Lived in Norway, Czech Republic, Malta, UK, Russia and Thailand5y
Having lived in several different democratic countries throughout my life, I think I can reply quite extensively. At least, I hope so. My first reply on Quora, just thought that the whole reasoning behind asking such a silly question is strange. Nobody is asking “Is Thailand a real democracy?”. Why is that?
Russia is a democracy, both on paper and in real life. In fact, never have I seen a country where the people pay as close attention to their politicians, and have a saying in just about everything that happens, as in Russia. Yes, corruption, pressure on opposition, cencorship of the media is present, but far from as widespread as in other countries. Countries everyone “knows” are thoroughly democratic.
Russians follow politics very keenly. Mostly, because they want to be aware of what is happening, and to analyse where the country is going. Nobody wants their country to fall into the semi-anarchistic, disastreous state it was in during the 90s. In fact, if you are ever invited into a Russian kitchen (the same thing as a living room for Westerners), they will surely spend most of the time discussing politics. Hence, when people go to vote, they actually know who their are voting for and what these people represent. And yeah, we still have the Communist party. Nobody is demonising them, and using scare-tactics is not common in the media. Is there a Communist party in your country? Probably not - most “damn commies”in the West were jailed and their parties forbidden (or demonised to such an extent that nobody would ever vote for them). Most Russians trust their president, and his approval rating is very high. So, they elect him again and again. What is bad about that? Would it be better if we elected some liar, then sit and look while he does all sorts of stupid shit, and elect the next liar during the next elections? That is what’s happening in the West. You are electing populists, people who will say whatever you want to hear, and then laugh at you for being gullible while they go back on every promise they make. So you start hating them, and elect a new leader after four-five years. How is that better? Putin delivers, so people vote for him. Absolutely fine by me. If Americans finally found a good president, and the majority wanted to keep him in office for more than two terms, but the world called him a dictator, what would you say? “Yeah, fine, bring in the next moron”, or “Go to hell, we like this guy”?
Can you beat cops in your country? Can you swim in fountains? Are you allowed to nail your balls to the central square in your hometown? Could you send threats to a politician, without being sued? Can you take out your telephone and film something happening around you, without somebody snapping your phone (f.ex. a security guard)? In Russia, you can do all of those things. Some (like the balls-thing) are taking it too far, so these people are quickly taken to the closest psychiatric ward or police station. Not violently though - Russians have a good sense of humour. People know their rights very well, and when someone (especially cops) try to break these rights, people go bananas. Couple of years ago, the Head of Internal Affairs openly said that if any Russian citizen sees a cop being corrupt, you are allowed to beat him. Just don’t forget to film it. This created a wave of incidents, and everyone knows the phrase “Nurgaliev razreshil” - “Nurgaliev gave permission”. YouTube is full of videoes where people are messing around with cops. I’ve tried that once in Norway. Spent the night in jail. In US, I would get shot.
First of all, most people do not understand just how cosmopolitan Russia actually is. I’m talking more than a hundred languages. Now, in the Russian language, there are two words for “Russian” - “Russky” and “Rossiyanin”. The first points to the ethnicity. Ethnic Russian. The latter points to any Russian citizen. Chechen people are Rossiyane. Ukrainians (with Russian passports) are Rossiyane. People who see themselves as direct descendants of the Rus people (Kievan Rus’), are Russkye. The majority in Moscow and St. Petersburg are Russkye. Most people in Ukraine are Russkye. So, Russia is a federal republic. It actually consists of several countries, each with their own president, parlament, laws and capital city. Most (largest) ethnic minorities have their own country, where they are in control. Like Tatarstan, where the president is ethnic Tatar and Islam is the main religion. No problems, no ethnic clashes, just respect and harmony. Most cities have both orthodox churches, mosques and synagogues. Yes, did you know that jews are very common in Russia? Most people have jewish friends. And muslim. No problem.
Anyone can start an NGO these days (in fact, my brother has one), and politicians will fight for the right to support you in order to get publicity. As long as you are not trying to bring the government down, of course. There was lots of demonisation of Russia in the Western media when some NGOs were outlawed or forced to change their names to “Foreign Agents”. But hey, nobody mentioned that all these NGOs were directly financed by foreign “democracy agencies” like the Soros Fund and USAID. Why is that? You think Russians are stupid enough to let these so-called “democracy guides” organise mass hysteria and violent demonstrations, like they have done all over the world? We are not fools.
Ask anyone in the West, and they will tell you that there is no press freedom in Russia. To some extend I must agree - there is certainly pressure on the media, but this is to keep them from spreading lies. I mean, if a German news paper started spreading a rumour that Angela Merkel is a paedophile who likes small boys, they would get sued, right? That exact rumour was spread by some yellow press in Russia, all in order to demonise Putin. Now, most Russians think that the West is doing such an amazing job writing horrible, dubious lies about our country and president, that there is no need for Russian newspapers to follow the century-old trend. However, there are numerous (like, hundreds) of newspapers and online blogs (some of them very popular) who still continue this practice. Every single day you can read about how terrible our country is, that everything we are doing is wrong, that all our history is a lie, that the West is trying to help us but we enjoy swimming in the dirt, etc. If any (ANY) Norwegian, British or Italian newspaper focused solely on talking shit about their own country, they would go broke. Why? Because no person with any self-respect would buy such a shitty paper. But in Russia, due to a century with russophobic propaganda, there are literally hundreds of thousands of people (mostly ethnic Russians), who love to read shit about their own country. Strange, isn’t it? Not to mention, we have a 24/7 anti-Russian propaganda TV-channel, which, until recently actually was allowed to air for FREE, sponsored by the Russian government. Now, it is only available to those who pay for their digital TV-channels. Which most people do (included in monthly rent for most apartment blocks). On top of that, there is one news agency that specialises in translating articles from the Western press about Russia (INOSMI.ru). And, most of us have CNN, BBC, NBC, Euronews, Al Jazeera and FOX readily available around the clock. How is that cencorship?
I coud have written more in-depth explanations on other subjects involving a democracy, but most people who are open-minded will already have understood that their misconception of Russia is based solely on demonising, anti-Russian propaganda. I mean, we are the big bad wolf, right? The commies, right? Be afraid, the Russian bear is coming! If you look past those lies, and preferrably just come visit, you will see that Russia is a normal, functioning, democratic, European country. Democratic country who sees past the bullshit your leaders are spitting out on national TV (“we are helping the world, we want to bring freedom to everyone, we want to spread democracy”). Russians are not naive, I promise you that. If our president attacked a country on the other side of the globe, and told us that he is “helping them”, we would throw him the f*** out of the Kremlin. Can you brag about doing the same? Like, ever?
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