Emerging Markets: The Parts of Russia’s GDP

Investors looking for greater diversification or trying to tap into fast-growing parts of the world may have considered emerging-market economies, such as Brazil, Russia, India, or China. Of those, Russia is certainly the largest in terms of landmass, but it ranks only 11th in terms of worldwide gross domestic product (GDP)—well behind China (second) and India (sixth), and just ahead of Brazil (12th). While the United States ranks as the world’s largest economy with a GDP of $23 trillion, Russia’s nominal GDP comes in at $1.78 trillion.

Key Takeaways

  • Russia’s gross domestic product (GDP) is primarily made up of three sectors: agriculture, industry, and service.
  • The agricultural sector makes up about 5.6% of GDP, while industry and services comprise 26.6% and 67.8%, respectively.
  • In 2021, Russia experienced its best GDP growth since 2008, posting a 4.7% growth rate. For 2022, the expected GDP growth rate is -6%.
  • In February 2022, the United States and other countries imposed new sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Russia: Then and Now

The initial transition period for Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 was tough, as it inherited a devastated industry and agricultural sector along with a formerly centrally planned economy. The regime introduced multiple reforms that made the economy more open, but a high concentration of wealth still continued.

Russia’s economic growth​ rate remained negative during most of the 1990s, before the start of the subsequent golden decade. From 1999 to 2008, Russia’s GDP grew by at least 4.7% each year. This expansion made Russia one of the fastest-growing economies. This growth, however, was mostly driven by the boom in commodity prices, notably oil.

The Russian economy got a jolt as oil prices dipped—triggered by the 2008–09 global financial crisis—exposing Russia’s dependence on oil. The economy gradually recovered as oil prices stabilized. 

The Russian economy then grew at a decent pace for 2011 and 2012, but structural issues started to emerge that caused a slowdown during 2013. The next couple of years brought a continued slowdown as the country faced multiple issues, including falling oil prices, geopolitical pressures, and sanctions by the West due to its 2014 invasion of Ukraine. Its GDP fell 2% in 2015. Russia’s GDP managed to grow each year from 2016 to 2018, before tapering off and falling 2.7% in 2020.

In 2021, Russia saw the best GDP growth since 2008, posting a 4.7% growth rate. For 2022, however, the expected GDP growth rate is -6%.

In February 2022, Russia again invaded Ukraine. On Feb. 22, 2022, U.S. President Joe Biden announced sanctions against Russia in response to its military aggression against Ukraine, including the advancement of Russian troops into two separatist regions of eastern Ukraine. The administration noted this is the “first tranche of sanctions that go far beyond [the previous invasion of Ukraine in] 2014, in coordination with allies and partners in the European Union, United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, and Australia.”

The sanctions are mostly economic and include blocking two state-owned Russian financial institutions—Vnesheconombank and Promsvyazbank and their subsidiaries, which provide financing to the Russian military—from accessing the U.S. financial system. Other sanctions include the U.S. Treasury prohibiting the purchase of new Russian sovereign debt and banning U.S. companies and individuals from buying sovereign debt in the secondary market. Five Russian elites and their families have also been targeted.

Russia’s GDP Composition

Russia’s GDP is largely made up of three broad sectors: a small agricultural sector that contributes about 5.6% to GDP, followed by industry and service, which contribute 26.6% and 67.8%, respectively.

Agricultural

Harsh weather and tough geographic conditions make cultivation of land arduous and restricted to a few small areas of the nation. This is one of the main reasons for the minimal role of the agricultural sector in Russia’s economy.

The country’s agrarian sector is characterized by the co-existence of both the formal sector, represented by large producers for commercial purposes, and the informal sector, where small landholders produce for self-sustenance. The sector includes forestry, hunting, and fishing, as well as cultivation of crops and livestock production.

Despite being a large exporter of certain food items, Russia is a net importer of agriculture and food. Other than the nonavailability or shortage of certain food products domestically, a few factors explain Russia’s rising food imports.

One is higher inflation in Russia vis-à-vis its trading partners, which makes foreign imports more price-competitive. The second reason is its sound economic progress, especially from 2000 to 2008. This boom period led to income growth, further pushing up consumer demand for food, which was met by imports.

In 2014, in response to the West’s food embargoes, the Russian government banned certain food categories for import, including dairy, meat, and produce, from several countries such as the U.S. and those of the European Union, which significantly cut Russia’s share of food imports.

Industry

The contribution of Russia’s industry sector to its GDP has remained more or less stable, averaging about 30% over the last decade. For context, the U.S. only generates about 18% of its GDP from industry. Industry comprises mining, manufacturing, construction, electricity, water, and gas. Russia has an array of natural resources, with a prominence of oil and natural gas, timber, deposits of tungsten, iron, diamonds, gold, platinum, tin, copper, and titanium.

Major industries in Russia have capitalized on the country’s natural resources. One of the prominent industries is machine building, which suffered heavily after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, as there was a severe shortage of capital. This business re-emerged with time and is the leading provider of machinery and equipment to the other industries in the economy.

By order of importance, the fuel and energy complex (FEC) is one of the most crucial industries for the Russian economy.

While post-Soviet Russia ostensibly enjoys a market economy, its leaders have deemed its dominant energy sector too crucial to leave to the caprices of independent buyers and sellers. The idea of energy extraction and refinement being open to private enterprise, something more common in the U.S., is not commonplace in Russia.

Oil, natural gas, electricity, and more are under de facto control of the federal government. The FEC comprises the mining and production of energy resources, processing, delivery, and consumption of all types of energy. The FEC not only supports multiple sectors in the economy, but its products are also Russia’s main exports. The country is the third-largest oil producer in the world, behind the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. The nation accounted for 11% of total world oil production.

Service

The service sector currently comprises more than 56% of the country’s GDP and employs the most people in the country—more than 67% of the population. The key segments of the Russian service sector of late are hotel and catering services, construction, culture and entertainment, and trade. It is often pointed out that as the crisis that accompanied the fall of the Soviet Union devastated agriculture and industry, it gave services a chance to accelerate.

What are the main parts of Russia’s economy?

Russia’s gross domestic product (GDP) is mainly composed of three sectors: agriculture, industry, and service. Agriculture contributes about 5.6% to GDP, followed by industry and service, which contribute 26.6% and 67.8%, respectively.

How does Russia rank in world GDP?

Russia stands 11th in terms of global GDP—well behind China (second) and India (sixth), and just ahead of Brazil (12th) among large emerging-market economies.

What is Russia’s biggest industry?

Russia has a heavy dependence on producing fuel and energy. The country’s so-called fuel and energy complex comprises the mining and production of energy resources, processing, delivery, and consumption of all types of energy. Those enterprises support multiple sectors in the economy, and its products are Russia’s main exports.

The Bottom Line

Russia will likely need to further diversify to establish a more balanced economy that is less susceptible to commodity price moves. Focusing on its manufacturing and service sectors may help achieve more sustainable long-term growth. Although the GDP composition reflects the growing importance of services, it is oil exports that drive most of its economy.

Article Sources
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  1. The World Bank, World Bank Open Data. “GDP (Current US$)—Russian Federation.”

  2. The World Bank, World Bank Open Data. “GDP (Current US$)—United States.”

  3. globalEDGE, Michigan State University. “Russia: Economy.”

  4. Bloomberg. “Russia’s Economy Grew 4.7% in 2021, Quickest Pace Since 2008.”

  5. International Monetary Fund. “Russian Federation.”

  6. U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian. “The Collapse of the Soviet Union.”

  7. The World Bank, World Bank Open Data. “GDP Growth (Annual %)—Russian Federation.”

  8. TASS Russian News Agency. “IMF Improved Forecast for Russia’s GDP Growth to 4.7% in 2021.”

  9. The White House. “Fact Sheet: United States Imposes First Tranche of Swift and Severe Costs on Russia.”

  10. globalEDGE, Michigan State University. “United States: Economy.”

  11. U.S. Energy Information Administration. “What Countries Are the Top Producers and Consumers of Oil?

  12. The World Bank. “Russia Economic Report,” download PDF, Page 41 (Page 61 of PDF).

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