In his Washington Post column, Fareed Zakaria describes Russia’s failures as a modern nation. Although it ranks alongside other developed nations in terms of wealth and education, it falls far behind in producing the things that other, similar nations have, such as patents, or even length of life. It largely lives on selling commodities such as oil.
Education usually correlates with good health, but not in Russia. Eberstadt points out that shockingly, Russia is a country with “First World” education levels and “Fourth World” mortality rates for its working age population. He then digs deeper into the educational attainments and finds that the mystery deepens. With huge numbers of well-trained people, especially in the sciences, Russia performs miserably in the knowledge economy, much worse than did the Soviet Union. In 2019, Russia ranked behind Austria in international patent applications, despite having 16 times the population. Today, it ranks alongside Alabama in annual U.S. patent awards (the gold standard for companies everywhere), despite having almost 30 times the population. All these numbers will likely get much worse given the hundreds of thousands of (likely well-trained, urban, educated) Russians who fled the country after its aggression against Ukraine….
For Putin, modernizing Russia would create a more active civil society, greater demands for better health care, more opportunities for ordinary citizens and a less kleptocratic state. And so he advocates a traditional Russia, which celebrates religion, traditional morality, xenophobia and strict gender conformity.