The man, the Russian must make the central point of Russia’s development, perhaps for the first time in its history.
There is a way to break the deadlock. Of course, a reasonable economic and fiscal policy is a must, as is the improvement of investment climate and measures to stimulate competition, economic growth, etc. Yet no one, even the authorities, will invest in a state that has not regained its identity, if it is not based on the law and is not keen to have the law; if it has neither development objectives nor the national idea shared by a majority of active citizens. (Remember that responsible bureaucrats jealously guard state coffers, proceeding from the maxim “they’ll get pilfered anyway.”)
We have already wasted the first two decades on “wandering in the desert.” Russia needs the maximum possible consensus of the elites on national objectives, at least for the period until 2030 to 2035, which would be clear and appealing to society. These objectives should be based on realistic assessments of the world and the country itself. Also, dedicated efforts must be taken to foster a new (but based on Russia’s thousand-year-old history) identity and patriotism (oriented towards its future) in the active segments of society and broad masses of people. This task cannot be accomplished without broad involvement of the intellectual elite, the country’s creative class.
It is crucial that these policies be focused on the development of the Russian citizen, preservation and revival of the nation and build-up of its human capital. The core of the strategy must be the development of younger generation and investment in children. Russia has survived almost by a miracle. To continue to exist and prosper, it needs a new elite which would be competitive in the new world. The experience of all developed countries without exception shows that success can only be achieved by raising the level of education, science, and the quality of the elite and human capital.
Quality of life
Demographic and other social policies must be aimed at not only increasing the population, but also at improving its quality, that is, the level of education, physical and moral health, patriotism based on a single space of language and culture, and on the shared feeling of being the master of our homeland. Dozens of millions of such people would accomplish more than hundreds of millions (although Russia will not have that many) of disoriented and half-educated people, physically and morally unhealthy and uncompetitive. The key objective of national development should be aimed at people’s progress and building up human capital. This is consistent with the “Russian idea,” capable of consolidating society, uniting its right- and left-leaning forces, liberals and conservatives. This does not apply to nihilists and obscurantists, though. Naturally, we need a profound education reform, with Russian culture and language, as well as its bearers – the intellectuals – placed in the core of this future-oriented strategy.
Spiritual development of society requires that Russia devises a new brand of identity, which however should be rooted in the achievements of the past. It should be based on the Russian language and culture (especially Russian literature), respect for education, science, the glorious history of struggle for independence, and military victories. “The Russians are a victorious people. They defeated the Mongols, Napoleon and Nazism; they overcame Communism and will keep on being victorious.” Yet victories should be won not so much in real battles as on peaceful fronts.
Symbols of future Russia should not be confined to the soldier and cosmonaut, but also the doctor and the teacher – the key architects in reviving Russian society, and a scholar and a charitable businessperson personifying the freedom of self-fulfillment for public good.
Restoring public morals is a cross-cutting issue. Russia needs the support of religious confessions and churches while remaining a secular state separated from the Church. (At present, things are the other way round, which undermines the position of religion and churches). Public morality is an issue that should be addressed to Russian leaders as well. They should self-limit overconsumption, particularly such that is practiced in an ostentatious manner. Boasting of wealth is inappropriate and unpatriotic.
Another key objective which is directly related to improving morality and reviving patriotism on society is the legitimization of property by ensuring the supremacy of law. Simply put, it is fair courts. This will enhance the country’s attractiveness for its citizens, who would feel protected in private and public life and in business.
Stable political development is not possible as long as the issue of legal protection of property remains acute. As a rule, this issue acquires the dimension of the “life or death” fight—it appears impossible to ensure one’s property if one has no power. Effective economic development is possible without democracy, but not without law. Money is being taken out from the country to where it is more reliable to keep it, with the rich abandoning patriotism.
Making human development the core of national strategy will surely change the way the environmental issue is being tackled today – along the unnatural choice between protection of nature and economic growth. And this is happening in a country that has been closely linked with nature since time immemorial. The struggle for preserving local nature, for one’s minor homeland, can and must play a key role in reviving patriotism and developing in people a feeling of being a responsible master of one’s homeland.
Spiritual Rise project
Further development of the country’s political system is expected to contribute not only to democratization or stability, but also to progress of society and citizens, to the maturing of morals, and higher responsibility for their actions and their country. Emphasis should be made on development from the bottom upwards – through active organizations of citizens and non-governmental organizations. Mere democratization can result in the government and elites’ losing their leadership potential (as shown by the situation in the West). However, in the absence of democracy loss of leadership is more than possible (as shown by Russia’s current stagnation). Improvement of institutions should be aimed at the renewal of the elites and triggering of social mobility. The old elite groups have exhausted their potential; they have become corrupted and retrograde, pulling the country back to a stall. Democratization is also necessary for fighting corruption.
Regionalization is clearly needed to move the vector of development to regions through a budget maneuver, development of schools and universities in the provinces. Establishing many “capitals” through the encouragement of regional centers is a possibility. At present, Russian provinces are falling into decay, especially intellectually. Amazingly, the Moscow enlargement proposal has not been rejected yet. There is also Project Siberia aimed at accelerated development of the Urals region and the Far East with a broader use of foreign (not only Chinese) capital and technologies, but under Russia’s sovereign control, which is firming thanks to the launch of the project.
A public discussion about challenges and possibilities of the outside world is necessary. Instead of fanning external threats, Russia has to re-orient the economic development vector to the East. It will ensure a spiritual rise for the country, especially of its young elite, helping to resolve a number of geopolitical and economic problems.
But how can this overdue turn agree with a thousand year-old political and cultural linkage with Europe? Russian society is still facing the dilemma: should it be guided by the example of Europe (which is quite ambivalent) or should it limit the “corrupting influence of the West”? Distancing from Europe and spiritual ties with it will dismantle the Russian cultural matrix (which is ninety percent European), and weaken the impulses for Russia’s development, which it has been receiving for more than a millennium from advanced Europe – first from Byzantine, and then from the West.
The problem requiring unequivocal solution is the essence of the Eurasian Union project. If it is a nice but very expensive and probably futile attempt to revive a semblance of the Russian Empire, it is one thing. In this event, Russia will have to abandon the possibility to developing society. It is quite another matter if the Eurasian Union establishes a new economic, human and political community as a new voluntary association. It is time we decide for ourselves and for the world which external border we will defend.
An important issue is the role of military power in foreign policy – from the point of view of not only security, but also the optimization of domestic, moral, cultural and economic development. The necessary modernization of the armed forces launched by Russia will cause irreparable damage if implemented at the expense of human capital, that is, cuts in expenditures on education, culture, public sport and health care. If the country does not reverse the trend towards the degradation of human capital and loss of national identity, the armed forces will not be motivated to defend the country. The current pessimism reigning over a large part of the educated class will be spreading deeper down into society.
“Citizen, fair law, freedom, prosperity and power” must be the objective and motto for the nation to be guided by. So far Russia’s has had no national motto, although all countries of the world have it, including former Soviet republics.
Solzhenitsyn’s heritage and enlightened conservatism
Nothing can be accomplished without justice and law. Russia should develop freedom, above all, freedom of self-development and creative fulfillment, freedom from lawlessness, and political and personal freedoms. Power (not just military power, but intellectual power in the first place) is the basis for security, sovereignty and freedom of the nation. Prosperity should not be viewed as an increase in consumption and wealth, but as an asset that provides more opportunities for human development and handing over the fruits of one’s labor and success to children and society. In order to have a future, the country needs a strong, healthy and educated individual who is a Russian patriot. He should take the central place – perhaps for the first time – in Russia’s development, becoming its engine and, simultaneously the core of the “Russian idea” for the world.
When the work on Strategy XXI project was completed, the Editorial Board members had a feeling that the strategy they regarded as innovative was sort of secondary – what they wrote they had seen somewhere before. They quickly recalled the source: Alexander Solzhenitsyin’s brochure How We Must Rebuild Russia written in 1990. We had not heeded the brilliant foresight and advice of the last great Russian, and after many losses, having wasted more than two decades, we have arrived at the same ideas. Let us hope we are not too late.
We are not trying to worm on his talent or moral authority. But we are proud that the suggested strategy which we view as a strategy of enlightened conservatism resembles many of the ideas and behests of Solzhenitsyn. It is gratifying to see that the authorities began to voice many ideas that are consonant with those proposed in the Strategy, such as in Vladimir Putin’s important speech at the Valdai forum in September 2013.
The Strategy XXI is available at http://svop.ru; http://www.globalafffairs.ru. A series of conferences is planned to discuss the whole Strategy and its separate parts. Most of the discussions will be held in provincial centers so that to contribute to the goal of involving new groups of Russians in social development and building up social and human capital. The first conference within the framework of the Krasnoyarsk Economic Forum will be held at the Siberian Federal University.
The upcoming discussions are expected to contribute new ideas and help finalize the Strategy. Hopefully, it will strike a chord with the public.