A Word for Putin. Notes of the former emigrant.
By Yuriy (EcoMinded) Smirnov
Unlike most citizens of Russia, my "acquaintance" with Putin took place in 2008, when I returned from emigration after a 7-year absence from the country. I survived in the 90s, and well remembered the period of wild capitalism, wildspread banditry and the ever-drunk president dancing to the tune of the United States. While in exile, I missed the beginning of Putin's presidency. Life in New Zealand dictated its own, more urgent goals and objectives, I simply did not care about what was happening there in Russia. And here it is, year 2008. After a long absence, I ended up in Moscow, observing Russia with an unbiased, fresh eye and eagerly absorbing everything around me, looking for signs of positive changes.
The first thing that caught my eye was a lot of social advertising against smoking. A poster in the Moscow subway made a strong impression on me: a very beautiful girl smiles at you, wearing a dress... from cigarette butts! - it felt so disgusting, you could almost smell the nusty odour of old cigarette butts in an ashtray...
A little later, I was pleasantly surprised by another fact that spoke of positive changes in the country: both Putin and Medvedev, during their presidency, made their traditional New Year's speach WITHOUT a glass of champagne in hand! The head of the state always sets an example to his people, and that was like a message on a subconscious level: alcohol is not at all an obligatory attribute of any holiday in Russia. While in the 90s, the behavior of Boris Yeltsin in public was a clear message and approval of widespread drunkenness and alcoholism, and most people followed that example - alcohol kept flowing and the people were slowly drinking themselves to death. Putin's subsequent actions confirmed that his sober behavior in public was not accidental, but was one of the successive steps to improve the health of the nation. As a result, today we have: a complete ban on advertising of alcohol and tobacco in any form, strict requirements for liquor stores, age restrictions (for tobacco - up to 18 years old and for alcohol - up to 21 years old), a ban on smoking in public places, a ban on the sale of alcohol from 23:00 to 11:00 and tougher penalties for violating all these prohibitions and requirements.
In subsequent years, it was very interesting for me to observe and track the positive changes initiated by Putin, or occurring with his approval and support, facts and events that contributed to the strengthening of our country and improvement of the quality of life of the people. According to my observations, many of these facts have gone unnoticed by the general public, and that's why I decided to list them below as opposed to the established philistine habit of blaming Putin for all the troubles occurring in the country.
So, what good has Putin done for Russia in 20 years, apart from the steps mentioned above to improve the nation's health?
1. Saving Russia from the final collapse. Putin assumed the presidency at a time when the economically dependent and externally controlled country was on the verge of collapse. And only because of Putin's thoughtful and consistent reforms, Russia has survived as an independent, sovereign state.
2. The end of the war in Chechnya. The hotbed of terrorism in the South of Russia was eliminated - the significance of this fact can hardly be overestimated.
3. Russian economy, destroyed in the 90s, was completely restored thanks to certain successive steps taken by Putin:
3.1 State investments into agriculture, domestic farm and entrepreneurship support have led to the fact that today the country can feed itself completely on its own, we are no longer dependent on imports. Moreover, the ban on the cultivation of GMO products, vast areas and a favorable environmental situation have made Russia one of the main suppliers of high-quality food products in the world.
3.2 Creation of funds that stabilize the country's economy. Anticipating difficult times, Putin managed to create a "safety cushion" in the form of the Stabilization Fund and the National Welfare Fund, thanks to the existence of which the country was able to survive economic trials (for example, a threefold drop in oil prices). Today, social obligations to citizens are fulfilled mainly from the resources of these funds.
3.3 Gold and foreign exchange reserves have been created, in which gold accounts for 22% of the total value of the reserve, this is 2,295 tons of gold in 2021. For comparison, in 1993 there was only 267 tons, and in 2008 - 450 tons. Due to regular purchases of gold, Russia has been the largest buyer of gold in the world for several years.
3.4 Repayment of Government debts. As you know, an independent state policy is possible only if a country does not have significant debt obligations to other countries and financial states. Thus, the very fact that Russia is again able to loudly defend its position in the international arena became possible through Putin's strategic genius, who promptly and significantly reduced Russia's external debt. Today, the external public debt of Russia is one of the lowest in Europe, for many years it has been kept at $ 50-56 billion and is less than 5% of the country's GDP.
4. De-dollarization. With Putin's direct assistance/support, organizations such as BRICS (a union of Russia, Brazil, South Africa, China and India) and Eurasian Economic Union (comprising Kazakhstan, Belarus, Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia) were created as an alternative to the IMF and Western economic institutions. They have agreed about achieving monetary and financial sovereignty and gradually eliminating dependence on the US dollar in regional trade in favor of national currencies.
5. Re-equipment of the Russian defense complex with new high-tech weapons. In Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly 2020, Putin announced that Russia created new types of weapons that have no analogues in the world. In this way, one more step has been made to strengthen the defense capability, and therefore to the independence of Russia from outside pressure.
6. Family support and solution to the demographic issue. In the early nineties, the mortality rate in Russia exceeded the birth rate, but with the construction of new children's institutions, the introduction of additional child benefits and maternity capital, and a general increase in the standard of living, the demographic crisis was overcome. In 2012, population growth exceeded mortality, which speaks for itself.
Putin's careful attitude to children and family is quite a special topic itself. From year to year, in many of his public statements, Putin speaks about the importance of strengthening the families and traditional family values. He also believes that the family plays a key role in nurturing a child's personality. And here I want to emphasize that Putin is referring precisely to the traditional family, where there is a man, a woman and a child (children). Personally, he has nothing against gays, but when it comes to the future of Russia, he believes that it is traditional family that is vital for survival of the nation and essential for development of the country. "Strengthening the family will ensure the development of Russia as a successful country." - Putin said in his message to the Federal Assembly on January 15, 2020.
7. Return of Crimea to Russia. The reunification was made possible through a referendum where 96% of the inhabitants of the peninsula voted to join Russia. And it was to Putin's credit that he promptly responded to this referendum and made a politically wise decision to annex Crimea. At the same time, the question of annexing Donetsk and Luhansk regions was not even considered (despite repeated requests from the leadership of the republics), which undoubtedly was another wise decision by Putin - thus he managed to avoid direct military confrontation between Russia and Ukraine.
8. State support for gifted schoolchildren, students, young scientists. At the initiative of Putin, the presidential program "Gifted Children", the national initiative "Our New School", the Federal Target Program "Children of Russia", and the priority national project "Education" have all been operating in Russia. Work is in progress under the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation "On measures of state support for talented youth".
In addition, under the National Project "Science", a system of support measures - financial, social and professional - has been established for young scientists who carry out advanced research. Grants from the President of the Russian Federation are allocated in the form of two-year subsidies to finance the costs of fundamental and applied scientific research.
9. Widespread and consistent de-bureaucratization in the country. This is another special topic that I would like to draw your attention to. According to Putin, all senseless procedures, absurd norms in the social sphere that humiliate and exhaust people must be removed. This is what we have seen in recent years: the procedures for the provision of many social services have become more convenient and understandable for citizens and entrepreneurs due to the launch of digital (online) services and the widespread introduction of advanced technologies. A striking example of these changes is the site gosuslugi.ru where many services can be obtained online, from the comfort of home, and the widespread opening of Multifunctional Centers (MFC).
10. Free hectare - to every Russian citizen. In 2016, with the support of Putin, the Far East Hectare Program was launched, which grants the right to every citizen of Russia to receive a land plot of up to one hectare in the Far East for free (10 regions of the Far East occupy 36% of the territory of Russia ). In the middle of 2020, the program "Land is Simple" was announced, which will allow registering land plots in ownership remotely, without unnecessary bureaucratic procedures. Since April 2021, the free land program has been extended to the Arctic zone of Russia. In addition, those who already own a free hectare are given the right to receive an additional hectare. It is obvious that this program will eventually receive further development and distribution throughout the entire Russian Federation. But already now, anticipating such a development, some regions of Russia (Belgorod, Kostroma, Leningrad and Vologda regions) adopted local laws on free hectare. Please read more about it here: Russian Land Giveaway Program.
11. Amendments to the Constitution of Russia 2020 (source). As you know, the 1993 Constitution of the Russian Federation was adopted in conditions of an acute internal political crisis, when the country was on the verge of final collapse. Tanks fired at the parliament and in Moscow, there were clashes with victims. Since then, the situation in the country has changed dramatically and the amendments to the Constitution can be considered a natural result of 20 years of Putin's activity. According to him, the amendments to the basic law consolidate the basic values and principles that unite for Russians as the highest, unconditional constitutional guarantees. At the all-Russian referendum, 77.92% of Russian citizens voted for the amendments of the Constitution.
The complete list of amendments includes 206 changes in various areas, from social guarantees to the judiciary and local governments. Not all of them are equal. Some, in my opinion, are more important, some are less. But most of all, I like the fact that the following standards are now set out at the state level:
* The priority of the Constitution of the Russian Federation over international law.
* Children are the most important priority of Russian state policy.
* Protection of the institution of marriage as a union of a man and a woman (that is, a traditional family!)
* High officials, deputies and judges are prohibited from having foreign citizenship, residence permit in another country and foreign bank accounts.
* Russia ensures the protection of historical truth and does not allow the falsification of history and the belittling of the value of the heroic deed of the people in the defense of the Fatherland.
* Russia is taking measures to maintain and strengthen international peace and security, to ensure the peaceful coexistence of states and peoples.
* Russia protects the rights and interests of compatriots living abroad.
12. Russian national idea as a hope of the world. "Each man will live for his fellow man! The principle has been born. It will take years for it to be crystallised, but out of Russia comes again the hope of the world", - the American clairvoyant Edgar Cayce prophesied in 1944. I do not know if Vladimir Putin is familiar with E. Cayce's prophecies, but for me it is an undoubted fact that he perfectly understands the importance for the country to have a certain unifying idea, without which the further development of the state is impossible, not to mention the fact that it can bring hope for the rest of the world.
In the 19th century, the national idea of Russia was formulated by Count S.S. Uvarov (in 1833) in the form of the three components: "Orthodox Christianity, Autocracy and Communality." During the Soviet period, communism became the national idea. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the communist idea was rejected and the so-called "de-ideologization of society" was declared. But, as they say, “a holy place is never empty” - hostile forces - both external and internal - began to actively impose ideologies alien to Russia - the ideology of the Western way of life, individualism, consumerism, profiteering, violence, various sects, etc. Fortunately, the mentality of the people, which forms the basis of any national idea, has been formed for centuries and changes extremely slowly, thanks to which it still successfully resists the forced introduction of the values and morality of the Western world.
Every people has its own special system of thinking, the way of life that predetermines their view of the world, development of their community and the history of the people, and every person behaves in accordance with his/her national mentality. So, what are the main features of the Russian mentality?
First, it is an unusually great kindness. Naturally, there are kind people among every nation. But there are peoples who may have a lot of flaws, but it is the kindness that comes first. These are the Russians.
Secondly, it is a very humanistic view of things, when the common future of the mankind takes the first place in the human value system, next comes the fate of the people, the fate of the family takes third place, and the personal fate comes last.
Third, a highly developed sense of selflessness. A Russian is unequalled when it is necessary to "lift an unliftable" or to "bear an unbearable", when it is necessary to "dissolve" yourself in the lives of other people or to dedicate your entire life to something you serve.
These three qualities - kindness, humanistic worldview and selflessness - can be united by a common concept - "Spirituality" - as the first common distinguishing feature of the Russian mentality.
The next group of distinctive qualities of the Russian mentality.
First, it is communality. It could also be called conciliarity, and in the Soviet period it was called collectivism.
Secondly, it is traditionality, which manifests itself in reliance on folk culture, folk traditions, folk language, folk pedagogy, folk rituals, folk crafts etc.
Thirdly, it is an openness, i.e. the curiosity of a Russian, the ability of Russian culture to open up to external influences, to absorb the values of different peoples, to spiritually enrich and transform them, while keeping its own originality and unity.
These three features can be combined into a second general concept - the national character of the Russian mentality.
Finally, there is a third group of qualities.
Firstly, it is a patriotism as love for your Motherland, love for your homestead and the country, the willingness to faithfully serve its prosperity, love your Home and the readiness to defend it.
Secondly, it is a recognition of the need for a strong sovereign power. Obviously, Russia needs it in order to resist, under current conditions, those external and internal forces that are trying in every possible way to weaken Russia, to oust it from the ranks of the leading world powers, or even destroy it altogether.
Patriotism and the recognition of the need for a strong state power can be united by the third generalizing concept - great power statehood.
These three generalizing concepts: spirituality, national character and great power statehood constitute the core of the national idea of Russia. And for me it is quite obvious that all these qualities of the Russian mentality are inherent in Vladimir Putin and are clearly expressed in his actions aimed at building a strong sovereign power, as well as to support a family, traditional, cultural Russian values and patriotism.
In conclusion, I would like to emphasize once again that Putin received a practically collapsed country with a lot of problems. Now Russia is a strong global power with a developed economy again. Therefore, even if you don't like something happening in the country, do not rush to blaim Putin. Re-read this impressive list of positive facts again, and then put yourself in the president's shoes and imagine how much efforts you would need to solve at least some of the problems and implement all these changes, despite the pressure of the Western countries from the outside and the resistance of the gorged parliament and the financial oligarchy - from the inside.
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* Russia Expends Free Land Giveaway Program to the Entire Cointry
* Putin Stops Illegal Logging in Russia
* Russia giving away free land to its people
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