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Can Russia stave off social unrest?

Russians have experienced a fair degree of hardship in the past but it's unclear how much economic turmoil citizens will tolerate, according to the chairman of UBS' Russian operations.

Speaking to CNBC ahead of the Moscow Exchange Financial Markets Conference in London Tuesday, UBS Russia Chairman Rair Simonyan said it was important that the country's authorities took care of domestic concerns amid growing geopolitical tensions.

"The Russian people have a long history of suffering and tolerance, and with the geopolitical tensions growing, people are much more prepared to have lower standards of living for a certain time," he said.


"The question is: for how long?"

Simonyan said there are "no hints yet" as to whether economic conditions alone could lead to social unrest, especially given growing patriotic fervor during a period of tension with regional neighbors and the West.

"But….to be real power, or a super power, you need to have a healthy and efficient and modern economy, and that is a huge task."

Russia's resource-focused economy is already under pressure amid floundering oil prices, which are down over 41 percent in the last 12 months alone.

According to a September World Bank report, average wages fell by 8.5 percent in the first half of 2015 in Russia, which along with food price inflation helped to increase the poverty rate by 2 percent to 15.1 percent, representing around 21.7 million people.

Moscow Russia currency
Andrey Rudakov | Bloomberg | Getty Images

However, Simonyan is optimistic about Russia's prospects, given market performance over the past 12 months.

"People were so gloomy about this year. It was not that bad," he explained. "(Russian stock) was the best performing stock in the emerging markets," he added.

The country's MICEX Index gained around 13 percent over the past 12 months. That's against an 18 percent slide in the MSCI Emerging Markets Index.

Though Simonyan admitted the Russian crisis wasn't necessarily over, he said "investors are surprisingly positive."