Raw Data: Russian GDP 1989-2017

In the wake of Russia’s election last month, I’ve seen a number of people asking why Vladimir Putin is so popular. Part of the answer, of course, is that he isn’t: the results of the election were rigged in several different ways. That said, he is pretty popular. He almost certainly would have won easily even in a fair election. Here’s why:

The Soviet economy was declining even before its final fall, and it started to improve before Putin took over. Nonetheless, the timing is close enough that it looks to the average Russian as if (a) the fall of the Soviet Union was a disaster, (b) the US-led “shock therapy” of the 90s made it even more of a disaster, and (c) Putin finally took charge and put Russia back on track.

Sure, the oligarchs got rich and critics of the regime were steadily shut down. But Putin is no Stalin and Russians these days don’t live in fear of being sent to the gulag. For the vast majority, it was all good news: they saw their incomes double at the same time that Putin was reasserting Russian influence on the world stage and unapologetically reclaiming its historic control over Crimea. If a few human rights were trampled along the way and a few critics sent to the morgue—well, Russia has never been a bastion of civil liberties, has it? And anyway, the self-righteous Westerners who gripe about this are the same ones who destroyed our country, tovarisch.

Of course, you might also notice that incomes have declined since 2013, even as the rest of the world has been recovering from the Great Recession. For a guy who cemented his control by pumping up the Russian economy, that’s probably a little worrisome.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate