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My microcosmic view comes from visiting there, not from some budgetary or economic figures I could produce.

Same here.  Have I been throwing about some budgetary or economic figures?

Russia is a few islands of limitless prosperity, Moscow and some energy-rich towns such as Ekaterinburg : there, you will find just the same consumption excesses, SUV, large German cars, traffic jams, as any in the "West".

On this we don't disagree.

Outside these islands of extreme wealth, absolutely nothing is being done. Hop onto a train towards Kazan or Yaroslavl, and you will be transported in the same wagons that were used 40 years ago. The public buses or tramways in the little provincial towns are in an appalling state of disrepair. The local authorities show no interest in taking care of their own.

Your comment was about Sheremtevo & that is what I was responding to.  

Here's what I don't get.  The freakish need to find somethingng to lecture Russia about.  Like anyone in the West gives a flying!@#$ about the poor people of Yaroslavl.  I mean, I wish we did, but I'm guessing they are in our thoughts oh about the same amount of time as ... Alton IL (American river town in a very similar demographics/financial situation.)  Yaroslavl is actually a lovely little town, btw,  I & one I had little trouble getting to.

Many, many villages are just abandoned, inhabited by a few old women, old churches crumbling, local roads in an awful state, perfectly good houses just left empty. You could say it's just the same phenomenon as everywhere else, people leaving the countryside, but at least here in France some wealth still percolates from the large centers towards the most outlying villages. Not in Putin's Russia.

How on earth do you expect to get away with comparing FRANCE and RUSSIA?  Again, we see the icky desire to be like God and create Russia in our own image.  Do you have any clue how much larger Russia is than France?  So let's for a moment not even think about Siberia and limit the discussion to areas like the Golden ring.  After the fall of communism these areas were in a fierce state of disrepair.  We can blame the current administration for not doing enough to improve them, but they are hardly responsible for creating the situation.  I'm astounded by the complete lack of perspective.  70 years of communism.  10 years of anarchy.  And in the last 8 years, small villages have not been successfully gentrified!  What a disgrace!  Putin's Russia is not like France.  Maybe Sarkozy should go Napoleon and try to make it so.  Meanwhile, the task is finding jobs and food for the people.  

The order is the order of the powerful. An example, I filled up the tank of the little Moskvitch I was driving, and was asked to pay for more liters than what the tank actually contains. When I suggested to my friends that maybe we should complain to the authorities, I was told that they were part of the scheme.

It's ceratianly not a culture for complaining to the authorities.   If you are looking for a place where everything is fair and utopian, I don't suggest going to Russia.  
The local hospitals can't any more pay decent salaries to their doctors, so most of them just move to larger towns. So those who stay, well, may not be the best.

FWIW, this is a problem in the US too.  But it is a problem.  That is true.  Jobs, food, health care.  I believe it was Putin's admin which wanted to privatize the whole system of health care.  Medvedev has been talking more and more about social welfare.  They know there is a problem.  Solving that problem could not have been priority #1 under Putin's administration, which was focused on establishing some semblance of civil society and for lack of a better term, "getting their act together".

What I am trying to say is that with all his smarts, Putin still is a short sighted politician, who couldn't be bothered with optimizing Russia's energy windfall. He isn't any better than a Sarkozy or a Brown. He does not have a strategic long term view of what to do for the future of Russia. Why, if he did have one, he would have nationalized oil and gas and aluminium a long time ago, he would build high-speed train links across the country.

You're entitled to your opinion.  But you are acting like all of Russia lives in Siberia.  You are acting like the government hasn't taken a hand in optimizing Russia's energy windfall which was previously solely going into the pockets of a few individuals.  It's now being redistributed in a way in which most people have benefited from at least a little.  The poor?  You think giving them high-speed trains is the answer?  There are trains and busses.  They work fine.  Sometimes.  You really sound like someone working in or investing in the high-speed train industry who is just miffed more money hasn't been spent on your baby, and are saying therefore it is the poor in Russia who suffer.  

The poor in Russia suffer because industry towns were built where people were never meant to live.  They suffer because the social safety nets of Communism were pulled from under them.  They suffer because a corrupt system has some of their regions going badly governed.  (Not all.  Apparently the Chukotka area is getting new hospitals and schools and other Oligarch hand-outs.)  They suffer because they are out in the middle of nowhere with little means of living.  

But their suffering HAS improved, if marginally in some cases.  Small business and farmers' grants and loans are being made available.   Some reform has been made in the way regions are governed.  (And yes, I think it is an improvement to go from gangsters being able to just buy a governorship and shoot anyone who opposes them to having to be appointed by the President.)

I don't think the Putin administration was perfect, uncorrupt or accomplished everything that needed to be accomplished.  Who knows what Medvedev will do.  But I do know that despite imperfection, corruption and term limits, what the Putin administration did accomplish is admirable.  Russia's not France.  Russia has never been and never will be.  Even if everyone did everything right.  There is too much working against it, from geography to history to global ignorance.

Everyone who says Russia is stupid if it squanders this window of opportunity:  I could not agree more.  I just disagree on the extent to which they have done so and are even able to do so.  There is always room for improvement.  I just think you're overestimating how much room they've been given.  I mean, they are still in the process of working out a new system of government.  And generally, making sure people can eat and aren't shot walking down the street is a higher priority than ... a pretty new high-speed train to the Urals!

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Mon Jul 7th, 2008 at 11:57:34 AM EST
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