Since recently I’ve been hearing the talking points of some Russophiles both at home and abroad taking precedence over common sense, I’ve bothered to do some work in summing up some facts, which I hope would help put those Putinite talking points into perspective. Because the Russian propaganda ain’t sleeping for a minute, definitely not around these latitudes. Just a disclaimer: the lines below are not directed at the Russian people as a people. Indeed, they’re quite lovely people when taken individually. What I can’t approve of is the way that nation has allowed itself to be ruled for centuries, and the results that’ve come out of it. So do bear with my diatribe.
1. By various estimates, Russia ranks 8th or 9th in terms of GDP. However, the Russian economy is about 7 times smaller than those of the US and EU, 3.5 times smaller than the Chinese, 1.3 times smaller than the Japanese, and 0.73 times smaller than the German economy. But what’s more interesting, a country with 148 million people like Russia is producing GDP which is twice smaller than that of a country like Italy, and just barely bigger than Canada’s, which is many times smaller in population. If anyone claims this is a sign of an efficient economy, I’d recommend they re-read their economics study-books. Source: here.
^ See? Doesn’t look that big now, does it? (No, Russia ain’t the huge green blob. Russia is the squashed blue stain that’s squeezed between the real players.
2. 95.7% of Russia’s national treasure is formed by natural resources, and 70% of the Russian exports are oil and gas. Whichever way we look at it, Russia is a mere supplier of raw materials for the more developed economies of the world. If we believe the Russian economy is capable of producing cheap products of good quality, we’d better think of how many Russian goods (affordable, and of good quality) we’ve bought anywhere for the last 5-10 years. Personally? I haven’t bought even one. And I live less than a thousand miles away from there. Source: here.
3. I’ve been hearing Russians spouting the narrative that Russia is some kind of defender and paragon of Orthodox values, as opposed to the rot of the godless West. Personally, I can’t wrap my mind around this notion – I don’t get what makes the Russian Orthodox “values” so different from the standard Ten Commandments, and how is Russia propagating these values, since the divorce rate in that country is 51%. The US divorce rate is comparable, 53%. What’s more, evidently even the most prominent “defender” of Orthodox values could himself be divorced, which is exactly Putin’s marital status. It’s a public secret that the reason for his divorce was his romance with Alina Kabayeva, a former Soviet gymnast. On top of all that, if the purported Orthodox traditions are so strong in Russia, then how come the words “Russian woman” have long been associated with “harlot” around here (especially along our coast, which is so full of temptations)? Source: here.
4. Russia has the highest documented abortion rates in the world (34.7 abortions per 1000 births). Yep, you heard me. The highest in the world! But that’s just one factor for the rapidly waning population of that country. Immigration is the other. People are voting with their feet, apparently. I suppose Western liberal democracy is to blame for that as well? Source: here.
5. Barring the African countries (with the exception of the Maghreb), Russia has the highest registered HIV-positive rate in the world – 1.2 million infected. Source: here.
6. Russia has hard drug use levels (1.8 million people) which are comparable to those of the Third World. Source: here.
7. The homicide rate in Russia is 9.2 per 100,000, while that in the US is 4.7. And the US is being criticized for being a violent place!? Mind you, Russia shares the same area in the ranking with such nice places like Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Burundi, Somalia, Burkina Faso, Iraq, Guinea-Bissau, The Philippines, Gabon, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Angola, Djibouti, The Gambia, Haiti, Togo, Zimbabwe and Uganda. Among the more developed countries, only Mexico and Brazil are higher. Source: here.
8. The levels of corruption in Russia are staggering. And that, for a country that claims to be a leading economic powerhouse. The latest Transparency International ranking puts Russia at the 136th place (out of 174). Only Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Libya, Venezuela, North Korea and a few former Soviet republics are worse than that. Quite a nice record indeed. Source: here.
9. Russia is ranked 152nd out of 178 in terms of freedom of the press. Again, quite a remarkable record. Again, Russia shares the company of such nice Third World countries like Sudan, Yemen, Somalia and North Korea in this respect. Source: here.
10. Despite the constant muscle-flexing, Russia isn’t the military juggernaut we usually see on the Red Square parades, either. The US spends between 581 and 610 billion dollars on defense, China follows with 129-216 billion. Russia is either 3rd or 4th with 70-84.5 billion. Saudi Arabia is somewhere there as well, then follows Britain, France, Japan, India and Germany. One must be very infected with confirmation bias in order to believe they’re the most badass force in the world. Source: here.
11. Russia ranks 10th in the world in terms of suicide rates per capita, with 19.5 suicides per 100,000. Only Turkmenistan, South Sudan, India, Burundi, Kazakhstan, Nepal, Tanzania, Mozambique, Suriname, Lithuania, Sri Lanka, South Korea and Guyana are worse. The US is 50th with 12.1 suicides. I don’t know, Russians must be killing themselves so much out of sheer happiness for living in such an awesome place – or something. Source: here.
12. Russia is 4th in the world in alcohol consumption per capita (over 15 years of age). Only Belarus, Moldova and Lithuania are ahead. I’ve mentioned what “Russian woman” is associated with; well, in the meantime, “Russian man” is associated with “drunkard” around these latitudes (and not only). Source: here.
13. Russia has one of the highest homeless populations in the world, about 5 million. In comparison, those are 3 million in the EU (with almost 3 times more population), and in the US that number varies between 0.6 and 2.5 million, depending on the estimate (with twice the total population). Source: here.
14. You’d think people in the Middle East and East Asia are slaughtering each other like flies on the roads? Wait and see what’s happening in Russia. Most countries that rank higher than Russia in that respect are in Africa and Latin America (excepting Saudi Arabia, China and India out of the more developed countries). On the other hand, the road victims in Russia related to the number of vehicles is 4 times that in any developed country. Source: here.
15. You’d think Russia is preaching to the West out of some sort of pride for its social achievements? Well, in terms of social inequality Russia isn’t much better than, say, the US (a Gini coefficient of 39.7 against 41.1). Mind you, the highest concentration of billionaires (read: fraudulent exploiters) is in the US (190), while the billionaires in Russia (read: generous, socially responsible folks) are 86. Given the population differences, their concentration isn’t that different. Source: here.
16. In terms of government budget, Russia is 12th in the world. The revenue part of its budget is 1/6 of the US one, 1/4 of the Chinese, and 1/3 of the Japanese. What’s more, Russia has a state budget that’s a tad smaller than Australia’s (16% smaller revenue), and just a bit bigger than the Dutch one (try to compare Russia to the Netherlands on the map). Source: here.
17. That said, about half the budget revenue in Russia comes from the sales of oil and gas. This makes Russia resemble the likes of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, rather than the US, Japan, China, Germany, Britain or France. No need to even begin discussing how the lack of diversification puts that budget in tremendous risk. Because it’s already happening (really: check the Rouble and compare its fluctuation to the movement of the global oil prices – noticing something?) Source: here.
18. The economic freedom index ranks Russia 139th out of 177. In terms of business climate, it’s 92nd out of 189 (although improving slightly in recent years). Source: here.
The list could go on for a while. The point is, the inconvenient truth for Russia, which too many Russophiles around here are willingly failing to see, is that Russia has turned itself into a country that’s a mere resource and energy appendix to the world economy. It’s got a un-free, corrupt and demoralized population, but meanwhile a large military and most importantly, aggressive, self-centered leaders. In many of the indicators for social, economic and political development, Russia rather resembles a Third-World country, only with a much colder climate, plus lots of nukes.
I also don’t get the argument that Russia is somehow a paragon of something, an example to be emulated, hence superior to others in some way (except for size). A protector and champion of traditional values? Doesn’t seem to be the case, no. It remains a mystery how exactly these values are manifested, since Russia is among the worst in a number of negative rankings that are directly related to ethics, morality and the personal value system. I wonder how come at least part of the so loudly preached traditional Russian values haven’t been harnessed and channelled into creating more wealth and prosperity for the Russian people, as is the case in so many other more developed countries. Are Western liberal democracy and “tolerasty” to blame for Russia’s dire predicament? That doesn’t make sense.
Now looking at the facts and the data, I wonder which area of social life does the Russian state excel at, where exactly is it superior to the rest of the world – that’s important for me to know, if I am to be following the Russian model of governance and societal development, as some people are trying to convince me. What useful and important contributions has Russia done for the last few decades, which may’ve changed the world to the better? Apart from various forms of dictatorship, oppression, iron-fist governance, oil, and gas, I mean? Is there a product, a service, a technology, a model which the Russian society has offered to the world lately, which has made humankind’s existence easier, better, and all in all, more meaningful? And isn’t it a bit sad that such a huge potential is lingering dormant, useless, and utterly suppressed under a mountain of apathy and mediocrity? Hell, Russia could’ve become a truly prosperous country by now! After all, it’s not like it hasn’t given tons of amazing geniuses to humankind! Then what has happened? Where has all that gone?
Well, here’s what. The one thing that has been hindering the Russian people from unleashing their true potential, is the fact that they’ve always been stuck under the heavy boot of their own rulers, face firmly pressed against the mud. They’ve been oppressed, humiliated and used since time immemorial. They’ve been ruled by despots. And we’re seeing the results now. As for our very own Russophilia or Russophobia, they’re here to stay for quite a while. We East Europeans would always be divided on those issues. It’s inevitable, given our own complicated history. The real question we should be asking ourselves though, is: where do we go on holidays, what currency do we keep our savings in, where do we want our children to study, which foreign language do we want to learn, where would we rather immigrate, what music do we listen to and what books and movies do we read and watch? No need to give me an answer. I think everyone could easily answer this for themselves. And the answer they’d get would be the best proof which model we’d choose for ourselves.