Russia has one of the highest degrees of wealth inequality in the world. Over one third of Russian household wealth is held by just 100 billionaires. Globally, billionaires account for just 1 to 2 per cent of total wealth.
According to the Credit Suisse annual global wealth report: "“Russia has the highest level of wealth inequality in the world, apart from small Caribbean nations with resident billionaires,” An earlier report by Forbes showed that from 2,000 until 2013 the number of billionaires in Russia has increased from 8 in 2000 to 110 in 2013.
An article in the Guardian a couple of years ago points out: The richest slice of Russian society has doubled its wealth in the past 20 years, while almost two-thirds of the population is no better off and the poor are barely half as wealthy as they were when the Soviet Union fell, according to researchers.
Yevgeny Yasin, who is scientific director of the Higher School of Economis (HSE) claims: "The principal issue for Russia's economy and society today is the level of inequality. Only the best-off 20% of the population is successfully participating in the rise in prosperity which became possible as the result of creating a market economy."
Many state assets were privatized with the transition to a more market oriented economy giving rise to a small group of super-rich oligarchs. There was much great inequality produced in Russia than other countries behind the Iron Curtain. Between the mid-eighties and the mid-2000s, income inequality has increased 8 times more in Russia than Hungary and 5 times more than in the Czech Republic.
The minimum wage in Russia is just $148 US a month. The poverty line is set at $220 a month. Although the wage is scheduled to rise to $170 next year this is still below the poverty line. There are over a million Russians receiving the minimum wage mostly in the public sector. Over 12 per cent of Russians live below the poverty level.
Among developed countries the most unequal is the US with a Gini coefficient of 0.41 in 2010 according to the UN Human Development Report but Russia's is higher than that at 0.44.. Other former Soviet-allgned countries show increasing inequality as well but not to the extent of Russia.