The most challenging part of life for anyone living in Western society is to develop critical thinking faculties to overcome the hegemonic, unitary narratives spun out by our corporate controlled mass-media on a daily basis. This is such a problem, that we have in effect become slaves to the system and our minds have for all intents and purposes been indentured to the mass, almost hypnotic appeal of the single line ditty. For example, we have been conditioned, well, brainwashed to accept the dangerously fallacious notion that all other areas of society and human endeavours should be subject to the unfailing, balancing powers of the free markets. This makes the so-called free markets our de facto god, ironically, there is no such thing as a free or open market, but markets are operated on the whims and wishes of powerful elite that makes decisions affecting us all daily.

So when I mention Russia or Vladimir Putin, almost everyone has a stock response about an evil empire and a ruthless dictator, but is this really the case folks, let’s examine the evidences? 

A Brief History of early Russia:

During the reign of Tsar Nicholas II, which ended with his death in 1917, he made attempts to modernise Russia. At the time Russia was considered the “sick man” of Europe as it was basically an agrarian economy. By the time of the famous October revolution led by Lenin, Russia was by all accounts at least 50-years behind in social and technological development. What exacerbated the situation was the vastness of the country, the competing social and political interests and the different ethnic groups. Through the continuation of the process of mass industrialization under Lenin and then Stalin, Russia basically reinvented the terms social and industrial engineering. In just over 50-years, Stalin and the soviet politburo turned the USSR, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics into the 2nd largest economy. Basically, Soviet Russia was rivalled only by the U.S. in terms of economic capacity and outputs.

With the collapse of the old Russia, the turmoil of the nineties are perhaps reminiscent of the early 1900s, with corruption, economic adjustment to the unitary financial system, reengineering a Soviet style economy into a 21st century one and creating work for all therefore the need for a vibrant middle-class was finally over and reorienting the economy to suit its own purposes was finally over. The leftovers of the old Soviet ear helped indeed. The point is that one normally needs a generation to develop and improve a national schooling system, so unlike in South Africa where most of the population were ill=equipped to participate in a modern economy because of the lack of education as a result of past Apartheid, Russia had no such restrictions. The Russians educational system exceeded its Western counterparts, thus it was easier to create a modern economy because arguably, even the criminals had degrees in mathematics and science.

The Russian psyche and ethos of hard work and striving for the well-being of the collective is firmly ingrained into their thinking so mass growth and national projects for the good of all isn’t foreign to Russian thinking. Remember that they moved and housed 10 million people and built 2000 new factories to adjust to the invasion by Germany in the 1940s, so the modern day requirements for massive societal change isn’t new, nor alarming to the thinking.

The new Russian Federation under the tutelage of Vladimir Putin has consistently recorded economic growth equal or better than even China’s in some areas growing by an average of 7% per annum. The average salary increased a whopping 8-fold, disposable income rose to 160%, industry grew by 75%, investments in industry by 125%, the middle-class grew from just 8-million to over 60-million, poverty decreased from 30% to just under 14% and capital investments grew by 27.5%, especially in the construction industry. This is a rise in nominal terms of 58%, a figure not even China can beat, again, reminiscent of the early 1900s where a collective strives to improve its country for the benefit of all? 

Putin has many critics, especially in the West, and even more so because like the rise of China, the new Russia represents an alien challenge to Western hegemony that are uncertain of how best to  deal with (them) so they’ve devolved to the standard Western tropes of demonization. The stagnation in real terms of the European and American economies creates uncertainty and fear amongst those most invested in them, the ruling political and monied classes. See, a mature economy is a stagnant economy, especially within the framework of globalization, their “go to” economic panacea. Russia on the other hand is being revitalised bottom up and its upward curve on all economic metrics and in all areas of human endeavours is both obvious and self-evident. It is a fact that China will be the largest economy by the mid-2030s, but is lesser admitted by Western pundits is the inexorable rise of Russia followed quietly by the Indian economy folks. The sooner we can accept that reality, the sooner we will see that to treat the Russian Federation as if it is the old USSR, is the logical equivalent of the fighting with someone who you just taught how to play a game, but now seems to excel at it beyond your expectations, and is better than you?

We would do well to remember the prophetic words of Bismarck once the French were defeated, “Our generals did not win the war for us, it was our teachers” – Otto Von Bismarck – Prussian statesman and first Chancellor of the German Empire, victorious after the Franco-Prussian war