In his 1896 novel, The Island of Doctor Moreau, H.G. Wells describes how a doctor on a small and isolated island in the Pacific manages to create “human-like hybrid beings” by doing surgery on animals. British critics at the time suggested Wells’ book was a commentary on what had happened in their country over the two preceding decades.
They suggested, Moscow commentator Aleksandr Nemets says, that Wells was a kind of fictional retelling of what happened in England after the social upsurge of the 1880s when in his words “Englishmen were almost converted into people and then again returned to their ‘primitive state.’”
Russia over the last 30 years appears to have moved along the same trajectory.
“How often people shouted at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s: ‘The former slaves of the Soviet system are being transformed into free people! Unheard of flourishing is ahead!’ But in fact, a new herd appeared, actively supported and directed by the authorities.”
“We now see the final results,” Nemets says, with polls showing that the share of Russians who oppose Putin and want change “doesn’t exceed 13-14 percent of the population” and 10 percent of the total, some 14 million people, including many who would be in the first category – say they want to leave Russia altogether.
Twenty-five percent of those aged 18 to 25 say they want to leave, eight million of those Russia most needs for development. But “the rest, both the young and those older support the FSB-Russian Orthodox Church bloc or even demand that it act “more harshly” than it has up to now, the commentator continues.
“It is thus easy to make the conclusion that the quality of the population of the Russian Federation has fallen sharply and does not correspond at all to the demands of high-technology modernization of the economy and society.” The Russians have the equipment one would need but “not the qualified cadres.”
On the other hand, Nemets points out, “there are cadres and resource for ‘electronic evils’ like trolling and hacker attacks on Ukraine, Europe and America.” And there is no indication that things are going to get better anytime soon. “Not a single Russian university” ranks in the top 100 of the world.
“Unfortunately,” he says, “a significant part of the readers of Kasparov.ru [and other liberal outlets] still maintain the illusion that ‘a leader will be found, a Navalny or someone else, a bright new personality, who will take power in the Russian Federation by legal or other means and everything will turn out well!’”
“Alas, the share of those who want serious changes in the Russian Federation is not large and is even contracting,” Nemets says. And that reduces the chances that Russia will be able to change itself by itself anytime in the coming years.
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