Nation in Despair

Russians, especially those stuck in withering villages, seem intent on drinking themselves into nonexistence, pouring spirits down their throats so systematically, and in such reliably lethal quantities, that their behavior provides a scientific definition of despair. _NYT

Escape into alcoholic oblivion is only a symptom of Russia’s larger problem — its people have been broken and stripped of hope, leaving only a suffocating despair which drives escape behaviours in those who still have some of the human spirit remaining.

Some estimates see the Russian population dropping by almost a quarter by 2050; life expectancy has been largely dropping in line with birthrates. Alcoholism and related diseases are a big part of the problem: the average Russian now drinks three times the volume of spirits drunk by a German and five times that of a Portuguese.

… consumption of alcoholic drinks increased eightfold between 1940 and 1980; life expectancy has been falling since 1964. So in the same period as the Soviet Union reached socialist near utopia with full employment and universal health care—but when the state broke any impulse to freedomits citizens began the slow slide to self-destruction. “It was gin that sank him into a stupor every night, and gin that revived him every morning,” wrote George Orwell of his hero, Winston Smith, in 1984, after he has been broken by the state’s security organs. Bullough quotes the passage, then adds: “In the Russian case: for gin, read vodka.” And as he crisscrosses Russia… he finds a drunk, suspicious, bitter country where everyone has been broken in their own small way in their own little room 101. “The KGB agents did their business,” _Newsweek

The breaking of the Russian spirit is a successful, ongoing project, maintained in earnest under Putin.

The new demographic realities in Russia are not fundamentally different from those facing most industrial nations–a decreasing population, aging, and major shifts in family composition. However, the difference is that, sadly, Russian working age men also appear to be drinking themselves to death. – __

Added to capital flight, womb drain, and brain drain, Russia is losing its working and military age population to drugs, drink, and suicidal despair.

Russia is disintegrating from the periphery inward. But hope is disappearing everywhere, except among political insiders, crime kingpins, and a rising class of Muslim power brokers.

Today 27% of the Russia’s population are retired; in 2050 their share is expected to reach 55%.

As the population is decreasing a lot of settlements are disappearing.

Census of 2010 found some towns and cities that appear in the inventories and exist on paper as administrative units, in reality have zero population. Many leaders of regional level districts command areas where there are no people.

Last year the country has officially lost more than 3,000 settlements. Small cities, towns, villages, hamlets are dying out by thousands. Experts say that the government does not intend to interfere in what is happening. According to the Ministry of Regional Development, since 1990 23,000 settlements have disappeared. Other sources claim that more then 40,000 Russian settlements were completely deserted by their settlers. _Demographic Crisis in Russia

In Russia, the disproportion between the vast territory and a shrinking population is increasing, said Zakharov. Sustained growth of the Russian economy is hardly possible without structural upgrades, radically higher returns on human capital, and an increase in immigration. _Carnegie Endowment

With the accelerating loss of Siberia, Russia is becoming a shell of its former self. Without a massive injection of hope, opportunity, and freedoms, Russia’s people will never achieve the level of autonomy and ambition needed to move Russia onto a path to greatness.


Capital flight has already reached $75 billion for the first half of 2014, according to the Russian government’s own data, and that’s before the real sanctions were introduced. (By comparison, capital flight for all of 2013 was $63 billion, and in 2012, it was $49 billion.) Russia is not technically in a recession, but that’s because growth has been hovering at zero all year. The Ministry of Economic Development has been using the term “stagnation” since December. Stagnation felled the Soviet Union, and, if the economy dips into recession, it could easily topple Putin, too. __

Return to a world of dictators

  • The leader’s personal power either exceeds the legal allotment or allows the leader to change the law when needed;
  • Justice is selective and politically motivated (“For my friends, everything, for my enemies, the law”), often in the guise of anti-corruption campaigns;
  • Censorship of the media falls short of totalitarian repression but stifles dissenting opinions;
  • The regime associates itself with “traditional values,” revisionist history and strong nationalist rhetoric (and, sometimes, action);
  • Leaders express irritation with Western “double standards” and “preaching,” believing that the West operates just as cynically, only less openly.
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