What’s the reason that Russia is and has always been so poor, despite having the biggest amounts of natural resources in the world, being twice the size of the USA and having 2.5 times less population? What makes this country so miserable?
One of my satori moments was realizing that the Third World countries are the way they are because they themselves want to be that way – the cultural evolution has molded into what they are. This also explains why African and Asian countries – which both once were colonies under colonialist countries – have taken so divergent cultural evolutionary paths, and why those countries, which have been the longest time as colonies (Finland was colonized for a total of 668 years) usually are the wealthiest and best doing, because they have been the longest time influenced by the West. Russia is and has always been so poor because the forces of cultural evolution have molded it that way – and Russia has reached the climax of its own evolutionary path and is perfect just as what it is. Just like the jellyfish attained the evolutionary perfection already in the Ediacaran era 600 million years ago, the Russian societal apparatus attained its evolutionary perfection already in the era of Peter I the Great, and it has proven astonishly immune to any attempts to reform it anyhow.
The greatest tragedy of Russia ever happened in 1237 with the Mongol conquest. The forces of Batu under the Great Khan Ögödei conquered the old Kievan Rus domains, and founded the khanate of Golden Horde in the Russian lands. In the Oriental geography, “gold” or “yellow” denotes the centre, “white” denotes West, “red” denotes South, “black” denotes North and “blue” (or green, they are treated as one and same colour) denotes East. The Golden Horde divided thus the territories into Black Rus (Russia proper) in North, White Rus (Belarus) in West and Red Rus (Ukraine) in South. The Mongols brought with them the concepts of slavery, authoritarianism, despotism, patrimonialism, brutality, state terror and the concept that laws exist as the tool of the ruler to prop his rule.
Lithuania conquered the White Rus from the Golden Horde by the first half of the 14th century and Poland conquered Red Rus by mid-14th century. Those territories slid into the Rzeczpospolita sphere, and got their share of Catholic influence while remaining themselves Orthodox. But the Black Rus sighed under the Mongol Yoke for 243 years. This period was long enough to Mongolicize Russia thorougly and wrench it off the Western cultural sphere into the Turko-Mongolic.
The Golden Horde began to crack little by little in the late 13th century. Instead of ruling the Rus lands directly, the Mongol Khans used the Rus rulers as their stooges. I do not say “vassals”, because they did not own their lands; they rather were “hereditary regents”, and the word “stooge” describes their status perfectly. The taxes were heavy and the rule was oppressive, but the Mongols knew their sh1t – although they themselves converted to Islam very early, they favoured the Orthodox Church as a tool of ruling the populace – and it was also a convenient tool to demonize the Catholic West.
The 243 year of Mongol Yoke left their permanent imprint in the Russian national soul – servility, suffering, fatalism, submission to bullies, cruelty upon anyone weaker, alcoholism and Authoritarian Patrimonialism. One force began to rise in influence in the Mongol court, and it was Muscovy – the Muscovite dukes proved to be most Machiavellian in this game of thrones, and played their rivals away one by one.
When Ivan III the Great finally liberated Muscovy from the Mongol Yoke in the Battle of Ugra river 1480 and declared himself as the Czar of All Rus, the Black Russia had slid completely and irreversibly away from the Western cultural sphere, and there was and will be no return.
The lessons which the Russians learned under the Mongol rule were that the state is absolute and indivisible – the state is a sacred entity, and it must be monolithic and indivisible; the ruler is the absolute owner of the land and everything there is – he is absolute and God’s deputy on earth, not just a primus inter pares nor citizens’ representant; the laws exist solely to prop the power of the ruler – they are not arbiters of the issues of denizens, but the method of the ruler to punish any dissidents, all denizens are slaves of the ruler, not free citizens nor even semi-free serfs, all economy is subordinate to state – no private entrepreneurship and human life has absolutely no value whatsoever – the denizens are under the whim of the ruler. The result was Authoritarian Patrimonialism – a form of statehood where the Czar (premier, President, you name it) is the absolute and totalitarian ruler of the country, all power emanate from him, he is the sole owner of everything in the country and the nobles are nothing but his stooges, and his whim (ukaz) is the law.
No similar private land ownership as Feudalism in the West and no private property ownership as Capitalism could ever merge in such state.
If you ever travel in Russia, there is one striking feature: there are no castles. Europe is full of castles – they are means of area denial in warfare and powerbases in the civilian life. There are none in Russia. Russian mode of warfare has never based on forming a network of powerbases and area denial, but on scorched earth – burn everything behind, retreat hundreds of kilometres, stretch the enemy supply lines and then counterattack. This is the steppe mode of warfare. Russians themselves assume their country is indefensible by its terrain (the lesson which Walther Model gave them on defensive warfare in the Rzhev Meat Grinder went unlearned) and they must always attack before they themselves are attacked. But prohibition of local lords building castles also served the Czar so that there could not rise a private power or rival to his power.
Russian state apparatus attained its form what it is today in the rule of Ivan IV the Terrible – he concentrated all the power to himself, slaughtered the old nobility, founded a standing army loyal only to himself and stated laws of serfdom, and founded the secret police and spy organization. The Russian state apparatus was perfected by Peter I the Great by making the Orthodox Church as one of the offices of the State – thus eliminating the last private force which could rival with his power.
There has never been Feudalism in Russia. There has never been Renaissance in Russia. There has never been Enlightment in Russia. The two forces competing in the Russian soul have been crass superstition and fatalism, and almost slavish dedication to Orthodox religion – which the Communists crushed.
Russian state apparatus and society is perfect as it is. It has attained its evolutionary climax. It will not evolve any further as but in detail. And no force in the Universe can anyhow reform, renew or alter it – it is completely immune to any attempts to reform it. After any reforms, it will inevitably return into what it was before.
Slavery was abolished in Russia during the rule of Peter the Great – almost 1000 years after what it was elsewhere in the Christian world – and serfdom only in 1863, after the disaster of the Crimean war. But remember when I said the nobles were not feudal lords but ruler’s stooges and dependent on his mercy and whim? The only really free person in Russia has always been the Czar (Premier, President) and everyone else as his chew toy.
Such society can never emerge the rule of law. Such society can never produce justice state, civil rights, judicial safety, safety of ownership, untouchability – nothing. There has never been true Capitalism in Russia, but only crony capitalism. There never will be true Capitalism in Russia, because any assets and property can be seized by the ruler, by the ruler’s stooges, or by the Mafia at any moment. Russia is basically an anarcho-tyranny: anarchy for the stooges of the ruler and the criminals, tyranny for everyone else.
Russia is a low trust society, since the Czars and the Communists simply did everything to sow distrust, suspicion and corruption within the populace to prevent any mutinies. Russians do not trust their government, their rulers, their family members – nobody. This effectively prevents any rise of a strong and independent middle class, the mainstay of the Western society. The only organized thing in Russia is the government – and the crime. Russia simply cannot get along without state terror and coercive regime. Each time a regime collapses, Russia itself collapses into svoboda, then into bespredel and then into smuta. Sooner or later, a new strongman emerges, and the cycle starts anew.
Belgium survived three years without a government – its organizations and civil servants took care of everything. Russia will not survive three weeks without a strongman rule.
The only real counterforce for the Almighty State is the Organized Crime. Mafiya. The Russian mafia is brutal, ruthless and devoid of any human decency. It got its beginnings in the Communist era from the outcasts of the society, who did not bow to the government, and were GULAGized. They basically flipped the bird to the whole human decency. They got a foothold in the societal issues in the 1990s, and in many places, the organized crime and the stooges of the government are intertwined and amalgamated.
The consequence is that Russians live in this moment, here and now, and they do not plan for their future. If they ever amass money or wealth, they squander it immediately on conspicuous consumption. It is the wisest thing to do – remember that ownership has no protection. Poor yesterday, rich today, poor tomorrow – a vot. There is no private entrepreneurship, no private industry, no private financing, no private media. All industries in Russia are controlled by the state or the ruler’s stooges. This is known as the vertical of power.
But since this kind of system is horribly inefficient, horribly top-heavy and horribly unreliable, the Russians have long since found a lubricant – corruption. Russia is corrupt thoroughly. Since Russia is a low-trust society, and Communism managed to crush the little of human decency and honesty there were after the Orthodox church, the only way to run the system smoothly are private “special gifts”, “protektsiya”, “na chayu” and bribes.
This explains why Russia is and has always been so poor, despite having the biggest amounts of natural resources in the world and able population. It is the system they have – and they like it that way. Russian society has always been technologically backwards and lousy by its infrastructure, and the ordinary Russian has always been poor as a church mouse. But the State has always been rich, the ruler has always been rich and the ruler’s stooges have always been rich. Just like the Americans, who never admit there is anything wrong in their society and hope they too will one day be millionaires, the Russians like their society just as it is, they identify not as individuals but as the State – and they too hope they can one day be the stooges of the ruler and tap the wealth. To be at the receiving end of the corruption cash flow.
Cultural evolution is the great enabler. The Western cultural sphere is so wealthy and so neat because it managed somehow to discover and assemble the right memes and memeplexes and evolve into what it is today. Likewise, the Eastern cultural sphere has managed to evole in its own direction.
There is no coming back into what was before 1237. Belarus and Ukraine have irreversibly slid off the Greater Rus, and into the Western cultural sphere. The border opens as a rift, and the border of the cultural spheres go along with it. Let the Russians enjoy their society as it is – it is the way they want to be. Likewise, let us Westerners enjoy our societies as they are, and not live up false hopes Russia will one day be like us. It won’t – neither will be China, North Korea, Iran or Saudi-Arabia.