President Putin is the best ruler Russia has had, so far. I compare the standard of living of myself, my family and friends to how my Dad and Mom had it at my age. It’s heaven and earth.
Russia has never in its history been better off.
The windfall from sky-high oil prices has of course much more significance for this than Putin’s merits as statesman. Yes, most of the oil wealth was siphoned off to the West by Putin’s friends or wasted on their palaces and yachts.
Yet, in the grand scheme of things, this is an immensely more sensible use of money than trying to take Bosporus from Muslims or decimating Russians for the sake of the Communist utopia. Such waste would often be the top choice for many previous rulers.
Peter the Great, by the way, is a poor match for Putin. Peter built an empire by sacrificing at least a fifth of the population in the heartland of Muscovy and impoverishing the rest. Along the way, he stripped Old Russia of its medieval identity. Two centuries followed for millions of Slav, Turkic and Ugro-Finnish peasants, herdsmen, fishermen, and hunters under a quasi-colonial rule of bureaucracy and the military aristocracy. It all ended up in the bloodiest century of all.
Putin’s era brought much better outcomes at immensely smaller costs. Let’s hope Putin keeps it this way.