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Everything the Soviets ever told us about Communism was a lie. Unfortunately, everything they told us about capitalism was true.Speech is a lot freer than it was, and private business not only exists, but thrives. Competition between private companies can be intense and cutthroat. Literally cutthroat. Which is why private security is one of the most thriving industries. Putin and Medvedev are seemingly popular, but often quite shady. They casually exchange presidency and prime-ministering. While the Tricolours With Rusting Rockets retain the red star on their aircraft, the proposed new formal uniform is somewhat Tsarist looking, the old Slavic-colours flag is back and Red October is replaced with a somewhat controversial "National Unity Day" which takes place three days earlier and is a popular time for various far-right rallies. Russia has a lot of problems to deal with. But you wouldn't know it from the way the fall of the USSR is usually portrayed. If you cut the story short somewhere around late 1991, it looks like the whole Story Arc is over, the Cold War has ended peacefully much to everyone's surprise, and the future looks bright for all involved. Flash forward two years and the economy has been crippled by corrupt privatizations, unemployment and poverty are running rampant, and the new, "democratic", constantly-intoxicated President deals with an unruly Parliament by sending in the tanks. Later, it gets worse. One particular subtrope associated with The New Russia is the "Russian Nineties", which is the Theme Park Version of the Yeltsinist Russian Federation. Everyone except the gangsters and the oligarchs is starving poor, crime is rampant, the rubles have Ridiculous Exchange Rates, and the whole place is Grim Dark. Basically, the Great Depression-era USA meets Ruritania. When speculative fiction extrapolated from this trend, it usually added Cyberpunk into the mix to create an Up to Eleven picture of a failed state, where masses do starve in droves, and the whole place is overtly run as a confederacy of mob families. The Nineties ended with Putin coming to power and oil money coming to town, but they surely can make a comeback because of the worldwide financial crisis, which is what everyone was expecting in 2009-early 2010. The economy (the Russian one at least) has since recovered, but lots of previous problems persist regardless. Russia now has a problem with The Mafiya, general corruption and a lack of money, although these three are being somewhat dealt with. Following the general decay of... everything during the nineties, the government has been hard-pressed to select which sectors were in the most urgent need of restructuring/financing, permitted by the improving conditions. The military industry, hydrocarbons extraction, and other "marketable" goods came first, and this along with sudden exposure of the economy to the laws of demand left the notoriously bloated and inefficient heavy industries inherited from the USSR to fend for themselves. These either adapted to the situation by scraping up investments and selling abroad, or were merged into large state-owned conglomerates. But annual budgets are not limitless and other sectors were also set aside, resulting in crumbling public infrastructure (education was mostly unaffected, thankfully), under-employment, and the problems of the USSR's frankly shoddy environmental record. Chechnya and terrorism are a rather a big issue as well. The far right is another large problem, as fascist gangs attack anyone who doesn't look right on the street. Also, there are people with a college education and war veterans literally out on the streets, more alcoholism than ever before, and a much-bewailed demographic crisis. Finally, Russians, unused to capitalism after 75 years of being Commie Land, manage to get suckered into all manner of scams; one particularly notorious Ponzi Scheme, MMM, ended up taking in anywhere between 5 and 40 million Russians for the whopping sum of ten billion dollars. Not rubles—hard, American dollars (and now - 2011 - it is back!). All of this contributes to it being a Crapsack World and accounts for why Russians writing about this tend to Accentuate the Negative and adhere to the far Cynical end of Idealism vs. Cynicism. It is also worth noting, that because of a lack of conscript discipline, the compulsory military service is a boogeyman for the Russian youth, because nowadays soldiers ruthlessly bully each other, there are frequent murders or suicides among soldiers (possibly over 300 total by now).note Because of these reasons, most of the youth try to get higher education - Russia has the second largest amount of universities in the world - but low funding and the legacy of Soviet preferences (if it is militarily relevant, it's a priority) means that the education system is good at producing engineers and technical specialists, but fundamental researchers in all but a few prioritized disciplines have to join foreign faculties or organize themselves : only the country's main university is (low) in the world top 100.note Right now Moscow is a big and modern city. People there tend to have fair incomes but suffer from bad ecology, ethnic violence and many other problems; on the other hand, economical inequality is more striking in Moscow than anywhere else, since it has a really filthy rich upper class, a tenuous middle class and lots of lower-class people. Research activities and newly profitable commercial developments such as electronics are also quite centralized there and, to a lower extent, in regional capitals. Since the policies of equal development of the USSR, which were over-focused on heavy industries, died with it, rural parts of Russia are very very poor compared to the capital city. The most notable exceptions are St.Petersburg which literally is a second capital, and quickly developing, often oil rich Siberian regions. In the countryside of southern (Central Asian) and western (European) Russia, there is no middle class to speak of and unemployment is a serious issue, corruption is overwhelming, oligarchy is on its march and right now there is more violence and crime than there was during infamous "Russian Nineties". In addition, the army is somewhat of a laughing stock due to the constant bickering between design companies, production facilities, and the generals for who gets funding priority this year. No wonder the nostalgic mood is very popular. Some political pundits like to compare the modern Russia to the last years of Tsarist Russia. Like Tsarist (Imperial) Russia, modern Russia has an economy dependant on selling raw natural resources. Like in Imperial Russia, most industries are owned by foreign Mega Corps or are government monopolies, the rest are under the control of the current president's pet oligarchs. Putin, like Alexander III, reversed many liberal reforms of the previous reign, and Medvedev even looks like Nicholas II. Like in Imperial Russia, the gap between the rich and the poor is growing alarmingly fast. The pogroms (race riots) are back in full swing, although nowadays they target Caucasians (people from Caucasus, not generic whites) and Central Asians rather then Jews. The army is pretty much at the same redshirt status, the police is the same authoritarian riot-stamping force of mooks, the parliament is the same rubber-stamp body and is even named the same (State Duma) as the Tsarist parliament, the radical opposition is slowly but stably growing. And, like Imperial Russia, it is confronted with a Morton's Fork of external politics: ally itself with an old superpower that rules the seas and which was the enemy number one for a long time, or a new, rapidly developing land-based industrial powerhouse? What will be next? Second Imperialistic War? Second Civil War? There are other commentators meanwhile who tend to think that Russia with its brand new "sovereign democracy" is, despite it all, in a position to remain a global power - and wildcard - for the immediate future. They argue that the current state of affairs under Putin is a response to what some Russians claim as the failure of Western liberal reforms in The Nineties. And if its recent activities in the Middle East are any indication, especially Syria, it still seems premature to write the country off just yet. The events of the Crimean crisis of 2014 also lend credibility to the theory that the federal regime is asserting its independence from the West and strengthening its militarist democracy. However, the Putinist government still remains crypto-Tsarist, strengthening religious fervor and encouraging every reactionary idea. And some of the ideologues rising up to power in the Russian-backed Eastern Ukraine, unfettered by the international norms, openly claim succession to the White Guard ideologies of the Russian Civil War.
The New Russia in fictionAnime and Manga