My wife taught at a state university in a decent sized Siberian city teaching English. She had to take in outside work just to make ends meet--all the teachers did/do—at state universities. My wife’s cousin is a manager and his wife a prominent cardiologist, yet they just recently were able to buy a three room flat (2 small bedrooms and a living room, 1 bath, small kitchen area). When I walk around Russian cities, I see grannies and cripples begging for money or selling various items of no real value just for a few rubles more. When I go to a friend’s flat, the 5-story building they live in (built under Khrushchev) looks absolutely uninhabitable on the outside (and these buildings are ubiquitous). No one it seems responsible for anything outside an individuals place of residence. On the other hand, it seem most Russians own their own flats even if not much to speak of and a lot of families still have an allotment on which to grow food in summer.

The more I read and the more Russian people I talk to, the more I am coming to believe that Russia is Russia and it doesn’t matter whether the guy in charge is a Tsar, Commissar or President nothing will change. The Russian people are serfs (my wife agrees with me on this) and always will be. Other than a few minor changes, what is so different now than it was when Gogol was around? I have been to Russian villages and it seems not much different than the impression I got from reading Dead Souls.

Don’t worry though, we in the US are working hard to catch up with Russia, soon the economy will crash making 1929 look like a picnic and we will all be in the same boat.

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Jan 22, 2022·edited Jan 23, 2022Liked by Edward Slavsquat

WARNING - lengthy comment!

Edward - great topic to touch upon...

As usual, there is more to any story, same with the economic situation in Russia. First of all, we need to understand the background of the author of the article on Russian economy in the Nakanune.ru (translates as "on the eve") Vladislav Zhukovsky. I have been watching him for several years and have to say that he is one of the brightest among the young generation of Russian financial markets analysts. On top on all figures and statistics he has the ability to get his point across in a concise way. He did undergo a substantial political transformation, though, especially in the last couple of years, when he went from critiquing establishment from the liberal, almost libertarian positions to being a devout communist, assistant to Duma's deputy from CPRF (communists) Valery Rashkin, one of the harshest critics of the ruling United Russia party, that also got infamous last fall when he was caught poaching a moose in the forests of his electoral district near Saratov. Zhukovsky is a tireless critic of the economic policies of the establishment and his glass is always half full or the way he presents it glass is rather empty. So we need to take his conclusions and exclusively dark tones with which he depicts the state of Russian economy also with a grain of salt.

On the establishment's economic policies. I don't think that economic policies under Putin's rule can be described as disastrous. This term is more applicable to places like Venezuela, to a lesser degree Argentina, post-Soviet countries like Moldova and even Ukraine after Maidan of 2014. Russian economic development can be described as less than stellar and underperforming given all the natural advantages this country has compared to the most other nations. There are two major blocks that prevent Russia from posting much better economic results:

1. Country's president, Vladimir Putin, that doesn't understand how economy works, nor does he care to understand, since he is more interested in playing his 5D chess (at Edward likes to put it) with Xi, Biden, Modi, Erdogan and the rest of them.

2. As result of the point number one, but also by design, how previously unknown Putin was allowed to come to power in the late 90s, economic and financial policies were outsourced and remain under management of the liberal-monetarist block with Nabiullina, Siluanov, Kudrin, Gref, Shuvalov to name a few. Putin has publicly stated many times that he won't be telling Nabiullina how to run Central Bank and that she is doing admirable job.

As an outcome of the two obstacles I described above, Russia's economy is artificially slowed down by the strict adherence to IMF rules designed for (under)developed countries, keeping base interest rates very high, and sticking to the "Washington consensus" rules when its currency and overall economy is not allowed to become long term investment grade.

Now, what about Russians, how do they survive on an average salary by a working family member of $500? What is their perception, do they live well or do they live poorly? This is where observations start to diverge from some of the alarmist statements by the likes of Zhukovsky, Levchenko, Potapenko and the host of others. Based on survey conducted by Russian WCIOM (state social studies organization) published on 10/27/21 59% of Russians rate their economic situation as average, 25% see it as difficult and 15% see it as good. Can we trust these numbers, especially that they come from the state agency? To me they sound about right. But numbers aside, I can judge from my own family. Before the scamdemic, my younger half sister did very well in Moscow as a young designer-architect. She was renting a place not far from the Foreign Ministry building in the city center and overall was enjoying a glamorous lifestyle there. With the start of restrictions she had to come back home, to Kiev, where she continues doing all right, but perhaps not as good as in Moscow. My more distant relatives in the provincial, formerly miners town, in Rostov-on-Don region. My niece is a junior manager working for the Russian Post Office, her husband is an assistant train operator. Together they earn probably around $1000 take home salary per month. They have an 8 year old son. They've got a car, vacation at least twice a year in Turkey and Sochi and also in Caucasus during winter months. I don't know how they manage? Perhaps life is somewhat cheaper in Russia. Here in US, we, the family of 2 humans, 2 dogs and 2 cats spend at least $1000 - $1200 on food every month.

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For all the talk about "Russia and China's 50D chess move to end US dollar hegemony" and build up their local currencies, you have to remember that most Russian officials have property and family overseas, in the US and EU countries. A lot of the stolen money is in foreign currency as well somewhere offshore, so the "USD hegemony" benefits them greatly, and having the ruble do well really doesn't because Russia and China both have quite a bit in foreign reserve capital.

On top of that, when people have to live paycheck to paycheck they don't have time to sit and think about nuking Mars, feeding people GMO crickets, building a "Sber digital slavery ecosystem", or any other insane plans that rich people have. They don't even have time to think about how to spearhead social change, which is exactly why officials steal every last ruble and every last New Year's gift to cancer-stricken kids. It's part neglience and incompetence and partially by deisgn.

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Interesting and unsurprising that the writer's description of the situation in Russia mirrors that in the US: billionaire oligarchs ruling & impoverishing the vast majority of the population. It's not rocket science: both are capitalist countries.

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Nobody trusts the Prison System here either. Just ask the victims of Jeffrey Epstein.

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Sobering. And terrifying.

I think I will stay put and try to bring some of Russia to me in a form as yet undecided. Any guidance or advice on this measure is welcome.

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