What Russians can learn from Egyptians

Vladimir Ryzhkov, writing in the Moscow Times:

One of the hot discussion topics in Russia these days is the revolutionary events in Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Yemen and other Arab states. For years — even decades — these countries have been led by harsh, authoritarian regimes that are just as unscrupulous in using force against dissenters as they are in finding ways to enrich their ruling dictators and their families. It has become fashionable to theorize that the Russian regime — just as unscrupulous and corrupt, with a brutal leader who recently marked 10 years in power — could become one of the next rotten autocracies to collapse. But there is no reason to make such a prediction. Russia is fundamentally different from the countries of the Arab world, and Russian society and politics are developing along a completely different path.

The Arab world is experiencing a tremendous population explosion. Of the 80 million people in Egypt, 40 percent are young people under the age of 15 — or 32 million people. In Iran, there are 25 million youth, or 35 percent of the country’s population. The population of Egypt grows by more than 1 million people every year, and purposely understated official figures put unemployment and illiteracy at 10 percent. With 17 million people, Cairo, like other megacities in the region, is extremely overcrowded and faces catastrophic urban problems. All the countries in the region grapple with overpopulation, widespread poverty while the ruling elite basks in luxury, a shortage of drinking water, high unemployment, miniscule incomes that make basic necessities unaffordable and a lack of access to education and health care.

It is the numerous and embittered Arab youth — deprived of opportunities by economic stagnation and aging dictatorships — that formed the combustible material first for the “Jasmine Revolution” in Tunisia, and then for the fires of revolution breaking out in other Arab states. In this respect, Russia is the exact opposite of Tunisia, Egypt and Iran. The Arab world is a boiling cauldron of discontented youth, but Russia is an old and cooling star.

Unlike Arab states, Russia’s population continues its rapid decline, faced not with an excess but an acute shortage of young people. As that shortage grows at an alarming rate, it is having a major impact on the military, universities, employers, schools and the pension fund. There are 40 million retirees in Russia today as opposed to only 75 million people of working age — and that imbalance continues to increase. The workforce is expected to shrink by 900,000 people this year alone. Even with a deep economic crisis and the current stagnation, unemployment remains relatively low, and this is because of growing labor shortages that are mitigated in part by an influx of foreign workers. Youth can expect to find jobs in Russia with far greater ease than their peers in the Arab world. With growing demand in Russia’s labor market and an increasingly nationalized economy — including more jobs with the government and siloviki structures, even though half of the workforce is already employed by the state — youth are more likely to choose a strategy of adaptation and conformity than protest.

Neither does religion play the same role in Russia as it does in the Arab world. In Cairo, mass demonstrations broke out immediately after Friday prayers in the mosques. In Russia, even though the majority of people consider themselves Russian Orthodox, in reality few participate regularly in religious services or community life. The Russian Orthodox Church does not organize or rally the masses. Indeed, it openly supports the government.

Participation in the political process, interest in politics, mutual trust and solidarity of the people remain at extremely low levels in Russia. According to a recent Levada Center survey, far more people are generally satisfied than dissatisfied with current conditions. A significant majority of respondents agreed with the statement that “life is difficult but bearable,” and few said they were “unable to adapt.” Most of those questioned said they prefer stability to rapid change.

In 1989, 52 percent of those surveyed said other people could be trusted. Now only one-third believe that. Before, 41 percent felt it was necessary to be cautious with other people, but now that number stands at 66 percent.

Only 3 percent of Russians are “very interested” in politics, as compared with 5 percent to 7 percent over the last five years. Those who are “sort of interested” in politics number 29 percent, although in 2009 it was 37 percent. And an incredible 64 percent said they were “completely uninterested” or “sort of uninterested” in politics.

At the same time, people are growing more alienated from the authorities. As Levada Center sociologist Boris Dubin said, the typical attitude today is, “The state — it’s not me!” And in accordance with this statement, Russians can be characterized by their “nonparticipation and noninvolvement” in the affairs of society. Of those surveyed, 85 percent say they do not know where the country is going. Eighty percent believe that society does not control the authorities and that abuses of power and corruption are growing. As many as 66 percent hold that the entire machinery of the state is corrupt and broken down. Also, 60 percent of respondents feel they hold no moral responsibility for the authorities and their activity. Only 25 percent would like to participate in the political life of at least their city or village. Even fewer are theoretically ready to take part in protests.

We have before us a picture of a country and a people slowly sinking into the mire. The sluggish society — placated by benefiting to varying degrees from the country’s resource wealth — cannot find the initiative to support newly minted social movements such as the anti-fascists, “blue buckets,” the Party of People’s Freedom, defenders of the Khimki forest and Strategy 31. The Kremlin continues to be panic-stricken over the prospect of a Russian “Orange” or “Brown” revolution, failing to see that the real threat facing Russia’s future is something else entirely: the deepening apathy, alienation, cultural degradation and disintegration of society and the state. The country’s best and brightest are immigrating to the West and taking with them the very social dynamism that is needed to revive Russia’s lagging fortunes.

24 responses to “What Russians can learn from Egyptians

  1. The only thing can be learned from Egyptians is that noone politician, supported from outside, can be good (or ,even, can be acceptable) for own people.

  2. It’s easy to answer that question.
    The Russian can learn from Egyptians – the time has come to think the situation over for all royal US stooges in the Middle East, start packing as soon as possible and follow the way of “honor” of Reza Pehlevi, the shah of Iran to Panama, Guatemala or Honduras. They are ever welcome in those parts. :-)

  3. Pingback: What Russians can learn from Egyptians « The Constitution Club

  4. Why would the Russians rebel against their government?Their governemnt is constitutional and is legal government. The government is doing its utmost to preserve the democratic rights for all the people, rich or not so rich. The Egyprian government is being there for thirty long years, its corrupt, and is not doing anything for the masses in Egypt. 46%live below poverty line (i.e less than $2 per day), 30 million illiterate, 5 millions live in cemetries,13% of people own 64%of the wealth. Governments not elected by fair elections, they cheat. They allow the gas to be sold to Israel for under 10%of the world price. More than 60% of Egyptian have no running water in their homes, no gas pipes, no schools, few hospital (poorly equipped).How dare you to compare Egypt, or Yemen to Russia. This is unthinkable. Only sick minded people with thier private agenda dare to do the unfair comparison.The income per capita in Russia is more than $14K a year. In Egypt only %659. Stop being stupid.


    Take your own advice, stop being stupid! And more important, stop lying.

    The Russian government is neither constitutional nor legal. It has utterly crushed legal opposition parties, denying them not just air time and face time with the public but even a place on the ballot. Did Kasparov face Medvedev in the last election? Was Nemtsov on the ballot? ANY opposition party?

    The fact that Egypt is even more poor than Russia is cold comfort to Russians, who don’t rank in the top 100 countries of the world for adult lifespan and work for an average wage of $3/hour, less than half the MINIMUM legal wage in the USA. Russia is an economic backwater of Europe and Russia is perishing slowly, day by day, just as was the USSR.

    Please tell your lies elsewhere, here they make you and Russia look like baboons.

  5. LR:
    “The fact that Egypt is even more poor than Russia is cold comfort to Russians, who don’t rank in the top 100 countries of the world for adult lifespan and work for an average wage of $3/hour, less than half the MINIMUM legal wage in the USA.
    #1 in Russia’s export is oil.
    #1 in the export of the empire of debt – USA is green paper (fake money).
    (0r what the host country of this blog – the US can learn from Guinea-Bissau)

    “The highest level of debt to GDP seen among the 14 “AAA” countries is at 75.6% for Canada, followed by France at 71.1%, Germany at 65.1% and Austria at 64.9%, versus a GAAP ratio of total financial obligations to GDP of 334.3% for the United States. The low ratio among the “AAA” countries is Luxembourg at 4.9%. ”

    “In searching World Bank data, I couldn’t find any nation with a debt-to-GDP ratio worse than the United States’ GAAP obligations ratio of 334%. The closest found is for the West African state of Guinea-Bissau at 224%, but Guinea-Bissau is not rated in any category.” — :-) :-) :-)

    A Series Authored by Walter J. “John” Williams
    “Federal Deficit Reality”
    (Part Three in a Series of Five)
    September 7, 2004

    P.S. from rts:
    “It is well that the people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.” — Henry Ford

    • The fact that Russia has lots of oil revenue which does not make it anywhere near the people who own the oil, the citizens, is more reason to hold Russia in contempt, not less.

      Impoverished Egyptians love their country enough to risk everything to save it from the abyss. Russians, clearly, have no such affection for their motherland.

  6. most of Russian problems are the results of excessive self- esteem of the imperial past. Ageing population is common in the West. Low qualification of the labour force? Centuries-old problem of Russia. Historian Davies have read that Russia had swallowed new territories istead of civilizing the empire.
    Passivity of labor force is explaind by the collapse of Soviet outdated industry and extracted industry monopoly with the relatively small workers number. But the main problem is the deminishing population hysterically called dying out one.That symbolize the future imperial death.But the living standard of todays Russia is the highest in her history.

  7. Relax, RTS, USA will never have to repay its debt of $14 trillion. It will just print those $14 trillion in new money, use it to repay debt, and let the dollar devalue by a factor of 10, that’s all.

  8. The revolution in Egypt will bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power in less than 2 years. Anybody willing to make a bet against this prediction?


    Iran, the other day, issued a declaration urging the Tahrir youth to make an “Islamic revolution,” and none other than Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood told Tehran to get lost because the democracy movement here is pan-Egyptian and includes Christians and Muslims.


    Are you sure that would be such a bad thing?

    Russia slobs like you seem to fear democracy the way cave-men feared thunderstorms. It’s kind of sad, really.

    • Basically, you’re saying that people should never carry out a revolution because there is always a chance what comes after will be worse. Only Russians think like that, and they have reason to. Regardless of the Tsar’s horrors, Russians would have been better off living under him than under the post-revolutionary nightmare that befell them.

      In the civilized world, though, people live differently.

      • Let us come back to this topic in less than 2 years, when the religious extremists come to power in Egypt, Egypt becomes 100 times worse than Iran, women are forced to wear veils, and Egypt increase its suppport and funding for the terrorists and anti-Israeli extremists by a factor of 1000. I will let you repeat to me that you consider Egypt part of the “civilized world”.

        • Actually it seems to be Russia that supplies Islamic fundamentalists with weapons and nuclear technology Maimonides.

          Get your facts right Ostap/Voice of Retardation/whatever new name you think up for yourself this week.

  9. Maimonides | February 6, 2011 at 10:56 pm | Reply
    “Relax, RTS, USA will never have to repay its debt of $14 trillion. It will just print those $14 trillion in new money, use it to repay debt, and let the dollar devalue by a factor of 10, that’s all.”
    LR just called it ” a civilized world”. In real civilized world it’s (printing fake money) called a theft at the best.
    PAX DOLLARIUM – no way out.

    • But there is a way out. Who makes you keep your money in dollars? If you are so sure that the U.S. fiscal and economic policy is so bad, and the future of the dollar is so bleak, sell your dollars and buy gold. Of course, when you want to buy a chicken, I doubt the seller at a market will take gold.

      Or better yet, keep your money in rubles or some other third world country’s currency. Isn’t that better than keeping the devalued by a factor of 10 dollar? This way you are going to preserve your capital and at the same time materially express your hatred towards the United States. Let us know how that goes.

  10. The article is not mentioning the role of Russian army. Can you believe a situation in which the Russian armed forces stay neutral in the case of mass clashes between the anti-Putin protesters and the Militsya/FSB and Nashist goons in the Red Square, or even try and protect the oppositionists with their tanks? Of course, unfortunately not. This is what happened once, and would happen again:

  11. The talks with todays Russians remind me the talks with stone-deafs-they don`t understand you and themselves. Unpleasant things sleep away from their conscience. For instance,You ask the leftist- fighter for hapless poors :
    but you have a new Land-Rover? -” You understand nothing. The whole point is that; bla bla bla. ” The”miserable” well-being humiliate them.The imperial memory is in bleeding hart.

    • Have to agree there, most Russians are too brainwashed or too stupid to learn anything from what is going on in Egypt.

  12. All this Republics have their own presidents, own national flag, own parliaments, hymn and all other things that an independent state needs. These republics are not Russian linguistically, they have their own culture, traditions and religion.

    Full independence for Russian colonies:

    The Adygea Republic,
    The Tatarstan Republic,
    The Chechnya Republic,
    The Dagestan Republic,
    The North Ossetia,
    The Bashkortostan Republic,
    The Karelia Republic,
    The Altai Republic,
    The Kabardino-Balkaria,
    The Buryatia Republic,
    The Chuvash Rebublic,
    The Ingushetia Republic,
    The Kalmykia Republic,
    The Karachayevo-Circassian Republic,
    The Khakasia Republic,
    The Komi Republic,
    The Mari Republic,
    The Mordovian Republic,
    The Sakha Republic (Yakutia),
    The Tyva Republic,
    The Udmurtia Republic,


    It is only Putin’s bloody regime, that does not tolerate freedom
    of speech, makes them afraid to speak about this.
    These republics are in fact independent, they are not
    Russians and never want to be. Chechnya for example has
    already issued a declaration of independence, that is one
    step away recognition. How cynical can you be to demand
    independence for regions in Georgia and not to allow this
    for republics in Russia.

    • Seriously? Do you think the people in places like Karelia, Mordovia or N. Ossetia want independence from Russia? FYI, even South Ossetians and Abkhazians are dreaming of joining Russia voluntarily. They even voted on numerous occasions to do so.

      • No, the Abkhazians never voted to become part of Russia, they are getting very upset about Russian control of their government.

        Show us one example where Abkhaz voted to join Russia, go on, just one.

        Meanwhile, what they are really saying in Abkhazia:

        Vienna, May 22 – At a time when the opposition in South Ossetia is attempting to get Moscow more involved in political fights there, many Abkhazians, especially among the local opposition and in the influential diaspora in Turkey, are expressing concerns that their republic is being “swallowed up” by Russians and Russia.
        Writing in today’s “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” Yury Simonyan points to the recent declaration of a group of influential Abkhazians calling for reining in President Sergey Bagapsh after he ceded to Russian institutions control over local railroads, the airport, and borders and failed to restrict Russian land purchases ( http://www.ng.ru/politics/2009-05-22/1_abhazia.html).
        Such concessions, the opposition leaders fear, could “convert Abkhazia into a quasi-state Russian entity” capable of surviving only on Moscow’s handouts. Equally sharp criticism of Bagapsh’s actions in this regard, the “Nezavisimaya gazeta” journalist says, have come in from Abkhazians in Turkey.
        Fears about Russia’s plans in and for Abkhazia have been a subtext in politics there since last summer. In the wake of Russian recognition of the independence of the breakaway republic, some Abkhazians said “we left Georgia in order to preserve our statehood and culture” and “we do not want to lose all this as a result of a close union with the Russian Federation.”
        Sergey Shamba, the republic’s foreign minister, said at that time that the numerically small Abkhaz people feared that it might be subject “to the threat of assimilation including state assimilation” by the larger Russian community. And Abkhazian media criticized the overly large “appetites” of Russian businessmen for property in Abkhazia.


  13. @ Andrew:

    What do you think? Can the Russians learn something from the Bahrain on the lessons of democracy or what?

    • I think the only lesson they can draw is that OMON will open fire on them.

      And Bahrain is not a democracy as far as I am aware.

      I sincerely doubt the Russians have enough individual courage to do what protesters are doing in the middle east.

  14. larussophobe wrote: “Basically, you’re saying that people should never carry out a revolution because there is always a chance what comes after will be worse. Only Russians think like that, and they have reason to.

    Not necessarily. The previous major revolution in the Middle East – the Iranian revolution – was quite peaceful and brought about a very stable government, supported by the majority of its population. A real constitutional and peaceful islamic republic. I am sure the Egyptian revolution will follow the Iranian example instead of, say, Pakistan.


    The Constitution of Islamic Republic of Iran

    In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful.


    I am sure that most Tea Party members would also want to start the US Constitution with this phrase.

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