How much does the Russian President earn?

18 November 2016 Tatiana Melikyan, Lenta.ru
The Russian president's salary is, officially, the lowest among all top Kremlin officials. However, presidents are rarely worried about the amount they earn.
Vladimir Putin
Russia's President Vladimir Putin holds a glass of champagne at a ceremony of presenting credentials by foreign ambassadors at the Alexander Hall of Moscow's Kremlin. Source:Mikhail Metzel/TASS

The Russian president’s salary changes constantly, figures indicate, unlike in the United States, where the president's salary has not changed for the last 15 years.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's officially declared salary in 2013 was around 306,000 rubles ($9,500) a month. In 12 months he earned 3,672,000 rubles ($115,000). The following year his earnings increased considerably, exceeding 640,000 rubles ($16,000) a month, and 7.7 million rubles ($193,000) for the year.

However, as the ruble fluctuated sharply in spring 2015, President Putin lowered his salary by 10 percent. His earnings in 2015 totalled 8.9 million rubles ($137,000), or around 740,000 ($11,500) a month. The salary reduction will be calculated in the next fiscal declaration, for 2016.

The Russian president's salary is effectively – at least, officially – the smallest among all top Kremlin officials. However, presidents are rarely worried about their salaries.

"Honestly speaking, I don't even know what my salary is. They deliver it to me, I take it, put it my bank account and don't even count it," Putin once said.

It was Russia's first president, Boris Yeltsin who, in 1997, obliged officials to publicly report their earnings. As befitting a head of state, Yeltsin began with himself: In March 1998 he was the first official to publicly declare his earnings.

His property and total income were valued at 1,950,234 denominated rubles ($325,054). This figure was composed of his total wages, royalties from his book Notes of a President and interest on his savings in Russia’s Sberbank.

The ‘humble’ existence of general secretaries

Even historians today have information on the paychecks of Soviet leaders.

"Stalin's income as Chairman of the Council of Ministers in December 1947 was 10,000 rubles. Yet it is unclear whether this figure included his salary as Secretary of the Central Committee, which was 8,000 rubles," notes Oleg Khlevnyuk, who specializes in research on the Stalinist period.

Additionally, the general secretary was also supposed to receive royalties for the millions of copies of his works. There was a famous episode in which Stalin sent his childhood friends in Georgia a large sum of 40,000 rubles.

President Boris Yeltsin is greeted in the Russian bistro in the underground shopping mall on Sept. 6, 1997. Source: Alexander Sentsov/Alexander Chumichev/TASSPresident Boris Yeltsin is greeted in the Russian bistro in the underground shopping mall on Sept. 6, 1997. Source: Alexander Sentsov/Alexander Chumichev/TASS

In comparison, the average annual income of a Soviet citizen in that period was 7,200 rubles and the monthly salary was 600 rubles. Peasants in 1950 earned less than 100 rubles a month.

Khlevnyuk suggests that Russians do not pay much attention to the official salaries of Soviet leaders. Whatever they were, millions of rubles went into the maintenance of dachas, guards and servicing.

"After 1947, Dad sometimes asked me during our rare encounters, 'Do you need money?' I would always say, 'No.'" writes Stalin's daughter Svetlana Allilueva in her memoirs. "'You're lying,' he'd say.'How much do you need?'"

"I didn't know what to say. He didn't know how much contemporary money was worth, or how much anything cost. He lived with his pre-revolutionary idea that 100 rubles is a huge amount. And when he gave me two-three thousand rubles, whether it was for a month, for half a year or two weeks, he believed he was giving me a million…," she wrote.

"Each month, his entire salary would be packed in envelopes on his table. I don't know if he had a savings book – probably not. He didn't spend the money himself. There was nowhere and nothing to spend it on. Everything in his life – the dachas, the houses, the servants, the food, the clothes – was all paid for by the government."

Oleg Budnitsky, Doctor of Historical Sciences, said "real" money had no meaning for Russian leaders. As much as Lenin earned, it was extremely difficult to buy food with this rapidly depreciating paper.

An incident that once occurred with Boris Yeltsin vividly demonstrates the relationship of Russian leaders with their money. Attending the opening ceremony of the Russian Bistro domestic eatery chain, Yeltsin selected some food and went to pay for it at the cashier.

Obviously, he did not have any money in his pockets and his colleagues had to help him. But for some time, Yeltsin could not understand exactly how much he had to pay. Baffled, he continued counting the notes in his hands – he had actually forgotten how to handle money.

This is abridged version of an article first published in Russian by Lenta.ru.

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