In 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin will turn 70 years old. "Important stories" calculated the average age of senior officials, found out how it has changed over the past 10 years, and found out how older or younger officials are in other countries.
A year ago, the Levada Center* asked the Russians if they wanted to see Vladimir Putin as president after 2024, when his current term expires. Most of those who answered in the negative (there were 42% of them - this is the maximum since 2014) explained this by the fact that Putin "stayed too long", it is "time for him to retire", "it's time to rest" (22% answered this way). Another 11% believe that the problem is age: Putin is “old”, but “we need young people”, “we need a fresh look”.
In 2022, Vladimir Putin will turn 70 years old. According to a poll conducted by the Levada Center* in 2020, 62% of Russians want the presidential age limit to be limited by law; 35% do not want the president to be a pensioner, and 23% are in favor of a restriction upon reaching 70 years.
Due to the long term in power of Vladimir Putin, the era of his presidency is compared with the "Brezhnev stagnation" in the USSR - when the average age of members of the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee exceeded 60 years (Brezhnev led the USSR from 1964 to 1982. - Approx. ed.). The average age of the entire Brezhnev cohort of power (which included not only the top leadership, but also the government, as well as the parliamentary and regional elites) was 55.9 years, follows from a study by scientists from the Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who analyzed the age of the elite since 1984 (by that time top management still consisted of "Brezhnev's people," the researchers note.—ed.). During the reign of Mikhail Gorbachev (1985-1991), the average age of senior officials dropped to 51.6 years, under Boris Yeltsin (he was president of Russia from 1991 to 1999) - to 50.2 years, and at the beginning of Vladimir Putin's presidency it was 50.9 years.
From the very beginning of his reign, President Putin has repeatedly repeated that the country needs young politicians: in 2007 he was going to involve young people in politics, in 2013 he hoped that young political leaders would appear in Russia, in 2021 he announced his desire to “see a patriotic youth in politics.
However, in recent years, the average age of senior officials in Russia has risen to 55 years (for more details, see the chapter “How We Counted”). At the same time, almost half of Russian youth does not approve of the activities of the current government. Today, 48% of Russians aged 18-24 believe that the country is moving in the wrong direction, and 46% of those in the same age group disapprove of the president, according to a 2021 Levada Center poll*.
HOW WE CONSIDERED
To calculate the average age of the highest echelon of Russian power, we collected data on how old (as of January 2022) officials from the leadership of key government bodies: this is the leadership of the Presidential Administration, members of the government, senators from the Federation Council, State Duma deputies, members of the Security Council, the State Council and heads of federal services and agencies. Separately, we calculated how old the heads of all regions of the country are.
For comparison with other countries, we have limited the list to officials from the highest legislative and executive bodies:
Russia: Federal Assembly (consists of two chambers - the State Duma and the Federation Council) and the government;
Belarus: National Assembly (consists of two chambers - the House of Representatives and the Council of the Republic) and the government (Council of Ministers);
Ukraine: Verkhovna Rada and Government (Cabinet of Ministers);
Kazakhstan: parliament (Senate and Mazhilis) and government;
USA: Congress (Senate and House of Representatives) and government (Cabinet);
UK: Parliament (House of Lords and House of Commons) and Cabinet;
Germany: Bundestag, Bundesrat and government;
France: Parliament (Senate and National Assembly) and government.
To calculate the share of officials of retirement age, we focused on the limit set by Russian laws for this year: for men, the retirement age in 2022 is 61.5 years, for women - 56.5 years.
Data sources: dates of birth of officials - biographies on the official websites of government departments; lists of active officials for 2012 - anti-corruption declarations for 2012 published on the websites of state bodies and in the Declarator database.
WHY WE TALK ABOUT MIDDLE AGE
The most common way to determine the average value is to calculate the arithmetic mean. But if the values in the data set are very different, the arithmetic mean can distort the picture: for example, when outliers occur in a number of numbers, like a very high or low age compared to the rest. In such cases, it is customary to consider the median: it shows the number in the middle of an ordered set of numbers and will mean that half of the officials are above this border, and half below.
In most of the cases we have considered, the median coincides with the arithmetic mean, so the study uses the concept of average age for simplicity. In cases where the median differs from the mean, we additionally give its value.
"People with Soviet ideas"
The most "age" highest authority in Russia is the Security Council (Sovbez). The average age of its members is 62 (median 65). It also has the highest proportion of pensioners in the leadership: 57% of the members of the Security Council have crossed this threshold. This authority is engaged in "protecting the state from external and internal threats." Now it is in the Security Council that they are discussing “cases like foreign agency and being recognized as an undesirable organization,” political scientist Konstantin Gaaze told Important Stories.
The careers of many members of the Security Council began as early as in the state bodies of the USSR, which, according to experts, could have influenced the recent intensification of their activities in the search for "external and internal enemies". “There is a concentration of people in the Security Council, let's call them conditionally with “Soviet ideas”. [Nikolai] Patrushev himself, the head of the Council, is a person obsessed with conspiracy theories, which is partly influenced by his age and the time in which his views were formed, as well as his career path, because his career is entirely connected with the special services, - says Andrey Kolesnikov, political scientist, head of the Russian Domestic Politics and Political Institutions program at the Carnegie Moscow Center. - This is one of the conservative bodies, where people of the corresponding age are concentrated. Their biography, specialty plus age give an absolutely explosive effect in the form of such a [conspiracy] attitude to the world.”
In second place in terms of the most “advanced” average age is the Presidential Administration (AP), which ensures the activities of Vladimir Putin and monitors the implementation of his decisions. The average age of the leadership of the Administration is 58 years (median - 57 years). A third of the leaders in the AP have already crossed the threshold of retirement age.
Similar figures for the upper house of parliament - the Federation Council. The average age of its members is 57 (median 58). The Federation Council is in second place in terms of the proportion of pensioners in its composition: 39% of senators are of retirement age. It is in the Federation Council that the “oldest” Russian official in a leading position, 92-year-old Senator Nikolai Ryzhkov, serves. His political career began 47 years ago under Leonid Brezhnev. In 2020, Ryzhkov became one of ten "inert senators" who did not submit a single bill to the State Duma for the entire term of the previous convocation, follows from the rating of the Institute for Social Research and the Development of Civic Initiatives.
The average age of State Duma deputies is 53 years, among them 25% are pensioners. The oldest deputy is 85-year-old Vladimir Resin. He has been elected to the State Duma since 2011 and during this time he has not uttered a word at meetings, “Important Stories” found out. Political scientist Andrei Kolesnikov believes that the preservation of bureaucratic status in the case of the oldest parliamentarians, such as Vladimir Resin or Nikolai Ryzhkov, is a "reward for merit." “Resin is such a fragment of the Luzhkov era, a very influential person, he helped many people. And it's probably a form of gratitude. Why should he take the initiative if he is simply in this status? If he remembers him at all,” Kolesnikov says. - The same with Ryzhkov in the Federation Council. Probably, he is no longer up to legislative initiatives. These are, rather, purely honorary positions.
The average age of members of the government, which for the most part consists of federal ministers, is 54 (median 55). A quarter of government members are pensioners. The oldest minister is Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who will turn 72 in 2022.
The same average age (54 years) belongs to the heads of federal departments and agencies, among them 29% are pensioners. The top three senior leaders include the head of the Federal Security Service (FSB), 70-year-old Alexander Bortnikov.
Governors turned out to be the youngest Russian leading officials: the average age of heads of regions is 51 years (median - 50 years); 12% of governors are at retirement age.
The closer to the president, the more noticeable aging and the lower the turnover of power
Along with Vladimir Putin, the rest of the Russian government is also aging: the average age of officials under the incumbent president is growing every year. Compared to 2012, the average age of the members of the Security Council and the government increased the most. The senior officials of these departments have "aged" by an average of seven years over a ten-year period (the median age of members of the Security Council has grown by nine years, governments by eight years).
On average, officials in senior positions in the Presidential Administration have aged by six years (the median age has grown by five years). The average age of employees in parliament (both State Duma deputies and members of the Federation Council) has grown by two years.
The heads of regions became the only exception - over 10 years, the average age of governors has decreased, but only by a year (median - by two years).
The change in the average age of the Russian ruling elite directly depends on the rotation of personnel in high positions. “Power is changing, there is a constant process of rotation,” said Dmitry Peskov, the presidential press secretary, who himself has held a leadership position in the Presidential Administration for more than 20 years. However, a significant part of Russia's top officials who held their posts at the beginning of Putin's new - third - presidential term in 2012, remains in their places now, the study of "Important stories" showed.
The closer the body of state power to the president, the lower the level of turnover of power. In 10 years, the membership of the Security Council has changed only by half: 49% of the Council officials who served there in 2012 remain in their places today. In the Presidential Administration over 10 years, senior officials have not been replaced by 39% of positions. The President personally appoints and dismisses members of the Security Council and the leadership of the Presidential Administration.
“Indeed, the closer to the head of state, the less rotation, since everything is verticalized in our country. The Politburo, the inner circle of the president, of course, rotates little, - confirms political scientist Andrei Kolesnikov. - The main property of this power at its top is irremovability. And the lack of rotation is one of the main drawbacks of the system that they built. Still, the main, key figures never fell out of different spheres of power. This is evidence of ossification and readiness to sit to the last, clinging to state power.
In those bodies of power, the formation of which, according to the law, depends on elections, the rotation is higher. Thus, the composition of the Federation Council over 10 years has changed by 85%, the State Duma - by 67%. However, according to experts, this rotation does not mean that the government is actually changing. “The Federation Council is a place where pre-pensioners are unloaded, and then they naturally go [to retire]. Or, on the contrary, there are people there who are being prepared for a possible career take-off, and they are waiting for some appointments to the executive branch, being chairmen of committees there. That is, there is a natural rotation, although it is not a sign of a change of power,” Andrei Kolesnikov notes. According to him, the rotation in the State Duma is provided by elections. “Each election is an occasion to present some new faces to the voters. This again does not mean a serious turnover, because these individuals are usually even worse in terms of their ideological views than the previous cohort, ”says the political scientist.
Political scientist, head of the Russian Domestic Politics and Political Institutions Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center
An exception from the list of officials appointed by the president was the composition of the government, which has changed by 76% over 10 years. This happened only in 2020, when Putin appointed a new prime minister and almost completely renewed the cabinet of ministers (according to the old Constitution, which was in force in 2020, federal ministers were appointed by the president, formally at the suggestion of the prime minister. - Note ed.). However, despite the renewal of the government, it has not become younger: the average age of the new government is higher than ten years earlier.
The composition of the heads of Russian regions has been even more updated: in 10 years, power has changed in 82% of the regions. The most massive wave of resignations of governors occurred in 2017-2018, when the heads of 40 regions were replaced. At that time, Vladimir Putin explained that the purpose of the resignations was to form a gubernatorial corps “from young, promising, modern people,” but the average age of regional leaders has not yet significantly decreased.
“The president has a request for rejuvenation. But we are talking about rejuvenation at an average level. His friends remain his "highest circle", the highest officials remain in their places. However, they need a change. Putin is going to live longer than his inner circle, so he will soon need young loyalists in top positions, says political analyst Andrei Kolesnikov. - Many people go through a probationary period through the Young Leaders of Russia system, through vice-governor posts, through the posts of regional ministers. New young technocrats are required to be effective, so that their population does not rebel in their regions, that social assistance is provided on time, that loyalty is bought on time, that the budget is replenished at the federal level. These tasks should be solved by relatively young, new technocrats, they are needed by those at the top. Putin will sit as long as he needs, but he will need the support of young cohorts of managers.”
Between Belarus and Kazakhstan
The average age of the leadership of the highest bodies of legislative and executive power in Russia is 55 years. This is higher than in Belarus, where President Alexander Lukashenko is in his 28th year as head of state, and his next election victory in 2020 led to civil protests. There, the average age of officials of the same level is 53 years. Members of the Belarusian parliament are on average a year younger than Russians, and members of the government are two years younger.
In neighboring Kazakhstan, the government is on average older than in Russia. The average age of legislative and executive power there is 57 years. If the average age of the members of the Kazakh parliament is the same as the Russian one, then the members of the government (it was updated in January 2022 as a result of civil protests that arose as a result of a sharp increase in fuel prices) are five years older than the Russian ones. One of the main slogans of the early January protests was "Grandfather, go away," addressed to the long-term leader of the country, former President Nursultan Nazarbayev. “In Kazakhstan, this [age of power] was also a sign of ossification, which led to this slogan. We also have a man who is not too young and who risks transforming his status of president into the status of the father of the nation and live to the time when he will be told: “old man, go away.” He is already being called grandfather on social networks,” says political analyst Andrei Kolesnikov.
Among the post-Soviet countries, the situation in Ukraine differs most from Russia. Since Ukraine's youngest president, Volodymyr Zelensky, came to power (he was 41 at the time of taking office), the average age of the legislative and executive branches is 44 years. Deputies of the Verkhovna Rada are on average 11 years younger than members of the Russian parliament, and the average age of ministers is on average 10 years lower than the Russian figure.
“As for the Eastern European countries and the Baltic countries, very radical reforms took place there, they really wanted to get away from everything Soviet. And the management class quickly began to be made up of young people, when people under 30 even became ministers, because there was a total renewal of the elite,” explains political scientist Andrei Kolesnikov. - There is an old political culture in principle, and it becomes the political culture of the old, and there is a young political culture, and this is the culture of the young. Countries that would like to develop dynamically and quickly get rid of this trace of the Soviet Union are rejuvenating faster.”
The average age of representatives of legislative and executive power in the countries of Western Europe is also lower than in Russia. In Germany, on average, such officials are four years younger than Russians, and in France, by a year. According to Andrey Kolesnikov, much depends on the country's first person: for example, French President Emmanuel Macron, having become the country's first person at the age of 39, rejuvenated the composition of the French political elite.
Things are different in Great Britain: the average age of the ruling elite there is a year higher than in Russia. This situation in the UK is explained by the fact that one of the branches of Parliament - the House of Lords, which has almost no influence on legislative activity, includes people who can be in office for life (the status of a lord is appointed by the monarch or inherited. - Note ed.) . Without taking it into account, members of the British Parliament are on average four years younger than Russians, the same difference in age between the ministers of the two countries.
Another Western country where the legislative and executive power is on average older than the Russian one is the United States, which is ruled by the oldest president in the history of the state, 79-year-old Joe Biden. There, the average age of senior officials is 60 years. Members of the US Parliament are on average seven years older than Russians, and ministers are four years older. As follows from an analysis of the composition of the current parliament (in the United States it is called Congress. - Approx. ed.), It has become the "oldest" of all congresses for at least the past 20 years. This led to dissatisfaction among Americans: more than half of them believe that the country should establish a maximum age limit for officials, follows from a public opinion poll conducted in 2022.
How Putin canceled age restrictions for officials
Unlike the United States, in Russia there are legal restrictions on the age limit for an official in power. At the beginning of Vladimir Putin's first term, this limit was 65 years. Dmitry Medvedev, who replaced Putin as president in 2008, advocated the rejuvenation of the bureaucracy: in 2010, he lowered this age to 60 years.
But in 2013, Vladimir Putin, after returning to the presidency, again allowed high-ranking officials to work up to 70 years. In his current term in office, in 2021, Putin has abolished age limits for civil servants he appoints. He signed a law that allows officials, personally appointed by the president, to remain in power beyond the age of 70.
In addition, over the years, the president has gradually raised the age limit for officials in certain posts. So, in 2012, Putin abolished the age limit for the head of the Supreme Court: Vyacheslav Lebedev has been holding this post for 33 years, who will turn 79 in 2022. Earlier, under Medvedev, the age limit for holding the position of chairman of the Constitutional Court was abolished: Valery Zorkin has been in this post for 19 years, who will also celebrate his 79th birthday this year.
In 2015, Vladimir Putin increased the age limit for prosecutors from 65 to 70 years. At the same time, Yuri Chaika, at that time the Prosecutor General, was just approaching his 65th birthday. In 2019, the president lifted age restrictions for the rectors of Moscow State University and St. Petersburg State University. In 2021, Putin extended the deadline for the military service of army generals - previously it was 65 years, now the contract of military personnel can be extended for a period "set by the head of state." The list of army generals who have crossed the 65-year threshold includes the heads of law enforcement agencies: 67-year-old head of the Ministry of Defense Sergei Shoigu, 67-year-old head of the National Guard Viktor Zolotov, 70-year-old head of the FSB Alexander Bortnikov.
“I think that this was done for the immediate environment, for loyal people, proven ones,” explains political scientist Andrei Kolesnikov. “These people are grateful to the authorities in everything, you can’t expect any trick from them, because their task is to see out until retirement. For example, [Viktor] Sadovnichy, the rector of Moscow State University, has done a lot of favors for Putin, and Putin is doing him the same favors in return. [Valery] Zorkin has been in the Constitutional Court for many, many years. The Zorkin Constitutional Court justified the amendments to the 2020 Constitution on very weak grounds. That's exactly why they keep it. He performs his duties exclusively in such a way as to be loyal to the first person and support the autocratic vertical. So it’s about keeping the ‘old guard’ afloat — considerations of convenience and gratitude are at work here.”