Russia is really the place where history plays in politics – or with politicians. Too many are disillusioned and look back to the times of greatness whether it was in the 18th century or the Soviet period. Anyway, people are proud of their history. What else they could, ask cynics. I don’t say that, even though the present condition of living is demanding for the most and the future looks unsecure.
If oil prices fall, Russia will face enormous troubles. At the moment oil is the only positive sector in her economy. Yet without reforms even the oil industry will suffer with outdated technology, lack of investments and poor governance.
Slightly exaggerating, it could be said that the Soviet Union collapsed because microchips could not be developed. Mathematicians and physicists were certainly as good as in the USA but they were not allowed to experiment with the limits of the impossible. Creativity lives and flourishes in the heads of independent minds.
Surely, Russia has still huge potential. And it is natural that Russians want Russia to be recognised as a nation with an esteemed position among other nations. People emphasise historical glory to mitigate the contempt and arrogance shown by many western politicians. We can do it again, Russians are saying. Yes, they can.
Westerners themselves feed the anti-intellectual political campaigns in Russia. They like to boast about their superiority and omniscience.
Yet western politicians forget that their success was not created by this generation of politicians and bureaucrats in the European union headquarters in Brussels or Washington. On the contrary, they are close destroying it. The succes was created by earlier generations.
Unfortunately, relations between Russia and the West are deteriorating badly, especially between Russia and the USA. However, in one area the gap is not widening; it is diminishing. There are great success stories in Russia, there are huge riches in Russia – material, cultural as well as intellectual. There are millions of middle class people – of which many are better off than their counterparts in the West. And as far as I can understand, almost all people in Russia want a decent society that is fair and functions well.
Yes, there are also millions of poor and destitute people in Russia but that is something we also find more and more commonly in the USA and Western Europe. As Westerners themselves very well know, inequality has increased immensely even in the Nordic welfare states starting from the late 20th century. Indeed, the politics of the western powers is getting closer to Russia – but from the wrong direction.
My opinion is that in case Russians can establish modern political democracy and fair legal system, they will easily catch up with the “old and tired” Western Europe, the faltering USA and even China. Especially the younger generations have the drive and energy that is not anymore so often seen in the old Western Europe.
(This was originally published in the old blog 25 April, 2013.)