Russia as a welfare state?

Military threats do not take centre stage in the latest Russian national security strategy, reveals researcher, Anna-Liisa Heusala from the Aleksanteri Institute.

VIDEO: Watch researchers from the Aleksanteri Institute list the greatest challenges facing Russia at the moment.

“The strategy almost reads like the manifesto of a welfare state,” explains Heusala. ”The biggest threats to security are listed as poverty, poor social conditions and regional discrepancies. Improvement of the education system and health services is also considered important.”

Developing the Russian welfare system was already mentioned as a goal in the constitution of 1993.

“Certain basic services are considered to be the responsibility of the state, and this is now being addressed,” Heusala says.

The Russian government has not rested on its laurels since its establishment twenty years ago. Civil servants are continually being trained, and there is a great deal of enthusiasm for developing welfare services in certain areas. This project, however, will span generations.

“A comprehensive change in the system is underway,” Heusala continues. ”The drafting and revision processes of major legislation have been on-going for 15 years. Changing the practices at lower administrative levels will take even longer.”

Heusala understands Putin’s popularity in contemporary Russia:

“The standard of living has improved during his time in office, and citizens long for stability. The opposition has not been able to offer a realistic alternative, and former Soviet citizens may be more than happy with the current level of freedom.”

There are also many well-known, vocal critics of Putin.

“But questions about the real state of Russian democracy are currently far behind issues such as the eradication of poverty among pensioners,” Heusala affirms.

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Text: Tapio Ollikainen
University of Helsinki, digital communications

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