This article is unusual for my blog because I never talk politics here. I consider this article to be one of the most important articles in my blog and my life.
Why did I write this article?
On December 7th, 2011 FoxNews showed a report about protesters in Moscow. Here it is:
The problem is: it is not Russia in the video. It is Greece. Fox News lied to its viewers. Same do other news agencies. They show you what you should see, not what really happens in Russia. They tell you what you should believe. And usually you do. Now read the truth.
I am russian. I lived in Russia until I was 27, than I emigrated (you will understand later why). But I am still russian, I follow every event that happens in Russia, I visit it regularly and I have relatives there. Most likely I will return to Russia in the near future. If you want to know the truth about Putin, read on. I must warn that this article represents my own views and talks about the history as I remember and know it. Some bits can be incorrect but general picture should be right.
I must tell that this is strictly my personal views on the subject.
I was born in 1973 in Soviet Union. I cannot be realistic about that country because I was to young when I lived there. The only thing I can trust is the opinion of older people, who say that was the happiest and safest time in all their life. May be. I cannot judge. It definitely was not evil for me. I remember it was a much safer place than any place where my own kids can grow now.
Brezhnev, the old communist party leader, died in 1982, when I was nine. Andropov, the former KGB chief, became the leader of the country. He died a year later. Chernenko came and died a year later. When Gorbachev came, many thought he will die a year later too. He didn't. Instead he started Perestroika. Perestroika was about changing the way how Soviet Union worked: innovate, speed up the manufacturing, improve quality, etc. But the Gorbachev was weak and incompetent. He did not really know what he was doing. He could be easily convinced to do almost anything: for example, destroy all kind of protective weapon without the same action from the other side. He mostly cared about his personal image, not about the country. He was not a leader. Truly speaking, he was stupid. The country started to go off the road in about three years under his ruling. It takes ages to build something great and it takes much less to destroy it...
In 1990 I became a student. My scholarship was 55 roubles, which was equal to about $87. That was approximately half of the salary a typical worker got at a typical factory. I could by passes for a bus, railroad and underground, buy food in the student's canteen and buy some books.
In 2003 Yeltsin declared a new economy. Anybody can now declare free prices to their goods. Prices rocketed high. For example, a kilogram of butter was priced at about 220 roubles per kilogram. My scholarship was still 55 roubles and less than $1. An average lunch (fish soup) price was about 30 roubles (half of my scholarship).
My parent used to work on a state factory for the whole life. They are very honest, quiet people, who live a very simple life. They stopped getting salaries. Imagine that you work for 1.5 years but do not get any salary. Quit? Where? Change the job? To what? Nobody gets any salary unless they worked in a bank, was a bandit, a speculate, or a whore. Some people received goods they produced as a payment. One man tried to sold tires to everybody. He got them in place of salary. Many tires of unusual sizes. But nobody needed tires. My parents spent all their saving at that time, everything they could save for about 20 years of work. For a certain period we even lived on my 55 roubles scholarship eating only bad quality rice and other junky food. My father, a very professional engineer, left the country, to work as a low quality worker in one of the municipality companies. That gave some money to us. Gorbachev travelled and smiled, western countries applauded him. The country was starving.
By 1995 I was working for $20 a month in parallel to my studying. I was selling my brain to a German company that made computer games. I am quite sure that German programmers got far more than $20 per month but I was happy to get even $20. That work helped me a lot. At least I did not have to starve during studying.
In 1996 I finished studying. It happened so that I was really good as a programmer. I was passionate, I liked learning a lot. Due to limited computer availability I learned to analyze, program fast, do only realistic stuff and do all that without major errors. Due to these qualities I was taken into one of foreign companies in Moscow. That was the end of economical struggle for me. However, the political struggle came in.
Gorbachev is worshipped in western countries for demolishing of the Soviet Union. He is worshipped there as much as he is hated in Russia. Probably, Gorbachev is the most hated man now. But Yeltsin was worse. If Gorbachev was simply stupid, Yeltsin was twice as stupid and he was a drunk. There is a story when he was drunk and peed on the airplane's wheel while US officials were waiting for him near the airplane. Yeltsin was disgusting. He was obsessed with power but he was absolutely incompetent and could not manage the country. Life was getting worse and worse. Many russian regions tried to protect their people and started to declare independency from Moscow. Chechnya was the most known example.
The crisis in Chechnya is very easy to explain. There are two reasons for it. Firsts, an important oil pipeline goes through Chechnya. Who controls the oil, controls the world. Controlling Checnya was important. Disconnecting it from Russia could be a way to control the oil pipeline. This is the first reason for Chechnya story. The second reason is that all Gorbachev's Perestroyka shit together with Yeltsin's "reforms" made it so that most people in Chechnya had no work at all. When people have nothing to do, they do all quite of bad stuff. Look at kids on streets if you need examples. Chechnya was not the only "rebel" republic but due to some historical events it was the first, the most radical and the most known. It was possible not to have the war in Chechnya if Yeltsin was more clever. It was possible to solve it easily. But he was stupid, he talked with Chechnya people with disrespect and blackmailed them with power. As a result, the war started. And Russia lost it.
At that time (approximately in 1998) Russia had a huge economical crisis. Prices rockets high again. Dollar was five times higher in a day. At the same time Chechnya rebels started to blow up buildings in Moscow and other cities. Here is a photo of a house blown by Chechen terrorists in Moscow. We lived not far from this place.
1991. We decided to leave Russia. I live there with my wife and son. Each day when we came back home from work, we never knew if we would be alive next morning or not. That was terrible. So we decided to leave.
Putin became the chief of the FSB, the former KGB. Later he will say that he did not like that and did not want that. "I thought KGB was finished for me", – he said. He was not just another chief of FSB. He actually did one thing that nobody else could. At that time mine workers had a long term strike and cut the only rail road that connected european and asian parts of Russia. It meant that the country was separated in two. The Russia could cease to exist. Mine workers just stayed there for months and nobody could persuade them not to ruin the country. Nobody except Putin. He went to them and talked. He did not talk like a FSB chief. He did not talk from the position of power. He talked with them about the country, about what they do, about what will happen. And they listened. The country was saved. Very few people know this but this was so impressive that Yeltsin made him a prime minister.
Prime ministers at that time were changed very often. It was Brezhnev-Andropov-Chernenko story all over again: a new prime minister came a month about the previous. So when Putin became the prime minister, nobody cared: one more, one less. Who cares. But Putin stayed. On December 31st Yeltsin quit the position of the President of Russia. According to the constitution, Putin started to work as a president until elections came in March 2000.
We were still thinking about leaving the country. I searched for a western company where I could work. The country was still in crisis. My mother still did not get her salary for all years she worked. We left Russia in August 2000.
Problems seem to happen more and more. It was like a storm. A submarine was drown. When Larry King asked Putin what happened to it, Putin simply answered: "It drowned". That was very brave of him. And it was very "russian". It could sound fun for anybody but russians. For russians it was a huge shame that the submarine drown. Putin answered it for the whole country. He was, after all, the leader of the country. He was the leader of the country, which was drowning too. But it didn't. Putin did not let the country go.
Country of bandits
One of problems of nineties was a high level of criminal activity. In your country, my dear reader, if your car hits somebody's car, your insurance handles this for you. In Russia you could be just killed on the spot or had to sell your apartment to pay for the repair. If you resist, you die. Sounds impossible? Well, it was like that. Not anymore.
Would you like to live in the country like that? Surely, not. Thanks to Putin, it is not THAT country any more.
How Putin restored the country
When Yeltsin was ruling the country, he signed a special agreement with several western oil companies, who git the right to pump oil and transfer it abroad without paying anything to russia at all. Yes, really, nothing at all. Not a cent. Just pump, sell abroad and put money in their pocket. As a result, country budget got nothing. It was empty. No money for salaries or pensions. Everybody could take oil out of the country. Even artists and fashion magazines did that without paying anything to the country at all. Putin stopped it. Now any company, who wanted to pump oil, had to get the license and pay taxes properly. Fare, huh? The budget got first money, which were immediately used to pay debts to people, who did not get salaries or pensions for years. Khodorkovsky and Yukos did not like that... They tried to destabilize the country and had to pay for that.
Next task was to stop country regions from running away from each other. Unlike western people, russians were not very experienced in politics and political technologies. A great example: Yeltsin's rating was increased a lot by using political technologies brought to the country by US consultants. If you never watched the movie called "Yeltsin", watch it. It is not completely true but will give you an idea. Most positions of regional leaders were in hands of all kind of criminals, who used all kind of dirty tricks to win elections: from blackmail and murder to simple rewrite of election protocols. Putin stopped regional elections and made all regional leaders set by him personally. He replaced all criminals with people, whom he could trust. It is important to say that some of those people were replaced later because they could not fulfill their task on improving people's life.
The worst problem was, of course, Chechnya. After Yeltsin's stupid war it was like a dangerous wild wasp hive. They continued their raids killing people for nothing. They sold drugs. They stole oil. They ruined houses. This had to be stopped. Putin made the decision: terrorists must be destroyed. This decision is basically the same as US, Germany or France made in the past years. However, Russia is still criticized for this. Yes, every war is bad. However this war stopped terrorism, stopped demolitions of peaceful houses, killings of peaceful people. From russian's point of view it was a right war, a proper thing to do. In the end, it was in Russia, so it is russians, who should say if it was right or not.
Next Putin focused on restoring the industry and agriculture. After Gorbachev and Yeltsin destroyed the country, it took Putin years to recover. The recovery is still not complete. It is easy to destroy but very hard to create. You know that, don't you?
The results of Putin's work
I'll give you just some highlights because there are far more results of Putin's work than I can show you here.
Russia is number three in the world now in population growth. Everywhere in Europe it is worse. Russia goes right after US and China now. It was much worse before. Look at the graph. It show how demographical situation started to change. Look when it started to grow: in 2000, after Putin came.
During Soviet Union Russia imported grains. Now Russia exports it.
Russia imports less and less meat. It fulfills its own needs in meat more and more.
Russia is the second country in the world after US, who has a GPS-like system. Russian system is called GLONASS. European Galileo is nowhere near. GLONASS is now build-in to iPhone 4S and offers a far more accurate positioning than GPS. Samsung, HTC and other smartphone manufacturers now build phones with GLONASS support. That was one of projects Putin pushed and "opposition" viewed as unnecessary. Now GLONASS is used by emergency and city transport in many regions of Russia. GLONASS increased effectiveness of operations in electrical industry by 20% already.
Day care for children is opened all the time. Now Moscow residents can send their kids to a full time day care for a nominal fee. The plan is to make the same for the whole country.
Internet is getting everywhere. By 2014 the whole country (look at the map how huge it is!) had to be covered. Due to elections in 2012 that was made two years ahead of plan.
RosNANO, a state corporation acts like a business incubator for people, who invent new technologies. Many of these technologies have no analogs in the world.
Lots of clinics are getting new equipment, being refurbished. Given the factual absence of medicine in Yeltsin's times, it is a huge leap forward.
State pensions are increased every year. Retirement age is fixed and not increasing.
Do you still ask why russians vote for Putin?
What about opposition? Shouldn't it exist?
It does. But very little percent of russian population support it.
State finances the extremely oppositional radio station named "Echo of Moscow". Yes, you read that right: state finances the opposition. Many pro-Putin people are against such financing but the state still does that. The station tells all kind of untruth and bad stuff but it is still getting money. All these years.
Opposition leaders appear on TV. They organize meetings on streets, and police is very tolerant.
There are a lot of newspapers, which oppose to the government. There are many web sites. No repressions. Even more: the government hears them and uses lots of things from them.
If somebody tells you that opposition can't speak to people of being repressed, that's simply a lie.
So, is life in Russia now ideal?
No, it is not. All these years Putin focused on restoring the country. It is a huge work. There are a lot of remaining problems. General life conditions are not very satisfactory yet but comparing to 90's, they are much better now. Russia is on the way. It will recover and russians will have a good life if Putin continues. Many people realize this. About 65% according to recent elections.
Presidential elections 2012
These presidential elections were very unusual. Firsts, there were a lot of opposition meetings. Putin had to act. He ensured clean elections. Every election place got two web cameras and transparent voting boxes. Elections were watched by thousands of independent watchers and about 80,000 people, who got a special law training for elections. Problems were detected on about 0.003% of places. Probably it is the cleanest elections in the history of human kind. You will need 300 years of time if you want to watch all recordings of the election.
Every candidate (total five of them) was financed by the country (this is by the law). Every candidate got time on TV for talks. Many candidate activities were shown on TV in prime time in the news. Sometimes I thought that they show too little of Putin. I think TV got instructions to show Putin less to avoid any accusations of unfair competition. Every candidate now, except old communist leader Zyuganov, said that elections were clean and accepted that Putin won.
Putin won with about 65% votes. It is about 55 million people. I think the decision of 55 million people should be respected.
In the evening on the election day about 110,000 of people came to congratulate Putin with his victory in the center of Moscow. Police had to reroute the traffic. Putin stayed there and for the first time I saw tears in his eyes. Putin is always going forward, he is like a locomotive. Just forward, all the time, always! But now he had tears. Those were not tears of weakness. Those were tears of recognition and thankfulness. The nation elected its president and came to celebrate the victory with him. It was their victory, his victory, Russia's victory. He was touched.
ConclusionI am closing comments on this topic. I do not want debates here. If somebody tells you Putin is a hated tyrant, they lie to you. He is human, so he is not perfect. But he is the great leader for the country. Russian people support Putin and vote for Putin because Putin saved the country from destruction and does everything to improve people's life.
Nobody has rights to judge Putin and his work except russians.