ROMAN ABRAMOVICH: Richest entrepreneur in Russia. By, Forbes.

Essay by humanspiderUniversity, Bachelor'sC+, April 2005

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According to Forbes magazine, Russia homes the 30 of one of the worlds richest people

Top of the list is the owner of the Chelsea football club, Roman Abramovich, whose personal fortune is estimated to be close to $15bn (£8bn).

This is an unimaginable sum of money for most Russians, whose average salary is $250 a month.

Russian academics warn the gulf between the rich and the poor is now so great it could destabilise society.

And while Russia's billionaires get younger and richer, the country's overall population is declining at an ever faster rate.

The latest Forbes survey of Russian billionaires shows a small decline in their number - from 36 last year to 30 this year.

Nonetheless, that makes Russia the world's third largest billionaire-rich country after the United States and Germany.

But there is little evidence to suggest their wealth is trickling down.

And official statistics show the gap between the country's rich and poor is increasing.

More than a quarter of Russia's population continues to live on less than $80 a month - the level the government defines as poverty.

But what causes most concern among Russian academics is the widening income gap between the very richest and the very poorest.

Russia's prestigious Academy of Sciences says the gap is now so large that it risks sparking off social unrest.

Population decline

Coinciding with the latest Forbes rich list, Russia's ministry of regional development released figures showing the country's population decline is accelerating.

Life expectancies remain low, the rates of murder and suicide are among the world's highest and there are warnings of an impending HIV/Aids time bomb.

Of more immediate concern is the country's birth rate, which is also continuing to drop.

Even cautious economists...