Commenting on yesterday’s Russia essay, “FormerComrade” writes:
A generation or two seems like a minimum for real democracy and free markets in Russia. The current situation is “The Empire Strikes Back” with the next-generation KGBers having re-consolidated power. They now control the courts, security apparatus, the press, the electoral process, all political appointments, and the cash flow from natural resources. All that can carry a corrupt, power-savvy regime for a long time. On the other hand . . .
There are still a lot of intelligent people in Russia, and many of them are vacationing regularly outside the country and accessing the internet. Not just the power elite, but teachers, office workers, etc. They save up $700 and take a one week all-inclusive excursion to Egypt or Turkey or India. These people were embarrassed by Yeltsin and derived no benefit from privatization of government assets. They initially welcomed the stability of Putin – but had no role in putting him in power. And yes, they voted for him, but many in the West were fawning over him at that time too. Voting for Putin was initially a reasonable proposition for the average Russian. But starting in late 2003, with the roll back of social benefits like mass transit subsidies for retirees and teachers, Putin started to acquire higher “negatives” domestically.
While many Russians are not thirsting for democracy – since they have no direct knowledge of it and its long term benefits! – one can still detect unease in conversation with how they view the direction of Russia, its government, and standard of living for the general population. They know they are not benefiting from the current oil-price windfall. They dare not start their own business, at least not in the formal economy, as there is oppressive corruption. And many have to support their parents who were left with nothing after the fall of the Soviet Union and the bank failures and currency devaluations in the 1990s.
Most Russians aspire to the same general desires that are best achieved in a democracy and a free market