“I do not like any of the options for raising the retirement age,” commented Vladimir Putin, breaking his conspicuous silence on pension reform. “I assure you,” he told volunteers at an event in Kaliningrad on July 20, “in the government there are few who do.” While Russia has made news in the West of late with its malicious acts in cyberspace and machinations in the Middle East, the singular domestic issue of the day is pension reform. The issue has fomented mass protests in Russia—an outpouring of anger which is the largest Putin has faced over an economic issue since taking power.
So why have Russian authorities embarked on pension reform now, what does it entail, and what does it mean for domestic politics? No, Putin is not about to be toppled. But pension reform is a critical issue for Russia, and one that may have meaning closer to home than meets the eye.