Since publishing exclusively on Zero Hedge our expose on Russia in order to 'counterbalance' the propaganda out there from the deep state, we've learned that there is a deep FACT VOID about this mysterious culture and place called RUSSIA and requires a series of articles. This is a topic not being covered elsewhere! And as we explain in our best-selling FX book - the world isn't
Anyone who has ever been to Russia, that is - outside of a 5 star hotel in Moscow which isn't any different than a 5 star hotel anywhere else - you don't need to read an article like this to agree, that Russia is a 3rd world country, or debate about how big their missiles are. Being a 3rd world country isn't a bad thing. And of all the third world, Russia is the fastest growing. Remember, Russia was born in 1990, and is a capitalist market economy. Russia has grown by huge leaps and bounds in the past 25 years. But they lack the cultural background to make the switch to a fully market economy. What does that mean - in other words? There is a mentality that was programmed into their brains, during the Soviet Union, that still lives in Russia and with that mentality, having anything but the Soviet system is difficult or impossible. The new generation of iphones and consumerism, albeit vulgar, will have better chances at adapting to a global market economy which is what Russia hopes to be. The communist hardliners are dead and dying, and not being replaced. In a system where everyone saved and money sometimes didn't exist (such as during Perestroika, where workers were paid with tickets, not money - which could be bartered with neighbors for example if one family didn't drink alcohol, vodka tickets could be traded for more meat, making Russians develop a natural talent for trading in dark pools).
If everything in and of the state is basically and profoundly corrupt (which naturally prompts the question if there is any political state in the world that is not corrupt and thus Third World?).
If nothing really works but there is always ‘a way’.
If you have to pay the authorities when entering or leaving the country. If you have to do both you’re actually in a Fourth World country!
If the price of taxis are either totally negotiable or strictly determined by government regulations — amounting to the same.
If there’s always a taxi and a willing driver to be found.
If there are no ways of proving whether you’ve been drinking and/or speeding behind the wheel.
If the government doesn’t care whether you’ve been drinking and/or speeding.
If road patrols routinely consist of heavily armed military.
If the paint on the bathroom walls have been allowed to stain the shower tiles as well. In this particular respect, Italy, Spain and France would easily qualify as ‘Third World countries’. The Greeks and the peoples of the Balkan countries, on the other hand, don’t do this. I guess they admire the Germans and have to some degree been influenced by them.
If painting the doors also on the inside is considered an unnecessary expense.
Before claiming yourself a self-professed "Russian Expert" you should either be 1) from Russia or 2) speak Russian language fluently, and have lived there for a number of years or 3) have extensively studied all things Russian. If you are none of these, and want to have a quick education on the subject, here's a few places to start:
A History of Russia: New, Revised Edition - This is a MUST READ for any Russophile, student of Russia, or someone who wants to do business in Russia. Probably, the reason this is one book written objectively that offers fresh perspectives is for the simple reason that it was written by a Russian intelligentsia in the United States, while at Yale University:
Vernadsky took a novel approach to Russian history, presenting it as a continuous succession of empires, starting from the Scythian, Sarmatian, Hunnic, and Gothic; Vernadsky attempted to determine the laws of their expansion and collapse. His views emphasized the importance of Eurasian nomadic cultures for the cultural and economic progress of Russia, thus anticipating some of the ideas advanced by Lev Gumilev.
Vernadsky became the leading American exponent of depicting Russia as much Asian and European, if not more so. He pointed out many strong cultural differences between Russia and Europe, and praised the success of Russian development along an independent path that revealed his own unique character. Vernadsky was a geographical determinist like his Yale colleague Ellsworth Huntington. They assumed that the characteristics of a land defined the character of the people and indeed of their government as well. For that reason Vernadsky was able to identify the roots of Russian culture in an ancient period long before the Slavic groups arrived. He thereby undercut the standard claim that modern Russia emerged from Kievan Rus. He emphasized the importance of the Mongol period (1238-1471), as the horde united the vast Eurasian plain under a single ruler. This gave tsarist Russia a strong centralized government as well as the deep distrust of Europe. Vernadsky was annoyed that Peter the Great tried to Westernize Russia, thereby distorting its natural character. He said Peter only succeeded in polarizing Russia into a Western oriented elite that stood in profound conflict with the Eurasian peasants. Indeed, Vernadsky argued that this polarization was one of the main weaknesses of the tsarist regime, making it incapable of dealing with the revolutionary movements of the early twentieth century. He celebrated the collapse of the European style parliamentary regime in the October Revolution of 1917 that brought the Bolsheviks to power. Vernadsky was not a liberal, nor was he a Communist sympathizer, but he did admire the Bolsheviks for rebuilding a strong Russia on non-European lines.
Unnatural Deaths in the U.S.S.R.: 1928-1954 - This is a historical chronicle about the 'real' deaths during this time period:
Who was worse, Hitler or Stalin? In the second half of the twentieth century, Americans were taught to see both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union as the greatest of evils. Hitler was worse, because his regime propagated the unprecedented horror of the Holocaust, the attempt to eradicate an entire people on racial grounds. Yet Stalin was also worse, because his regime killed far, far more people, tens of millions it was often claimed, in the endless wastes of the Gulag. For decades, and even today, this confidence about the difference between the two regimes—quality versus quantity—has set the ground rules for the politics of memory. Even historians of the Holocaust generally take for granted that Stalin killed more people than Hitler, thus placing themselves under greater pressure to stress the special character of the Holocaust, since this is what made the Nazi regime worse than the Stalinist one.
This is just a good start. If you really want to know any culture - the only way is to go there, live there, do business there. But for those with a short attention span, that enjoy throwing objects at their TV when the reporters tell them something they don't like, here we go:
SECRET FACTS - RUSSIA IS A 3RD WORLD COUNTRY
1. 80% or more of the Russian economy is unknown. This is because it all happens 'under the table' to avoid taxes. This will change probably, but as of now, workers are paid 'white' and 'black' salaries. You can read about this here. Auditors and government workers are bribed, wined and dined, when they inspect the books. It's a system everyone likes, that just 'works' - but it is impractical to make economic forecasts for such a system. This system is also on the highest levels, as oligarchs wealth is often owned by dead people. Of course, this practice isn't heavily documented, because the whole idea of this under the table system is to not leave any paper trail! Businesses even keep a full set of 'white books' and 'real books' like the mob used to do. Yes - this is business in Russia!
2. Bankruptcy doesn't exist. There is no concept of bankruptcy. There are even banks that offer really high interest loans (there are no usury laws) that will hire strong men to 'scare' you into paying, which might include breaking a leg, burning down your shed or in extreme cases, maybe holding a relative in their 'office' - yes this goes on and it's not done by the MAFIA it's done by the BANKS!
3. Russian healthcare system is 'not to Western standards' although it is 'developing.' 25% of males die before they are 55 years old, mostly due to alcohol.
4. The primary currency used is physical rubles, that means PAPER. When local people believe the Ruble will depreciate in value, they will exchange their paper Rubles for physical US Dollars or Euros and literally - keep them under the mattress.
5. You have never seen roads in such poor conditions. Around the Kremlin, and in rich areas of Moscow, roads are OK. Outside of this area, harsh Russian winter wreacks havoc on roads that were never built to European or US standards, as they would be in Chicago or Boston. See this road in Volgograd:
This is why invading Russia has historically been impossible. Of course, not all roads are like this - but many are.
6. Only in Russia meme - Just google "Only in Russia" or checkout this article.
(Letters say "We watch you! - You must be 18+ to use this game)
7. Russia is not a pleasant country to live in. The weather in winter is worse than in Canada, Wisconsin, Maine, or your average US northern city. Only Alaska is comparable to Russian climate.
8. Putin is not a dictator - he is just VERY popular. But anyway, 3rd world countries usually have a "Putin" or "Castro" which is almost more than a President - a cultural leader. Putin meets this criteria. People keep photos of Putin on their walls. They sell them, along with small busts of his head at every Metro station. Russian people are simply crazy for Putin. To understand this better here's a WAPO article on the topic.
9. In Russia there is not such a thing as 'consumer rights'. Grocery stores sell spoiled food. There's no 'return policy.'
10. Corruption is just considered part of government life (see example here). Finding a government official that was not corrupt, would be unusual. For example, in a small town the government decides to 'renovate' streets and parks, so they assess a special tax to residents (normally, there is no real estate tax in Russia). But 90% of the collected money goes into the pocket of the officials, and little is left to clean up the streets.
11. The average pension in Russia is $148 USD. The average Russian pension is paid IN CASH by Government official on a monthly basis, at the property of the pensioner.
12. 24% of the entire population HAS A BANK ACCOUNT. In the USA about 95% of eligible persons (excluding children, illegal immigrants) have bank accounts.
13. If using the income disparity guage of what is third world, experts say in this report from CNBC that RUSSIA IS THE MOST UNEQUAL country in the WORLD - even MORE than the Arabs. What happened after the collapse of USSR, the Russian Elite allowed the seizure or 'privatization' of state assets by individuals who became 'Oligarchs' which are the US equivalent of "Robber Barons" that literally inherited state owned assets because they were really, really, really, really, really, really lucky. But the practical fact is that an Oligarch class is needed for any Capitalist society to flourish.
Russia has grown by huge amounts. They have produced some of the world's leading thinkers, scientists, artists, writers, composers, and other talent. Now, the global Russian oligarch class challenges mainstream Western business. But keep it all in perspective, Russia has a long way to go. In the meantime, don't worry about Russian hackers breaking into your home office. They have problems of their own to solve.