A 15-year-old Russian boy today has the same life expectancy as a 15-year-old boy in Haiti. Remember, Russia is one of the world’s richest countries in terms of natural resources. And it is an urbanized, industrialized society with levels of education and literacy comparable to, and perhaps even exceeding, other European countries.
But scholars say Russian President Vladimir Putin has created a parasitic state that gets revenue by extracting natural resources rather than any creative production and that fulfills none of the functions of a modern state in terms of providing for its people. Corruption is intrinsic to this kleptocratic regime, with the result that post-Soviet Russia has seen the fastest rise in inequality anywhere in the world.
For Putin, modernizing Russia would create a more active civil society, greater demands for better health care, more opportunities for ordinary citizens. It’s a path he won’t pursue.