Russia’s main problem is, and always has been, this: lack of trust. Inside the family and the close circle of friends trust exists, of course. But outside, in the society, the level of trust is extremely low:
- People don’t trust their superiors at work, superiors don’t trust their employees
- Public institutions are trusted by nobody
- Houses, cars and valuable possessions always come with expensive alarm systems and heavy locks
- The Russian people have in general a deep mistrust in their leaders
- The majority knows that elections are fixed
- The leaders don’t trust the people they govern – and this is a key factor
This universal lack of trust is the main obstacle for Russia’s possibilities in developing into a civilized society.
Leadership’s distrust in its own people
The leaders of the country have never trusted the people, which explains the massive size of security forces throughout the history. The distrust was particularly strong during the Soviet regime, when Stalin made the entire country into one giant prison. The 196 km border between Norway and Russia is still separated by a double barbed wire with sensors detecting any touch from the inside (nobody wants to break into Russia, only out of it).
The security forces have always been strong in Russia/Soviet, and in 1999 they finally took over the main political positions, and soon KGB/FSB got complete control over the main institutions of the Russian society:
- Media: KGB/FSB started this process four days after Putin’s inauguration by attacking Gusinsky’s Media-Most empire. The next victim was Berezovsky and his ORT. Soon they gained full control over all main national media channels
- KGB/FSB soon took control over the State Duma through mock elections orchestrated by Surkov and where the mock party “United Russia” won 223 of 450 seats
- Financial market: from 2003 all oligarchs had to subordinate to Kremlin, any resistance was squashed (like Khodorkovsky and Yukos). Banks, like many others, jump when told to, but soon there will be no more springs in the trampoline
- Energy sector: the main cash machine in Russia is the energy sector. Gazprom, being the world’s largest gas company, is not as much a commercial conglomerate as it is a money bin for politicians, bureaucrats and siloviki. The entire sector is now under control of Putin and his allies
- Judicial system never had any real independence, and the courts are today under strict control from the executive branch, which in Russia is not the government but the Presidential administration
- Culture: artists and cultural personalities who do not obey are no longer welcome. Russia has always been a country with an unpredictable past, and the present regime is – once again – rewriting its own history so it can fit the regime’s twisted world view
When lack of trust dominates a society it is very difficult to build independent institutions which may give possibilities for growth, prosperity and freedom. For Russia it will take several decades before it can set her foot on that ladder. The KGB/FSB/GRU regime of today will not give up their power without a very hard and very bloody fight.