In discussions with several young adults, all of whom were busy on their mobile phones, just as the youth in the United States, their economic future was of greatest concern. The political environment was of interest, but mostly focused on how the politicians were going to improve the stagnant economy. In a relatively new occurrence, Russian individuals and families are going into debt in order to meet monthly expenses.
The availability of merchandise and buying on credit, so common in the U.S. where households are carrying 50% debt, is a new aspect of life in the 25-year old capitalist society. Interest on loans is about 20% so once in debt without an increase in one's economic situation, the debt continues to compound leaving young families with a difficult way out unless the economy picks up. In discussing the National Plan in which $400 billion will be spent on infrastructure, health and education to stimulate the economy, some were questioning where the money would be spent, which companies would get contracts, evidencing a bit of skepticism that their daily life will improve and that levels of corruption might eat up a good portion of the National Plan.
No Political Protests in Yakutsk
There have been no political protests in Yakutsk such as have happened in Moscow. The only recent protest was over the alleged rape of a Yakutsk girl by a Kyrgyz man. This brought the issues of migration of Kyrgyz to Russia and particularly to Yakutia into full focus. Russia has allowed Kyrgyz to immigrate to Yakutia for jobs. The Kyrgyz language is based on Turkish as is the Yakut language. As a republic of the former Soviet Union, citizens of Kyrgyzstan not only speak Kyrgyz but also Russian. In general, the Kyrgyz integrate well into Yakutia society, but this incident has brought tensions from the immigration policy of Russia.
Is the U.S. an enemy of Russia?
I asked the question, "Do you think the U.S. is an enemy of Russia?" to many persons in Moscow and in Yakutsk. Not one person said "yes." The general comment was "We like Americans but we don't like some policies of your government." Several said they were perplexed why the Russian government would have tinkered in the 2016 U.S. elections knowing that the fallout of such would be badand therefore, they did not believe their government had done it.
Some said that sanctions the U.S. has placed on Russia for the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and interference in U.S. elections in 2016 has made President Putin more popular and has given him more power to lead the country. No one questioned the annexation as inappropriate or illegal as Crimea held strategic military bases that would be threatened by the right-wing nationalist Ukrainian coup makers. They said Putin has stood up to the U.S. doing what he feels is best for Russian national security and the Russian economy.
They said life under the Putin administration has been stable and until the past three years, the economy was moving ahead. A strong middle class has emerged from the turmoil of the 1990s. The sale of Japanese and South Korean cars boomed. Life in the cities was transformed. However, life in the villages was difficult and many moved from the villages to the cities for employment and greater opportunities. Retired older persons find living on a state pension to be difficult. Elders live with their children. There are virtually no elder care facilities in Russia. Everyone has basic health insurance through the government although private medical clinics are growing for those who have the financial resources to pay for private care. Although medical equipment and medicines are supposed to be exempt from sanctions, the U.S. sanctions have impacted the ability to import certain medical equipment.