Rosstat: Politicization or Modernization?

In recent weeks, there has been cynical coverage of the dismissal of Russian state statistics director Alexander Surinov, and his replacement by Pavel Malkov; especially as it was soon followed by an upwards revision of GDP growth since 2016 (including 2.3% growth in 2018 vs. expectations of 1.5%-2.0%).

Is the Soviet era of politicized statistics gathering coming back?

I don’t know. I don’t have the insider details to know that. Neither do the journalists who speculate about this.

Unlike many of those journalists, what I do know – as someone who uses Rosstat quite extensively in my own coverage of Russia – is that under its departing director, the state statistics service website has become a complete mess.

The main website is an early 2000s era website with some extraneous and mostly useless gizmos. Inconsistent formatting between sections, Flash apps, extraneous features like “rate this page” (which don’t even work”). Data delivery happens via static HTML or downloadable Excel files. But I’d be happy if even that actually worked well.

Want to access historical data? There’s like (at least) 4 systems for it, none of which work properly.

Let’s look at a basic indicator, e.g. natural population increase:

  • : Data for 2006-2010 only
  • : no hyperlinks to date; data for 1970,75,80,85,1990-92 only /3
  • : This was a good system. It generated HTML tables from 1990-[current year] that could be downloaded in Excel or csv format, with a variety of regional, time, and other filters. It had hyperlinks to every indicator. Data could be copied from the screen, or downloaded in Excel or CSV format. It was simple but it worked. It did pretty much everything that a statistics repository needed to do. But then they nuked it!
  • : And replaced it with this abomination. Searching for any one term generates multiple series, in different formats and with different starting and ending years. Often missing altogether. No yearly natural population increase numbers since 2012!

In practice, acquiring time series data on Russian economics and demographics now often requires searching across several of these partially broken systems, statistical compendiums, or even outside references to Rosstat figures.

So here is a perhaps more relevant and slightly more plausible explanation for this reorganization.

Alexander Surinov (left) was born in 1958 and finished his economic statistics education in 1989, has run been involved with Rosstat since 2004, and was in charge of it since 2009.

Pavel Malkov (right) was born in 1980 and finished his education in 2009, specializing in “computer software and automated systems.” Since then, his biography indicates that he has had extensive experience with corporate and government digitization, including some involvement with the development of the “My Documents” centers (a huge success story that has greatly simplified many bureaucratic procedures in Russia).

One of those CV’s is clearly more qualified at bringing Rosstat into the modern age than the other.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. I have yet to visit a country that has consistent and easily accessible online records. Most governments seem to have an odd love for websites from the Windows XP era. With any luck, Malkov will make Russia an exception.

  2. Last I heard, the extra 0.4% GDP was explained by counting the entire Yamal peninsula liquid gas export terminal construction (that included housing and lots of pipes and took place over a year or two) in the month of December 2018. So even if it was real, it’s unlikely that this project had a big positive effect on the daily lives of normal people in the rest of the country, unless you’re a relative of someone who was doing construction in the far north, or someone who is now working there.

  3. Not to mention that those kind of upward adjustments are standard practice globally, AFAIK. They already did similar things a few years ago, under Surinov (not to this extent for the previous year, but still).

    This post reminded me of Finnish Wikipedia’s take on Rosstat that I read a few months ago. It had one source, which was clearly the only reason for the page’s existence. I mean, the whole Finnish Wikipedia seems relatively dead, and there’s no reason to write about Rosstat in Finnish in the first place, as long as you can’t use it in some ridiculous anti-Russian hit piece.

    So the source was an article from Finland’s number 1 newspaper (incidentally it also owns The Moscow Times?), which suggested that evil Putler had recently ended the “independence” of Rosstat and that it was no longer reliable as a result. This was from around 2015, if I remember correctly. So apparently Rosstat returned to the Ministry of Economic Development. I do wonder is that any different from many other countries? Probably not, but in any case nothing dramatic happened.

    This whole “war against my advesary’s GDP statistics” is a global phenomenon. China’s growth is regularly questioned by the Western MSM, and in the Russophile alt-media, American GDP stats are as fake as the capabilities of F-35. That debt, lolololololol. So in that sense the fact that Russia has now “joined in,” is probably not a bad thing, it shows that Russia’s real trajectory is going against the wishful thinking of its opponents.

  4. Philip Owen says

    Russian statistics are a bit suspect as well as being presented by a hard to navigate site.

    That said the Customs Service may be worse. Russia’s reported trade with the UK is about half the UK’s reported trade with Russia. (Such inconsistencies are usual between countriesbut bigger in the Russian case). Russia has an unusually large proportion of exports that leave for unknown destinations. Tax evasion comes to mind.

  5. Gerard1234 says

    That said the Customs Service may be worse

    No.GIBDD is worse – it actually used to be decent.

    Russian statistics are a bit suspect

    ..NO. Deeply accurate and seriously and well measured

    Russia’s reported trade with the UK is about half the UK’s reported trade with Russia

    ..called having a positive trade balance. This is much better than the Ukraine-model

    . Russia has an unusually large proportion of exports that leave for unknown destinations. Tax evasion comes to mind.

    Nonsense to think this is included in the export category. Maybe it is included in the FDI, several tens of billions are invested in Greece, from Russia, for instance, same thing with Cyprus

  6. Gerard1234 says

    This is total BS.

    GDP of 2.3 is obviously a minumum – reality is it is far higher. It makes absolute zero difference to how the country is viewed or internal voters if the economy grew 1.8 or 2.3 %

    The stupidity in thinking that a new guy was brought in to bulk up the numbers is ridiculous-… a stat agency doesn;t work like that….plus thinking this was the case would then have to expand on why under the previous head all health statistics were massively going in the positive direction, traffic accidents and deaths significantly down, crime significantly down ..and so on.

    The Presidents May decrees had a target for poverty based on lowering the amount based on the previous Rosstat head era figures….why would he do that is the stats are being miscalculated or politicised?

    This is simply a case of liberast retards “agreeing” with Rosstat when it suits them but suddenly against them when the result doesn’t suit them

    I would add that the effect of the last years sanctions on Russia is supposed to have cost Russia about -.5-0.7% GDP…and that even a 1.5-1.8% GDP rise is in line with all the major European countries…..certainly higher than the UK and Italy and France.

  7. Thorfinnsson says

    The main website is an early 2000s era website

  8. Rosstat got trolled by the usual suspects over construction revision.

    “At issue is the upgrade in construction activity. Rosstat revised its data on construction growth from 0.5% for the first eleven months of 2018 to 5.3% for the entire year,”

    However, Russia is experiencing massive mortgage boom, something like 50% annual growth, so I think Rosstat is correct on their revision. It’s not just Yamal project. If anything, 5% is probably conservative.

    “The residential market in Russia will be the driving force behind the country’s entire construction sector in the long term thanks to the continued high demand of most of the country’s population for improving their housing conditions.”

  9. Gerard1234 says

    something like 50% annual growth

    More like 60%, plus the fact that there is the new housing going up to warrant mortgages in the first place…..and the fairly steep decrease in interest rate on these mortgages…a long way to go to the European level of having 1% interest mortgages.

    It’s not even “controversial “it’s just dickhead liberasts moaning.
    One possible theory is that the authorities purposely give a lower GDP number , allowing them to succesfully develop quietly ….because if they start boasting about the economy then the US will sucumb to it’s own pressure and further implement more sanctions and use the many tools it has to drive down the oil price…or even rapidly increase it

    Though nice to receive it, it’s not neccesarily the oil income at a high or low price that is the problem ( budget accounts for it at a low price anyway) it is the artificial fluctutation in currency value that follows from it, that creates total uncertainty for many types of businesses and employees..and then the economy as a whole.

  10. AquariusAnon says

    I remember when I was looking at visitor entries by nationality and purpose of entry for Russia. At the beginning of 2018, they had data from first quarter 2010 until 4th quarter 2017. Later on, they erased all the 2017 data and the data ended at 2016. And then by 2019, this feature became entirely gone.

  11. These statistics are now the responsibility of the MVD as I understand: https://xn--b1aew.xn--p1ai/Deljatelnost/statistics/migracionnaya

  12. AquariusAnon says

    Apparently the MVD and the Border Service have wildly different statistics for visitor arrivals. China is probably the only country where the 2 results are even within a standard deviation of each other.

    The MVD seems to have a higher number for Central Asian gasterbeiter arrivals than the Border Service. On the other hand, the Border Service statistics for arrivals from Europe and the US is leaps and bounds bigger, over triple the MVD number.

    This sounds fishy. Link below for Border Service numbers:

  13. Philip Owen says

    Border crossings versus registrations?