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Irkutsk Oblast/Region
In Irkutsk there is a predominance of energy resources and wood. Oil, gas, pipelines, wood, aluminum, several large chemical plants (including the largest chemical plant in Russia), one large refinery in Angarsk and one being planned, all elements on the Mendelev Table and rare minerals dominate the Region. Irkutsk has the cheapest and most abundant electricity in Russia and possible worldwide -- l kilowatt=1 Cent US.  However that abundance of energy resources also carries severe environmental and monopoly/corruption problems. According to local statistics, the economic growth from 2007 over 2006 grew 7.8%. Since the majority of exports are raw commodities rather than value added products (with the exception of chemicals and some paper and pulp wood products) this situation creates difficulties for such an educated workforce in the quality and quantity of jobs in the Oblast/Region. Furthermore, the current program of region wide consolidation of rural, underdeveloped areas into the Oblast/Region tends to decrease economic growth on a statistical level.

Unfortunately, there is also an unwanted export of highly trained Russian specialists (mainly male) to the larger cities of Russia, Europe, North America and the Far East. This out-migration has created a serious immigration/demographic problem, because it is coupled with a significant accidental or deliberate influx of Chinese nationals taking not only many unfilled jobs, but also creating the unspoken social intermarriage situation where many Russian women marry Chinese men.

 The political situation in Irkutsk is stable, but competition from more successful neighboring provinces like diamond rich Yakutia or resource rich Krasnoyarsk or Novosabirsk is significant. Since the 2004 Russian Federation transformation of the election of provincial/regional governors to their appointment by the President of Russia makes those Governors with good political connections in Moscow more economically successful.

 During the early/mid l990’s many of the most profitable and well managed industries in Siberia were purchased by Moscow or St. Peterburg or offshore/Russian owned companies so that their main profit went to the location they were registered as owners. The separation of the social/municipal functions (such as schools, hospitals, sport & culture facilities, libraries, orphanages, etc.) from the factories they were tied to and supported by in the Soviet period, to be managed\\by local cities, regions and oblasts, left many of these functions are severely under-funded. The large informal economy further prevents the complete funding of these social functions of municipal government.

Angara has been very creative and successful over 17 years in appealing to the “charity” social service obligations of the business community with creation of “Social Funds” (funded by local government and private businesses and investment) but it doesn’t fill the need. Additionally, the tendencies of creating monopolies in Russia in the large cities and regions and lack of infrastructure development of the rural areas have intensified the problems.

Situation Regarding Women in Irkutsk Oblast
Women represent between 52-54% of the population and workforce of Irkutsk Oblast/Region. A very unusual statistic is that 25% of the women in the Region have university degrees. One possible reason for this high level of educated women is historical. (Insert new statistics from Svetlana…) Reformers called “Decembrists”, of the 1800’s (1825-late 1860’s) from the nobility of St. Petersburg, who wanted to limit slightly the power of the Tsar with creation of a parliament and end to serfdom, were sent to prison in Siberia/Irkutsk as punishment, those who were not executed. These reformers were accompanied voluntarily by their highly educated and cultured wives who started educational, cultural and social centers of excellence for women. For additional information on the Decembrists, please e-mail the Decembrists Museum in Irkutsk, volkkonsky@irkutsk.ru. Angara’s Gold Fund Book, published in 2007, traces the success of Irkutsk successful women of today back to the wives of the Decembrists, nearly 200 years ago.

In recent years the literacy rate of women in the Oblast and in Russia has decreased especially in the rural areas because of the lack of infrastructure development, especially roads. However, the percentage of women in business and trade has increased, starting from the “suitcase trade” of the early 1990’s in Russia and the former Soviet Republics. The percentage of women in small and medium sized businesses is very large, decreasing in mid-sized businesses and decreasing significantly in large businesses, both in ownership and management.

Statistics are difficult to find, especially of the Chinese, Central Asian and Mongolian demographic situation overtaking Siberia, one of the largest and most under-populated land masses in the world. These immigrants come both legally (to study at the many and fine universities and technical schools in Siberia) and illegally to find jobs and support their families in their home countries.

Summary of major problems facing Angara and women in Oblast/Region:
  1. Demographic: Chinese, Central Asian and Mongolian “invasion” serious. Need immigration policy. Out migration of skilled and educated workers. Out migration of trained, educated Russian specialists and influx of legal and illegal immigrants from Asia all create the need for an immigration policy.
  2. Government and business favor larger cities, with certain industries forbidden to women or with forced age retirement.
  3.  Mafia-led transnational trafficking in women and children.
  4. Monopolies in Oblast with ownership from Moscow
  5. Corruption
  6. Need new technologies for resources and timber and development of value added products.
  7. Environmental problems: Minatom nuclear waste, hydro electric dam/stations on flatland are bad for environment; a lot of thrombosis problems have been identified. Role of Gasprom – new Russian pipeline went around Lake Baikal.
  8. Governance: In the opinion of many citizens, the neighboring Oblasts have governors with enhanced and superior Moscow contacts.

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