatus itself is incapable of distinguishing a professional from a charlatan, the truth from a lie.

"Hence the current confusion with recipes for protective measures and restrictions, with forecasts of the further course of the epidemic. The majority of such “experts”, adorned with high positions, would not have enough qualifications to work even as nurses (if one could allow for a second that they would repent and seek to make amends for their guilt with honest labor).

"Therefore, Russia goes through the covid waves in the most expensive way - chaotically. The gigantic bureaucratic machine fusses confusedly and unburdens itself by scolding people for irresponsibility.

Sergey Shelin (Source:


[2], November 6, 2020.

[3] The author refers to the incident, when in Rostov-on-Don 13 patients with COVID-19 died due to a lack of oxygen in mechanical ventilator machines.

Share this Report: