Yes, Russia is extremely large.
However, when some of these cities are only 1000-2000km away and the cities in Russia are also 1000-2000km away, just because they're international shouldn't mean there would or should be less demand, especially with routes where there currently is no one else servicing them (Moscow to Heathrow, as an example).
I'm going to have to reconfigure based on your recommendation, which is fine as I'm just dabbling and getting back in. However, I feel there may be something fundamentally flawed with the current demand system.
Welllllll...sort of. Sort of not! It's basically a granularity problem.
Distances in themselves aren't relevant. Don't think of it as being just a question of distance, or the fact of being international or not, because things aren't quite as generic as that.
(n.b this is as far as I know not actually quite how it works, but is close enough to be illustrative) -
# You will have a pool of X number of people wanting to travel between country A and country B (or indeed between country A and country A - domestic traffic!) - note that X will vary +/- 10% or so depending on AGEX status;
# # X will be further divided by sub-region, if there are any. So you might get 0.75*X=Y travelling between your origin sub-region and your destination sub-region;
# # # Y will be further divided by airport; so to take the Central Fed District in Russia you might get:
0.4*Y=Z1 going to DME;
0.35*Y=Z2 going to SVO;
0.2*Y=Z3 going to VKO;
0.02*Y=Z4 going to EGO;
0.02*Y=Z5 going to VOZ;
0.01*Y =Z6 going to LPK;
So - the key is that X, in the beginning, is probably only about 1000 people or so per day, and if we run that through the chain...
1000 * 0.75 = 750 (to CFD) * 0.35 = 262 (to SVO)
So - 262 people to SVO from an entire country, which sounds reasonable - but then you (probably, if it's a larger country or region with a number of significant airports) have to repeat the same process on the other end! If we take the UK, for example, you might get something like:
0.3*Y=Z01 coming from LHR
0.15*Y=Z02 coming from LGW
0.10*Y=Z03 coming from STN
0.07*Y=Z04 coming from LTN
[repeat ad nauseam for all 50 or so, because the only internal subdivisions in the UK are for outlying islands]
Which is to say that your actual demand is something like:
1000*0.75 = 750 (to CFD) * 0.3 = 225 (from LHR) * 0.35 = 78 (to SVO)
78 passengers per day is not so much; then figure a not huge but reasonably significant proportion of them will take other flights, so perhaps you get 50% of the market with your one flight per day (as opposed to the dozens to thousands of other options people will have to travel between the two airports); that brings you down to about 40 per day, which is at least within the general area of what you were seeing.
Were AS to be a laser-accurate representation of real life, that'd be wrong, in one sense, because the vast majority of traffic between Russia and the UK goes between Heathrow or Gatwick and Sheremetyevo or Domodedovo, so between LHR-DME, LHR-SVO, LGW-DME and LGW-SVO you'd account for probably 8-900 of your initial 1000 (say 300, 250, 200, 150); at the same time, were AS to be a laser-accurate etc you actually wouldn't see that, because people don't live at the airport and you will find them travelling for much further than is accounted for in AS to get on their flight to Moscow or London. IE - what we have is not quite realistic when you really get down into the weeds, but does a reasonable job of representing broad trends.
What you can do about this is broaden your reach - maybe there are only 10 people from each of 10 regional Russian airports every day going to the UK, but they won't have many options, because certainly noone's going to fly direct from London to Norilsk or indeed from anywhere much outside of Russia to Norilsk - so you can probably get most of them, or at least a large proportion.
Also - it certainly does make sense that you'd get far more people travelling internally within Russia than internationally, regardless of how 'no-name' an individual airport is - the place is huge, an international pariah in some ways, difficult to visit and in the main not all that attractive a proposition for anyone who doesn't need to go there, so yes of course most people will be travelling domestic. Or, to put it another way - there are about 1100 people a day, in reality, travelling between the UK (pop ~60m) and Russia (pop ~140m); and I see on FR24 that there are about 900 seats between Moscow (pop ~20m) and 'no-name' Voronezh (pop ~900k) in the next 24 hours...