Monday, May 10, 2010

Window on Eurasia: United Russia Now has 40,000 Apparatchiks, Moscow Analyst Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, May 10 – While the United Russia Party has never said how large its paid staff is, a Moscow analyst says, information the ruling party has released allows one to conclude that it has approximately 40,000 full-time staffers, just one of the ways in which this post-Soviet party is converging with its Soviet-era predecessor.
In an article on the “Svobodnaya pressa” portal last week, Lev Ivanov says that the emergence of a party bureaucracy is one of the ways in which United Russia and the CPSU are similar, even though the former has “never declared the number of its ‘freed-workers,’ that is, of those who are paid from the party’s funds (
But Ivanov says that it is possible to calculate the approximate number. At the start of this year, he notes, United Russia has 2598 local divisions and about 70,000 primary party organizations. A former member of the United Russia central apparatus says that 8 to 10 people work in each local section and “approximately 30 to 40” in a regional one.
Using those figures as a base, Ivanov continues, suggests that “the total number of the apparatus of the [United Russia] party could reach 40,000,” a figure that is especially high given that, as the anonymous former United Russia official said, salaries for these people are not high: 20,000 rubles (630 US dollars) a month.
That amount may go up during elections, the former United Russia central official indicated, “both officially and unofficially,” a suggestion that many of them profit from the distribution of administrative resources and corruption accompanying Russian elections during the past decade.
But the real motivation for young people to join the apparatus is different, the former apparatchik said. They “become party workers in the hope of networking, receiving bureaucratic experience, and this with that baggage as part of their experiences going into government corporations or the executive branch” where they can make far more.
Ivanov’s article was prompted by the report released last Thursday by the Russian Central Election Commission on the budgets of that country’s political parties for the first quarter of 2010. United Russia had by far the largest income during that period, 956.5 million rubles (32 million US dollars), more than 90 percent of it from the state budget.
Under Russian law, the government distributes funds to parties relative to the votes they have received in the most recent elections. United Russia, having received the most votes, therefore receives the most. The Communists (KPRF), for example, received 179 million rubles (6 million US dollars).
Last week as well, party leader Boris Gryzlov provided some additional details on the membership of United Russia. He noted that it now has 2.026 million members, that 40 percent are employed in industry and education, 5.5 percent in agriculture, and 8 percent in the health sector. “A little more than 13 percent” of the party’s members work in government jobs.
Gryzlov added that 60.3 percent of United Russia’s members were female and that 39 percent had higher education. And he noted that “every day,” 20,000 more people are joining United Russia, a figure that if it remains unchanged means it will include the same share of the population the CPSU did at the end by 2020.
In his article, Ivanov points to another interesting detail. United Russia has stopped collecting party dues, even though its wealthy members could have made it rich. On the one hand, he says, the 0.5 percent of incomes above 20,000 rubles (670 US dollars) that had been required as dues would have required some billionaires to pay millions of rubles a year.
And on the other, the Moscow journalist points out, if United Russia did collect dues, it would provide an indication of the “true membership of United Russia, without ‘the dead souls,’” who are currently listed on its books but who in fact may not be involved in the party at all.

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