Audacious Epigone has already written a post to which I have little to add in way of political analysis.
You can compare these figures to native European TFR’s here.
Audacious Epigone has already written a post to which I have little to add in way of political analysis.
You can compare these figures to native European TFR’s here.
There’s nothing particularly new or interesting per se in the 37 page indictment of 13 Russian nationals, including its head Evgeny Prigozhin, for “meddling” in the US elections through online trolling.
The existence of the Internet Research Agency – or “Olgino”, as it is known in Russia, after the location of the first “troll factory” (since moved to Savushkina Street, Saint-Petersburg) – has been widely known in Russia for half a decade, thanks entirely to Russian journalists. Novaya Gazeta published a report on them in 2013. It is headed by Evgeny Prigozhin, a shady figure who did 12 years in a Soviet prison for robbery and fraud, but rose rapidly in the lawless 1990s in the restaurant business, and in more recent years has been entrusted with “black work” for the Kremlin. The most serious investigation about its involvement in the US elections was conducted by the Russian RBC media group, which came up with a figure of $2.3 million (that’s almost three orders of magnitude less than the combined $1.6 billion that the Clinton and Trump campaigns spent).
Moreover, as with the sanctions list – and despite the high-profile, seven figure lawyers recruited by Mueller for his investigation – there is a distinct tinge of incompetence to this indictment, suggesting a lack of conscientiousness and/or Russia expertise at the Department of Justice.
Here is what Andrey Zakharov, one of the co-authors of the original Russian RBC report, had to say about this in an interview with WaPo:
The other staff mentioned are very incidental. I mean, it seems like they put down all the names they could get. Some were people who worked there in 2014 — but most of these guys didn’t work for the troll factory for a long time. They didn’t even work there during the elections. Like Krylova, she didn’t work there then. [Aleksandra Krylova is one of the two named Internet Research Agency employees the indictment said traveled to the United States in 2014.]
It looks like they just took some employees from the that American department whose names they could get. But the American department was like 90 people. So my reaction was that, for me, it was like that curious list of oligarchs and Kremlin authorities where they put the whole Forbes list and the whole Kremlin administration on it. It’s very strange.
So it’s easy to make fun of this and slot it down as just another episode in the slapstick sitcom that is American domestic politics. As Alexander Mercouris optimistically points out, the indictment is “entirely declamatory,” since (1) there is zero chance that any Russian named in the indictment will be extradited, and (2) there are no claims that any member of the Trump campaign colluded with any of the people in the indictment.
I am considerably more pessimistic.
First, at the end of the day, free speech is free speech – what difference does it make even if it is done on the Kremlin’s payroll, or with the help of botnets? (Neither of which, incidentally, has been rigorously proven). This represents a radical retreat from the principles of the First Amendment, and one of that isn’t just going to impact Russians in the US and foreigners. With this new normal, mocking and trolling politicians remains all well and good – but only so long as the Russians (Chinese, etc.) aren’t behind it. And to ascertain whether or not that is indeed the case, you need investigations – investigations that will be overwhelmingly targeted against enemies of the centrist establishment from both Left and the Right. There is already a lot of squealing from Blue Checkmark Twitter and /r/politics on how the Russians aided Jill Stein and even Bernie Sanders.
Second, it expands the claimed sphere of American global jurisdiction beyond just espionage (Wikileaks/Julian Assange) to include – for all intents and purposes – the criminalization of foreign commentary on American politics during election years.
This is not an exaggeration.
While the Kremlin is obviously supportive of the Internet Research Agency, it has taken care to keep itself at arms’ length from it, and as with Wagner, no formal ties have ever been demonstrated; consequently, the indictment itself stops short of naming Putin or any Russian official figures. The flip side is that since so many Russians apparently work for or coordinate with the Kremlin in an official capacity, there is a new norm getting established that all Russians are suspect, the burden of proof is on them to demonstrate otherwise. As Leonid Bershidsky points out, this may result in Russians in the US facing “increasing scrutiny when applying for jobs, bank accounts and other attributes of a normal life in the US – and the burden of proof that they are not Kremlin agents will be on them.”
However, one might argue that Russians in the US at least generally made their own decision to live in the US, which implies acceptance of All-American norms (and if that comes to include entrenched Russophobia, that’s too bad; they are free to leave if they don’t like it). The same cannot be said about Russians living in Russia, who never even plan to set foot in the US. But while Russia will not extradite anybody in the indictment, the same cannot be said of American satellite countries, which include most of Europe. The people working at the troll factory are young, Anglophone, and not poor; it is almost inevitable than sooner or later one of them will set foot in such a country, and presumably more likely than not that they will be arrested and extradited. In this scenario, Russia can be expected to do as little (that is to say, nothing) for them as it did for the Wagner mercenaries – coincidentally, another outfit “curated” by Prigozhin – murdered by Americans in Deir ez-Zor a couple of weeks ago.
And apart from monetary compensation, there’s ultimately not that much separating a Savushkina troll from any regular shitposter in Russia or anywhere else in the world outside the US.
PS. NBC News recently released a database of more than 200,000 tweets [.csv] that Twitter claimed constuted “malicious activity” from subsequently suspended Russia linked accounts during the 2016 US elections.
I notice that the “stars” of the Russia watching and Alt Right world get nary a mention. Noted Kremlin troll and bête noire of Western neoliberals Mark Sleboda gets 2 mentions. Mercouris – zero. Peter Lavelle – one. The journalist Bryan MacDonald – zero. Richard B. Spencer – twice (quite sad from Putler, “godfather of extreme nationalism” ala Hillary Clinton). His wife Nina Byzantina (Kouprianova) – twice. Valentina Lisitsa, the musician no platformed by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for her support of Russian on the Crimea – a barely more respectable five times. Yours truly – zero times. In the meantime, affirmative action Kremlinologist and Russia truther Joy Reid was “boosted” by “the Kremlin” 267 times.
For instance, Israeli approval increased the most of any significant country, by 14% points (only Liberia and Macedonia increased by more), to 67% total approval.
Meanwhile, while Russia’s approval did increase, it did so from an incredibly low base – it rose from 1% in 2015 and 2% in 2016, to a positively fawning 8% this year. Obviously, the more optimistic hopes for Russo-American relations didn’t exactly pan out. Still, considering what Trump has done to perceptions of “US leadership,” it is still perfectly legitimate for Russians to approve of his policy course.
Freedom in the World 2018 is out now: “Democracy in Crisis.”
Political rights and civil liberties around the world deteriorated to their lowest point in more than a decade in 2017, extending a period characterized by emboldened autocrats, beleaguered democracies, and the United States’ withdrawal from its leadership role in the global struggle for human freedom.
This makes the deep state neocon goons who run that outfit very sad.
My prediction from 2017:
Freedom House lowers United States Freedom Rating [no longer think this will happen. But as promised, carried over as-is from last set of predictions; will know in early February]: 50%
Last minute misgivings aside, this has indeed happened.
While FH still thinks Civil Rights in the US are at 1/7 (where 1 is best and 7 is worst), while Political Rights have been downgraded to 2/7, making for a total score of 1.5/7.
Why? Well, partially thanks to the Russiagate conspiracy theory;
[Electoral Process] Score Change: The score declined from 4 to 3 due to growing evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election campaign and a lack of action by the Trump administration to prevent a reoccurrence of such meddling.
Incidentally, I will note that – and my observations and analysis carry great weight, since I have been officially recognized as a human rights authority by Freedom House itself – that Russia now scores 6.5/7, down from 5.5/7 even just a few years earlier, a score I ridiculed in my 2013 article What I Learned From Freedom House.
Suffice to say that Freedom House now believes Russia is as unfree as the following polities: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Burundi, Chad, China, Congo (Kinshasa), Cuba, Ethiopia, Laos, Libya, Russia, Swaziland, Tajikistan, United Arab Emirates, Yemen.
It is also apparently less free than Qatar, Iran (!), Belarus, Egypt, and a plethora of 1980s US-friendly Latin American and Asian juntas.
Crimea, which is treated as a sub territory – like Chechnya was until the late 2000s – scores 9/100 on the Aggregate Score, which puts it on a par with the Central African Republic and Libya. Apparently Freedom House believes Crimeans are as unfree as a country that is in perpetual civil war and hosts African slave markets years after the Americans were done with bombing them into freedom.
Meanwhile, the Ukraine scores a not entirely unrespectable 3.0/7, despite it hosting hundreds to thousands of political prisoners.
Finally, Turkey has declined from “Partly Free” to “Not Free” – it appears that being a record holder in numbers of imprisoned journalists started to matter more after they pivoted against US interests.
Sometime in the 1990s, a critical mass of the American cognitive elite – that part of it which controls the bullhorns, anyway – must have decided that gay marriage was great. Now those people are usually well-spoken and articulate, with very high verbal IQs, while their opponents… tend to leave much to be desired in that department. So by the early 2010s, they had also convinced conservative intellectuals (Charles Murray was expressing support by 2012), and in the process once again demonstrating the neoreactionary dictum that conservatism is merely liberalism with a lag time of ten years. They had also convinced a symbolically important 50% of the population – no mean achievement, that, since male homosexuality is naturally repellent to the average person. The State Department formally adopted the Homintern agenda: “Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights,” as Hillary Clinton explained in 2011. Gay marriage became legal across the US soon afterwards in 2015.
If you’re in the Western media-intellectual sphere, there doesn’t seem to be anything you could do to arrest these trends, regardless of how conservative or religious you are at the outset. Take Poles and Utahns. When polling on the topic began, they were only marginally less “homophobic” than Russians. Even so, a majority of Utahns now support gay marriage, as do 38% of Poles. While Warsaw wages a conservative culture war against Brussels Values, it appears that actual Poles are going in the other direction.
Russia was of course implicitly hostile towards LGBT during the 1990s-2000s, but without any particular zeal. It was just another anodyne conservative place like Utah or Poland, where the idea of LGBT marriage proked more in the way of befuddlement and bemusement than angry opposition. However, it’s already low figures collapsed even further at around the time of Putin’s conservative pivot at the turn of the decade. It is worth mentioning that this collapse seems to have been pretty universal across social strata – while a poll registered 34% (!) support for gay marriage in Saint-Petersburg in 2008, as of a 2011 poll, it was at 21% along with Moscow, versus 11% for the country as a whole.
That said, it’s worth pointing out that in both policy and practice, Russia remains considerably less conservative than Poland in most aspects. Russians are much less religious, at least in terms of active practice, and the ROC is less influential than the Catholic Church. Abortion is legal, while it is not in Poland – and the conservatives there want now want to make these restrictions all the more total by even banning “eugenic” abortion. I suspect such cack-handed policies and the general unlikability of Polish conservatives, with their constant idiotic statements and conspiracy theorizing, are actually fostering the spread of liberalism in Polish society.
As I have pointed out, despite its cool nationalist marches, Poland is now actually one of the least “based” societies in Eastern Europe, less so than even Czechia with its top of the charts atheism and per capita porn star production rates. They are the only country in the region where a majority are comfortable with their children being in a relationship with Blacks (see map right). They also have the most people who think it is “time for a gay leader.” At the rate things are going, I would not be surprised to see gay marriage legalized in Poland by 2028.
Recipes to keeping the Poz at bay: 1. Kick out Western NGOs, Western media, promote cultural anti-Americanism; 2. But don’t be an insufferable lout and get in people’s faces.
A growing number of Russians are coming to the U.S. to give birth. These kids will have the right to live and work here, receive social services and, when they turn 21, will have the right to sponsor their parents for an American Green Card. Read more: https://t.co/4doKwLoChn pic.twitter.com/zUSom9ui1w
— NBC News (@NBCNews) January 10, 2018
There are about 300,000 babies born to foreign citizens in the US every year, of which the vast majority will be accruing to Central American illegals.
Only an estimated 40,000 occurs due to birth tourism.
There are no hard statistics on this. However, some cursory searching gave me this thesis by Brandon J. Folse, which cites “more than 10,000″ Chinese women giving birth in the US in 2012, and 40-60 Russian women giving birth in Miami each month (based on a Moscow Times report). Consequently, its safe to say that the total figure is less than 1,000, since Miami is the center of Russian birth tourism in the US, not to mention the long-standing tendency of The Moscow Times to exaggerate Russia’s emigration stats.
This would furthermore be in line with general immigration statistics.
China also sends the largest number of immigrants to the US after Mexico, and accounts for almost a third of its international students. This is understandable. China has very close commercial and cultural links with the US, and all things American enjoy a great deal of prestige in China.
In contrast, Russian emigration to the US is much more modest, even in per capita terms. It does not make the first 20 countries by numbers of total immigrants, nor the top 10 by numbers of foreign students.
It also syncs well with other anecdotal evidence and pure logic.
Twitter user Richard Hollywood investigates: “searching for birth tourism and репродуктивный туризм on yandex only brings up news/what is this articles. there’s some dedicated birth tourism sites in russian but also in like five other languages”
In fairness, he did eventually find the site SFF-Miami, which offers birth tourism services to Russians and Ukrainians in Florida. I checked its visitorship numbers on SimilarWeb; there weren’t enough for it to even register there. Which is not surprising when you look at the prices – the standard “package” there costs $19,500. Another similarly obscure organization, AmeriMama, offers prices starting from $17,000.
These are prices that only perhaps 1-2% of Russians are able to pay out on just a lark, since birth tourism is essentially just a gamble that their children would 1) want to emigrate to the US on reaching adulthood, and 2) be subsequently willing to being their parents over on a Green Card.
Another important point.
Although I can understand that red-blooded Americans may not like foreigners essentially buying up US citizenships for their progeny on account of some outdated document written at a time when the Americas were still an unpopulated expanse, it’s worth noting that it’s not as if the children of rich birth tourists are going to be any sort of strain on the US welfare system. They will give birth, fork over $$$ to the US medical system, hotels, etc., and go back home. Even if their children do subsequently go to the US, the chances that they will end up collecting welfare are close to zero.
Theoretically, the US should if anything gain financially, because it is the only country in the world (along with Eritrea) to claim taxes on the worldwide income of their citizens. I say theoretically, because in practice, I am sure that virtually no child of birth tourists is going to be doing that.
So why the media suddenly kvetching over this complete non-issue of a few thousand Russians practicing birth tourism and forming, as one Drumpf Resistor on Twitter put it, “the colony of Russian ppl (especially in NYC) nobodies talking about. Who I know coming here having babies getting public aid”?
As opposed to concerning themselves with the few million anchor babies planted by illegal immigrants in just the past couple of decades?
Well, Paul Nehlen has some ideas.
Security system of the Russian Khmeimim air base and Russian Naval CSS point in the city of Tartus successfully warded off a terrorist attack with massive application of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) through the night of 5th – 6th January, 2018.
As evening fell, the Russia air defence forces detected 13 unidentified small-size air targets at a significant distance approaching the Russian military bases.
Ten assault drones were approaching the Khmeimim air base, and another three – the CSS point in Tartus.
Six small-size air targets were intercepted and taken under control by the Russian EW units. Three of them were landed on the controlled area outside the base, and another three UAVs exploded as they touched the ground.
Seven UAVs were eliminated by the Pantsir-S anti-aircraft missile complexes operated by the Russian air defence units on 24-hours alert.
The Russian bases did not suffer any casualties or damages.
The Khmeimim air base and Russian Naval CSS point in Tartus are functioning on a scheduled basis.
Currently, the Russian military experts are analyzing the construction, technical filling and improvised explosives of the captured UAVs.
Having decoded the data recorded on the UAVs, the specialists found out the launch site.
It was the first time when terrorists applied a massed drone aircraft attack launched at a range of more than 50 km using modern GPS guidance system
Technical examination of the drones showed that such attacks could have been made by terrorists at a distance of about 100 kilometers.
Engineering decisions applied by terrorists while attacks on the Russian objects in Syria could be received from one of countries with high-technological capabilities of satellite navigation and remote dropping control of professionally assembled improvised explosive devices in assigned coordinates. All drones of terrorists are fitted with pressure transducers and altitude control servo-actuators.
Terrorists’ aircraft-type drones carried explosive devices with foreign detonating fuses.
The Russian specialists are determining supply channels, through which terrorists had received the technologies and devices, as well as examining type and origin of explosive compounds used in the IEDs.
The fact of usage of strike aircraft-type drones by terrorists is the evidence that militants have received technologies to carry out terrorist attacks using such UAVs in any country.
The “one of countries with high-technological capabilities” is of course referring to the US, Israel, and maybe Turkey.
If this is true, then I think the suspicions that I expressed have basically been confirmed:
Frankly, I have a hard time buying that this is the sort of thing that can be manufactured, smuggled in, and organized by deep cover rebel operatives.
However, there are forces in the region who are credibly capable of such operations.
Is it true?
Well, there’s no reason it can’t be – and I say this as someone who hardly has a reputation for conspiracy theorizing or uncritically buying the Kremlin’s version of events.
There are basically several counter-arguments to this, but they are all rather weak.
It’s a primitive contraption, it couldn’t have flown that far/or autonomously.
Except that both things have been done 15 ago, and over transcontinental distances:
By 2003, a hobbyist launched a GPS-guided model airplane/drone that flew autonomously from Newfoundland to precisely the right landing point in Ireland. Built of balsa and plywood with a tiny gasoline engine that burned less than one gallon of fuel in the 26 hour flight, it was cheap enough that the hobbyist built 23 to ensure he could be the first hobbyist to fly across the Atlantic. … Today [hobbyists and businesses] are routinely flying smart systems with intercontinental range — they lack only a payload to be a precision weapons system. Their composite construction and very low energy usage mean they will be very difficult to detect.
It’s a primitive contraption, period.
Well, it has to look home-made for it to be deniable. Maybe you could call them “little green drones.”
The sophisticated internals (navigation, control, etc.), and the swarm nature of the attack, is much more impressive, requiring a degree of logistics, testing, and technical expertise that one suspects might be beyond the capabilities of 80 average IQ Islamists, who are currently losing and hard pressed enough as it is.
Assuming this is true, this could mean one of, and probably both of, these things.
1. The US/Israel want to (cheaply, deniably) probe the Russian AA systems at Khmeimim, in case they’re thinking of resuming the regime change program.
And if it wildly happens to succeed in temporarily disabling Russian air power, as the first round of attacks on Dec 31 seems to have done so, then all the better.
2. Telling Putin he should start thinking about packing up his bags in Syria.
Alexander Mercouris – Drone attack on Russian bases launched from Turkish controlled area
Last week, I wrote about the 10 ways in which life in Russia is better than America.
Now it’s time for Uncle Sam to have his due.
Typical Moscow sleeper suburb.
Although Russian prices are 2x cheaper than America’s, the blunt fact is that wages are also 4x-5x lower.
Consequently, the standard of living in the US relative to Russia is at least twice higher.
This gap widens to almost an order of magnitude so far as professionals in the state sphere, such as doctors and researchers, are concerned. Despite some lingering but much diminished prestige associated to their work from the Soviet era, most of them can barely be considered middle-class in economic terms, even by Russian standards.
The typical urban Russian lives in gray, concrete commieblocks that are comparable to American public housing in quality. The quality of construction is low, internal planning is haphazardous, and contrary to rumors, my inquiries indicates that the presence of nuclear shelters are very much the exception, not the rule. So they don’t even have survivability in the case of nuclear war going for them. At just 25 sqm a person, the average Russian has barely any more living space than the average denizen of overcrowded Japan, and three times less than the average American.
Although Russia has converged with First World levels on indicators such as cell phone ownership and Internet penetration, this is not the case with truly expensive durables. The US leaves Russia in the dust with respect to car ownership, with 797/1,000 cars per person to Russia’s 293/1,000; nor can this difference be ascribed to the centrality of automotive culture in the US, since Russia lags typical European levels of 500-600/1,000 cars per person as well.
Although there’s more far more debt in the US, that also reflects the reality that Americans have the option of taking out debt thanks to a much better-developed credit system. This enables them to take out mortgages to buy homes and raise families in them, while paying off the debt and assuming full ownership by retirement. There are mortgages in Russia as well, but interest rates tend to be prohibitively high, especially for young families with low incomes. Popular understanding of credit and home economics seems low. When I got my credit card here from state-owned banking giant Sberbank, it was marketed to me as a way to get expensive goods during the New Year holidays, whereas in the United States the talking points would be about building up a credit rating.
This reflects the fact that Russians don’t understand personal finance and have low future time orientation relative to the Anglo/Protestant world. One American who works in a Russian media organization says that bonuses are paid out to staff to coincide with the start of the holiday season, the assumption being that they would have otherwise spent it and have no money to go to the Crimea or Egypt. As an American who understands the concept of saving up, he had to push through a special exception for himself with the accounting department.
Washington, D.C. in 2013. Some crazed Islamist ranting in front of the White House, without getting arrested. Is there any greater and more majestic symbol of the strength of American civilization?
Yes, you can be ostracized. Yes, you can be fired from your job. Yes, this might no longer be the case in another decade or two, if the SJWs have their way.
But at the end of the day you will not go to jail on trumped up charges of hate speech.
American gun rights are enshrined in the Second Amendment and are by far the strongest of any major country in the world.
In Russia you need to fill out reams of forms just to get a hunting shotgun. All handguns, magazines with a capacity of more than ten rounds, fully automatic weapons, and open carry are illegal.
The Russian bureaucracy is a *lot* better than it used to be, especially in the “My Documents” centers that have proliferated in recent years as part of a government initiative to make bureaucratic services more transparent and accessible to citizens. In comparison to 2007, there are fewer papers to fill out, many more tasks can be done online, and staff are more courteous. This is reflected in Russia moving from around 120th in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings a decade ago, to 35th as of 2017.
Which still makes it a horrendous nightmare by Anglo standards.
Far fewer tasks and operations need to be confirmed with the bureaucracy in the first place, and those that do – with the notable exception of the DMV – tend to go far more smoothly.
Volokolamsk Great Patriotic War memorial, summer 2017.
Outside of central Moscow, which is a SWPL paradise that wouldn’t look out of place in central Europe, public spaces tend to be unkempt, if not entirely derelict.
Although it is tempting to blame this on a shortage of funds, there’s no doubt that apathy and outright corruption play a large part in this. This summer, I went to Volokolamsk, a small town 120 km from Moscow, where I have a few relatives. There used to be a German tank, displayed as a war trophy on a pedestal, on the road into Volokolamsk. But now it was absent. According to our taxi driver, the previous United Russia mayor had sent it to Germany for maintenance – why would a hunk of 75 year old metal need maintenance? – but it later emerged that he had sold it to a German collector and pocketed the proceeds. In the ensuing scandal, he was removed, and United Russia lost the next mayoral elections to the Communist candidate. Regardless, most of the town’s historic churches remain in a dilapidated condition, and the local World War II memorial (see photo above) appears to be in a worse state than during the depressed 1990′s.
Ultimately, this is a reflection of the wider society. There is extremely little respect for the “commonweal” as it is understood in the Anglosphere – not just amongst the elites, but amongst ordinary Russians too. People throw cigarette butts from balconies onto the sidewalk, instead of getting an ashtray. Picnickers treat the reeds at the edge of the lake in a park as a garbage bin.
If Russians do not even respect themselves, why should their rulers?
Incidence of bribery in Europe, GCB 2017.
There isn’t a lot of everyday bribery. Certainly not for routine bureaucratic services, as was not uncommon in the 1990s.
That said, there’s still an order of magnitude more corruption going on than in core Europe. Though I have personally yet to encounter a request for a bribe, I do know of a large-scale case of bribery that involves a circle of lawyers, prosecutors, and judges just a couple of degrees of separation from myself. I find it difficult to imagine that something like this is even possible in the United States in anything but singular cases.
According to acquaintances, the incidence of internal theft within corporations – especially the state owned hydrocarbons giants – is far more prevalent than in the West.
There are also far more of all kinds of scams and petty commercial tricks. For instance, a couple of months ago, a salesperson came knocking to my flat, offering to replace the windows at subsidized rates thanks to a local government initiative – but we should hurry up, because the program is on a “first come, first served” basis. A 5 minute Internet investigation made it clear that program was entirely fictive, and the company in question has endless complaints against it for false marketing and charging 50% more than its competitors (presumably, its lying salespeople have to be paid). But I can imagine them raking in profits from Internet-illiterate elderly people.
Unfortunately, this is not just a few bad apples, but reflective of general social phenomena. For instance, many foreigners have observed how easy it is to return products in the United States within the first 6 months, year, or even two years. Many ex-USSR immigrants regularly exploit these provisions, buying some expensive coffee machine only to decide they’re not that satisfied with it after 11 months and getting their money back, only to then repeat the process. This is something I have observed first hand on several occasions, and the culprit was never an indigenous American.
This illustrates why Russians can’t have nice things in Russia. Here, the typical window for returning products is two weeks to a month.
The closest Russia has to Amazon Prime is Ozon.ru, though it’s far less than comprehensive in scope, and other online shops tend to have better prices for specific categories of products (e.g. pleer for electronics, El Dorado for home repair equipment, etc).
I suppose there are advantages to a lack of monopolist, but it does make things a bit more complex for people who had settled into the one click order & delivery pattern fostered by Amazon.
A more specific feature of the delivery experience in Russia is that packages are never left at the door – you either have to pick it up in person, or answer the door yourself. Why? Because someone will inevitably steal it, as in Black (but not Latino) areas of American cities.
Fortunately there are now more and more equivalents of Amazon Lockers for those Russians who don’t partake of the NEET lyfe and can’t hang around their home all day waiting for a delivery.
My favorite restaurant in Berkeley.
Just as the Anglos are no good for pickles, so Russia is the bane of the chillihead.
There are approximately four shops selling a full variety of Indian spices (they are appropriately named “Indian Spices“) in Moscow. They also have one shop in Saint Petersburg. Otherwise, that’s it. Similar situation with Indian restaurants. There are a couple of good ones in Moscow, and one good one in Saint-Petersburg (by “good” I mean acceptable by London or SF Bay Area standards).
Tropical Hyperborea can’t immanentize fast enough!
Russian wines have been improving rapidly, as tastes change from Soviet vodka-swilling towards greater refinement. Even so, even Moscow is very far from France or California. To say nothing of the provinces.
One other small thing that annoys me is the near complete absence of lined/college-ruled paper. The only ones I have been able to find were German imports.
The United States is at the center of global science and culture.
It publishes the most scientific papers, hosts the most famous brands, and incubates the most hi-tech startups. Everybody has heard of 23andme, nobody has heard of Genotek.
Around 95% of scientific publishing takes place in English – if a paper doesn’t have an English version, at this point in history, it might as well not exist.
Everybody watches American films, follows American shows, and plays American video games.
With the small exception of literature, where it continues to produce a modest amount of high quality original content, Russian culture is now but a footnote to global American culture.
For all intents and purposes, the United States has won a global Cultural Victory, and its culture is dominant even within Russia.
Historically, the best of the best traditionally flocked to the imperial metropolis – two millennia ago, it was Rome; now, it is Boswash and Silicon Valley.
There are real benefits to be derived from being located at the global center of cultural and scientific dynamism, from having early access to the latest electronic toys and medical treatments (FDA obliging) to rubbing shoulders with highly accomplished people and thereby raising your own chances of success.
There is only a faint echo of this in Moscow, while the rest of Russia might as well be a desert.
If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy my comprehensive comparison of life in Russia, America and the United Kingdom that I wrote in 2011: http://akarlin.com/tag/national-comparisons/ .
1. I do not consider it likely that North Korea will have the means to successfully deliver nukes to population concentrations in S. Korea, Japan, or the US. As far as I know this is expert consensus. It has had impressive successes in both nuclear weaponry and long-range rocketry in the past year, but there is still no concrete evidence of the successful coupling of the two technologies. Without that, you are just going to get a far shorter and less intensive – and likely not that much more accurate – version of Germany’s V-2 attacks against London in 1944-45 (with just three civilian deaths/rocket, one of the least effective military investments ever).
2. The construction of a survivable deterrent capacity is a separate project that will take many more years and might in any case be beyond North Korea’s capacity anyway.
3. The actual strength of the North Korean Army might be closer to 700,000 troops (the widely cited one million figure is now suspected to be more of a fantasy). Furthermore, I don’t see a large percentage of these being credibly combat-worthy. It’s no secret that the North Korean military doubles as a source of cheap labor, from helping with the harvest to road repairs and construction. This is time that they don’t spend training. Healthcare is at a Third World level. That recent defector was swimming in parasites, and those are border guards which could be expected to be more privileged and politically reliable than average. There has since been yet another defector. This raises questions about the real state of morale in its forces.
The often quoted figure of 200,000 “special forces” I suspect are the only ones loosely equivalent in quality to regular First World armies. However, even they are much more technologically obsolete. For instance, even at the most elementary level, none of the North Korean soldiers I have seen in videos ever seem to have body armor – something that has long been standard in modern militaries. As commenter peterAUS also noted, the last experience of real military conflict that North Korea had was more than half a century ago. How much do North Korean generals, and no less importantly, officers, know about modern developments in military theory?
North Korea does indeed have some genuinely “special” special forces with impressive feats over the decades. However, by analogy with other countries, there can’t be more than a few thousand of them.
One more note on morale. Although North Koreans have never lived better – hardly a high bar to clear relative to the barracks socialism of Kim Il-Sung and the famines of Kim Jong Il – this has also translated into a large material gap between elites and commoners. To be sure, North Korea has always had draconian, legally entrenched class differences that would put any capitalist country to shame (read about Songbun), but it is only in the past decade that is has become more visible than ever before – that is, the Pyongyang elite now has cars and access to department stores, while the rest have only have bootleg DVDs about the unimaginable quality of life in China and South Korea. And we know from cliodynamics that rising inequality is the death of asabiya. Unclear if unprivileged conscripts would still want to fight for such a country.
4. North Korea’s air defense system is extremely dense, and with over 150 AAA positions, Pyongyang is the most defended city in the world. But the guns and fire-control radar are of 1950′s/60′s Soviet vintage.
Much good they will do against this scenario (which is itself from 2003):
Six B-2s each armed with 80 500-lb JDAMs sequentially launch from Guam. The strike is coordinated with several divisions of B1-s with 12 JDAMs per aircraft and F-117s with two laser-guided precision-guided weapons per aircraft, taking off from other bases in the region. These strikes would be deconflicted with the launch of more than 300 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the various cruisers and submarines positioned in the Pacific. Six additional B2s, flying out of their homebase in Missouri, time their arrival closely behind – loaded with 24 1,000lb JDAMs or 16 2,000lb JDAMs. One thousand targets could be destroyed prior to sunrise.
5. The US has by far the best SIGINT in the world, and more of it is concentrated per square kilometer in North Korea than on any other country in the world.
Recent leaks indicate that voices within the Trump administration, including McMaster and Trump himself, want to “punch North Korea in the nose,” for instance, by destroying a launch site while the North Koreans are prepping for a new missile test. They should have no problems in doing so.
I do not believe it at all likely that China will intervene. While China has a formal alliance with North Korea, which it has publicly affirmed it will keep, it has no love lost for KJU and would not mind him getting taken down a peg or two. Another thing that few people mention is that both China and Russia have good relations with South Korea, and are unlikely to want to jeopardize them for the sake of Rocket Man. Neither China nor Russia want a nuclear armed North Korea, which could potentially rebound on them; and should this provoke a pro-Chinese military coup against KJU, then all the better for Beijing.
Consequently, the smart thing for North Korea to do at that point would be to swallow their pride and leave matters be.
6. North Korea has no proportionate means to retaliate against this. Maybe it could just about manage to lob a missile at Japan or Guam, with few chances that they will hit anything important, but that will just invite a much harsher retaliation against its military infrastructure.
7. What North Korea could do unleash its massive artillery forces against Seoul – the “soft” WMD doomsday scenario on the Korean peninsula. This might add up to a few 10,000′s of deaths before they are fully suppressed, especially if chemical weapons munitions are used.
This means total war, of course.
As I wrote, “I suspect it will be a harder nut to crack than Iraq in 2003, or even 1991. It is an ultranationalist regime with a formidable secret police, so you’re [probably] not going to be buying any generals off. North Koreans have higher IQs than Iraqis (so more competent), do not practice inbreeding (so more cohesive), and a have a lot more hills, mountains, and tunnels (which partially negate South Korean/American technological predominance).”
Still, this doesn’t make up for the vast technological gap (which some “anti-imperialist” writers seem to brush off as of no consequence). A South Korean victory over the North is pretty much inevitable, with the KPA getting much the worse of the exchange and ceasing to exist as a coherent force within a couple of weeks if not a few days.
Perhaps the regime’s best technologically feasible bet to stall and massive increase costs for the advancing South Koreans and Americans would be to use nuclear mines (an idea touted by NATO in the 1950s to counter Soviet numerical superiority). Not much the advancing forces will be able to do about this, and will increase their military deaths from 1,000′s or even 100′s, into the 10,000′s.
If China is smart (and they are) they would use the opportunity to try to foment a pro-Chinese military coup against KJU, and/or to take direct control of most of the country under the pretext of defending it from American aggression. With North Korea existentially engaged in the south and the Chinese-North Korean border denuded, this should be a trivial task. Americans end up expending most of the political capital, South Koreans do most of the bleeding (apart from the North itself), and the Chinese end up with most of the actual territory, which it could then leverage in post-war negotiations.
It has now been exactly a year since I returned to Russia.
One of the questions I get asked the most from Russians and foreigners alike is whether I enjoy living here, or whether I am disappointed. My answer is that it fell within my “range of expectations”. I like to think that this is a function of my perception of Russia prior to 2017 having been reasonably accurate, and considering I was blogging as “Da Russophile” on Russia matters until 2014, that’s pretty much an accolade. In my experience, the typical response of visiting foreigners and expats to life in Russia is one of pleasant surprise, no wonder since Russia might as well be “Equatorial Guinea with hackers” so far as the Western media today is concerned. However, I banally didn’t have anything to be particularly surprised about, pleasantly or otherwise.
Even so, there are areas where Russia shines, as well as some where it doesn’t (that’s for an
upcoming just published post on 10 Ways Life in America is Better than in Russia).
First, the good points – where Russia performs better than the United States.
Train station in Saint-Petersburg.
I don’t have the foggiest how Moscow ever acquired its reputation as one of the world’s most expensive cities. Probably idiots and Intellectuals Yet Idiots dumb enough to buy the $5 bottled water at Sheremetyevo Airport before taking one of the shady, overpriced Caucasian gypsy cabs down to their five star hotels in central Moscow.
In reality, food, rent, utilities, property, hotels, travel, restaurants, museums, transport, healthcare, and education are all far cheaper than in major cities in the United States.
The basic staples – carbs, meat, eggs, vegetables, seafood, most alcohol – are all approximately twice cheaper. Boneless, skinless cuts of turkey are less than 300 rubles ($5)/kg at my local market, which is run by Armenians. Wild salmon, at 500 rubles ($9)/kg are actually cheaper than farmed salmon from Norway, though in another of Russia’s strange inversions, farmed salmon is more prestigious, unlike in the West. It is actually easier to list expensive exceptions. Vodka is still somewhat cheaper than in the United States, but only by a factor of perhaps 1.5x, instead of more like 10x some fifteen years ago; this is a good thing.
The Big Mac, a classic item international price comparisons, costs 130 rubles in the Moscow suburbs, which is twice cheaper than in Britain and the USA. A similar relationship holds as you move to more upscale restaurants, at least after you adjust for the requirement to pay tips in the USA.
For obvious reasons, anything that’s imported is similar to US/EU prices. To the extent this affects me, that’s only Tabasco sauce and some Indian spices. Prices are also comparable for domestically produced Russian wines, whose quality has been improving by leaps and bounds even in the one year that I’ve been here, helped along by sanctions and my personal demand. Probably the single item that I miss most due to the sanctions is feta cheese; there is an East European equivalent called brynza, but it’s not really comparable. Otherwise, local Russian producers have developed competitive alternatives to many popular West European cheeses, at least to the extent that I, a non-connoisseur, am unable to distinguish them from European imports (the local blue-veined cheeses I have found to be especially impressive). Unless you really can’t do without your little Gorgonzola and your little Gruyère and your particular brand of prosciutto, you should be just fine here.
Property and rent are both approximately thrice cheaper in Moscow than in comparable locales in London. However, in one of the few positive aspects of the post-Soviet privatizations, almost 90% of Russians own their own homes.
Most utilities are so cheap that they might as well be free. In the past year, I paid $8 (500R) per month for 72Mbps Internet versus $80 for 15Mbps downloads and 5Mbps uploads with Comcast in California, and $45 for 10Mbps downloads and 0.5Mbps (!) uploads in London. Similar numbers with mobile plans, and what’s better, unlike in the United States, there are no multi-year contracts which are next to impossible to get out of. In both cases, Russian prices are held down by vigorous competition, whereas in the United States many ISPs have de facto monopolies over any particular region. This might surprise some people, but much of Russia’s information infrastructure is more modern than in the USA – for instance, one click money transfers with national state-owned banking giant Sberbank have long been standard, whereas I received an email from Wells Fargo announcing this as a new functionality just a few months ago.
Road and rail transport is approximately 5x cheaper. A 100km rail journey from Moscow to Kolomna or Volokolamsk on an elektrichka costs no more than $5 (300R); in the UK, a similar journey from London to Portsmouth will cost at least £25. I paid about $75 for a high speed Sapsan to go from Moscow to Saint-Petersburg, though I could have gotten there for as cheap as $25 on platskart shared accommodation. In contrast, my American round-trip cost me $700 with Amtrak – and I sat the entire route (not something I would have the stamina for nowadays). In Saint-Petersburg, there were several three star hotels in the center offering accommodations for as low as $50 a night; a similar location in Washington D.C. would have set me back by at least $200 a night.
It’s not exactly a secret that the astronomical cost of American healthcare and higher education is the stuff of horror stories in Europe, and Russia is no exception. $4,500 endoscopies are very much an #OnlyInAmerica type of thing, even if you use private healthcare in Russia. One of my acquaintances did a one year Master’s program in International Relations at LSE last year, which cost $50,000; one year on a PhD program that you can do at one institution of the Academy of Sciences can cost $1,000, if not entirely free. Vets are also far cheaper. For instance, one of my acquaintances found a stray puppy several months ago, which required complex spinal work to fix her hind legs; this ended up costing an incredible $200.
The converse of all this is, of course, that Russian salaries are 4-5x lower than in the US. Adjusting for twice lower prices, the average Russian lives 2x poorer than the average American, and this gap is much larger for healthcare professionals and researchers. For example, while $10,000 per month is common for American anesthesiologists, his Russian equivalent would be lucky to take home $1,000.
On the other hand, this is paradise for anyone with a dollar-denominated income stream.
One possible cause of the massive rise in American obesity in the past generation is that the nutrients to calories of American crops has plummeted due to commercialized agriculture and the infiltration of corn and soy into every conceivable category of foodstuff. Russia is only at the start of this process, so the food you can buy at the local markets here tends to be organic and grass fed by default – and without the associated markup that you get in the West.
Speaking of the local markets, although it has much declined relative to the 1990s and the Soviet period, every so often you still meet a trader willing to barter and haggle. Although time-consuming, I would argue that it is also more “authentic” to the human experience; bargaining at local markets has long been an integral part of post-agricultural life, and perhaps many moderns miss it, as attested to by the inclusion of this mechanism in almost every video game RPG.
Apart from being healthier, many common foods are simply “better” than their equivalents in the West. Perhaps the two most striking examples are cucumbers and watermelons. The most common (and cheapest) cucumbers are small, prickly things, which are far less watery than the long, smooth ones you will encounter in a standard American or British supermarket. The watermelons of the Caspian region are bigger and far sweeter than the slurpy spheres that are standard in the West.
Russian cuisine doesn’t have a reputation for being exactly healthy. But it depends on what parts of it you adopt, really. Like the French, there is a culture of eating animals “from head to tail” in Russia, so it is easy to find organ meats and bones for making broth at the markets. I would also note the popularity of aspics here, which is known as kholodets; it is the paleo/ketogenic to the max. In my opinion, Russia also has some of the world’s best soups – my personal favorite is sorrel soup. All this shows up in waistlines – there are almost no obese young women.
In some categories, the variety on offer is substandard to what you can expect in the West – cheeses, spices, and wines are the obvious ones. In others, it is better – pickles come to mind, in both variety and quality (pickles in Russia are genuinely fermented, instead of being bathed in vinegar). Even though I live in a “prole” area of Moscow, my local tea shop has about thirty sorts of Chinese teas on sale, some of them remarkably rare, but all of them at rather reasonable prices. In London, you’d probably have to go to something like the venerable Algerian Coffee Store to find a similar Chinese tea collection.
Knyazich restaurant, Kolomna.
Yes, you read that right. Shop assistants and waiters now tend to be at least as, if not more, courteous than their equivalents in the United States. Contra Matt Forney’s experience in Eastern Europe, I find that the stereotype of sullen sovok service is about as outdated as the hammer and sickle. Nor does this just apply to Moscow. Russia’s regional cities have also been rediscovering that the stale Soviet stolovaya had been preceded by service a la russe in Tsarist times.
One partial and amusing exception: Georgian restaurants, especially those with a long pedigree for supposed “excellence.” My theory is that in the USSR, Georgian cuisine was considered to be the most exotic cuisine accessible, at least to people outside the high nomenklatura, so those establishments continued to be patronized by Soviet people, with their less demanding requirements. Since people with the Soviet mentality primarily went to restaurants to network and to show off how rich they are, as opposed to just having a good time, you tend to get much less enjoyment for the ruble at those places.
The variety of restaurants one can choose from is almost as great as in the great Western metropolises. You don’t have near the same variety in Chinese and especially Indian restaurants that countries with huge diasporas from those two countries can boast, but those are substituted for by Central Asian and Caucasian cuisine. I am not a fan of Caucasian cuisine: Georgian cuisine is too pretentious, while Dagestani/Chechen cuisine is possibly the most primitive on the planet – their signature dish is dough and meat boiled in water, which I suppose is “honest” but hardly something to go out of your way for. However, I have gained considerable respect for Uzbek food (the Uryuk chain is recommended).
However, the center of Moscow has been crafted into an SWPL paradise, so there is no shortage of cuisines from American-style burger joints with craft beers and lettuce leaf burgers (no, really) to Vietnamese pho bars (I especially like the Viet Cafe chain).
Finally, unlike most of Europe – Moscow is a 24/7 city, like America. Most supermarkets and restaurants are open late into the night, or 24/7. Life here is convenient. Only major restriction: Shops can’t sell booze past 11pm.
Moscow Metro in 2033.
Moscow, Saint-Petersburg, and all the cities with around one million people have well-developed metro systems. Contrast this with the US, where the concept of “public transport” – at least outside the north-eastern seaboard, the Bay Area, and Seattle – is pretty much non-existent.
In fairness, the Moscow Metro closes at 1am (Saint-Petersburg at 12pm), whereas the New York subway works 24 hours a day – if with frequent stoppages. However, Moscow’s reputation for having the most aesthetic metro system in the world is well-deserved, even though I have a soft spot for Chicago’s old-style wooden platforms and Washington D.C.’s bunker-like concrete grottoes.
One problem in the old days was that Moscow’s metro stations were far apart, especially once you head out into the suburbs. But this is no longer relevant with the rise of the ride-sharing revolution. It is now trivial to get an Uber (or more frequently a Yandex Taxi) ride on the cheap to any part of Moscow.
“Afroshop” near my other ghetto apartment. Still an exception, not the rule. But for how long?
Many Russians complain about the flood of Central Asian Gastarbeiters. However, even Moscow – which remains about 85% Slavic, even adjusting for unofficial residents – feels like a veritable Whitopia after spending time in Latino-majority California and Londonistan. Moreover, Uzbeks and Tajiks are far preferable to many minorities in the West, such as US Blacks with their absurd crime rates, or the sea of black niqabs that you encounter in many areas of London.
Meanwhile, vast swathes of provincial Russia – including its central demographic heartlands – are as uniformly Slavic as the countries of Visegrad Europe. Even if they have their own, rather serious problems, such as poverty, corruption, and alcoholism. If you happen to value the quality of being amongst one’s own, then Russia does better than virtually any other white country outside Poland, Czechia, and the Baltics. Moscow is the last and only megacity in the world where Europeans remain a solid majority.
I don’t know if this will last. All major political factions in 1960′s Germany also expected their Gastarbeiters to eventually go home – didn’t work out like that. And there is as yet demographically tiny but nonetheless ideologically distinct and high IQ cluster of pro-”tolerance” and sundry “anti-racist” characters shilling for open borders. And they have a ready audience amongst Moscow’s blue-haired yuppies. I give it 15 years.
Lake by our dacha.
About 50% of Muscovites own a dacha outside the city, including people of modest means. This is much rarer in the United States and Western Europe, where only the upper-middle class has such opportunities.
Personally I don’t have much interest in this – the Internet is too slow, and there are too many biting insects – but people less autistic than myself will likely appreciate this.
Typical Moscow sleeper suburb.
This might surprise people who associate Russia with reams of red tape, but while there’s no shortage of that, there are also any number of domains with few or no regulations.
Getting almost any drug is a simple matter of going down to the pharmacy and checking up if they have it in stock; if not, they can usually order it. While you need doctor’s prescriptions for some of the most elementary drugs in the United States, in Russia that is the exception, not the rule. They are also typically generic and cost much less than their equivalents in the United States, though there are far more counterfeits. Ergo for contact lenses – you just state your specifications and they order them; no eye tests required. Setting up a trading account is also much easier. Instead of filling out countless forms promising that yes, you do indeed have 5 years intimate experience with collateralized debt obligations, in Russia it’s pay to play. If you can bring money to the table, you’re good to go.
In effect, with the notable exception of gun rights, there is much less of the “nanny state” and more of what American conservatives call “personal responsibility” in Russia.
Russia is one of the world’s great pirate havens. No Internet provider is ever going to send you angry cease and desist letters for torrenting Game of Thrones. It is theoretically possible, but you can count the number of such cases on the fingers of your hand. (However, business-scale piracy has been cracked down upon and is much less prevalent than it was back in 2010). It is therefore no surprise that the world’s largest depositories of pirated books and scientific articles are Russian enterprises. The only things that most Russians don’t massively pirate is video games. Steam prices are 3-4x lower in the Eurasia region, making GabeN’s offerings even more of a cornucopia.
This freewheeling world, a legacy of the 1990s – a heaven for the intelligent and far-sighted, a potential hell for the duller and lower future time orientated (I have second-hand knowledge of some people who lost their apartments on currency speculation) – is being slowly but steadily constrained by more and more laws and regulations. The world is not long for the old Russia of limitless parking opportunities and playgrounds not yet despoiled by tomes of health and safety regulations. More worryingly, whereas the Russian Internet was genuinely free as little as half a decade ago, censorship on grounds of “extremism” is accelerating at an exponential pace. Even so, at least for now, many aspects of life are surprisingly freer and more accessible than in the putative “Free World.”
Did that trigger you, snowflake?
Nobody in Russia cares, LOL.
Even though I don’t particularly care for hardcore homophobia, I consider the right to call things and people you don’t like “gay” as one of the most important freedoms there are. Happened all the time at school, but since I graduated in 2006, liberal faggots have all but criminalized this. Russia remains free of this cultural totalitarianism; here, you can still call a spade a spade and a gender non-fluid helicopterkin a faggot (пидор) without any particular worries for your professional career and social status.
I don’t think this will last so enjoy (or suffer) it while you still can.
Zaryadye Park, Moscow.
Most of Russia is one large West Virginia so far as this goes. However, Moscow and to a lesser extent SPB are glaring and indeed cardinal exceptions.
Many new startups, including in exciting new fields like machine learning, quantified self, personal genomics. The city is buzzing with entrepreneurial energy.
Specific personal example: Back in the Bay Area, I liked involving myself in the futurist/transhumanist community. I can’t say that Moscow can compete with it, but it’s probably no worse than London in this respect, the foremost West European H+ cluster. There’s a LessWrong meetup group, a “techno-commercial” transhumanist group (Russia 2045), and an active community of radical life extension advocates, which overlaps into the cliodynamics community (the daughter of the guy who runs Kriorus, Russia’s Alcor, is also a cliodynamicist).
Even the nationalists are more interesting, more intellectual than their American or West European equivalents, as I observed in Saint-Petersburg. I suspect this is a function of Eastern Europe being less advanced on the path of Cultural Marxist rot, thanks to Communism effectively “freezing” social attitudes; the human capital hasn’t yet been fully monopolized by neoliberalism.txt. There is no real equivalent to the intellectual caliber of Sputnik and Pogrom in the United States.
As in Eastern Europe, my impression is that the historical recreation movement – perhaps as an implicit stand of white identity as any – is if anything stronger in Russia than in the United States.
Dmitry Chistoprudov: Cloudy Moscow 7.
On coming to the Bay Area, the technological heart of the United States, tech writer Alina Tolmacheva struggled to hide her disappointment: “No flying hoverboards, food isn’t delivered by drones, and parking fees are paid with coins, whereas in Moscow everyone had long since switched to mobile apps.”
This is somewhat tongue in cheek, but the general point stands.
As she further points out, monopolies dominate transport, banking, telephones, and the Internet. The Caltrain from San Francisco Airport to Mountain View takes 1.5 hours. The highest building is 12 storeys of concrete in the style of Le Corbusier. “Rent is paid with checks. It is necessary to take a piece of paper, fill in the details, and send it by mail. The owner then goes to a bank branch and cashes it out. Technology older than VHS and cassette players.” In Moscow, even aged grandmothers have been collecting rent money through mobile apps for years.
Contactless payments are not yet prevalent in Moscow, like they are in London. But this is a minor issue. On the other hand, the Moscow Metro has already had free WiFi for several years, which is now in the last stages of becoming integrated into the wider Moscow transport system, including buses and trams. This is hugely convenient, since many commuters spend around an hour traveling in the Metro on working days. Neither London, nor BART in the SF Bay Area, nor any other American underground system that I know of has gotten round to installing free WiFI.
Moscow is more developed as a “technopolis” than any other major city in the Anglosphere.
If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy my comprehensive comparison of life in Russia, America and the United Kingdom that I wrote in 2011: http://akarlin.com/tag/national-comparisons/ .