Hard times ahead
It is easy to be pessimistic these days when reading the daily headlines of the international media. Economic insecurity, conflict and looming environmental collapse dominate the global picture. Life as we have known it in the last few decades is changing rapidly. Russia is not exempt from this trend and with the perfect storm of low commodity prices, sanctions, the volatile rouble and falling incomes it is easy to lose heart. Due to the nature of my business I receive questions on a daily basis about the Russian market, the business environment and the general outlook for Russia. Since I moved to Russia in 1994 it has never been as difficult as it is nowadays to answer such questions in a positive and confident way. When asked how things were, I started jokingly using the fashion analogy of “blue is the new black” by saying that: “Bad is the new good so things are going great!” Russians, however, say that “in every joke there is a part of a joke” and that “there is no bad without the good”.
Indeed, maybe things aren’t that bad and maybe there is something to learn from these difficult times. I started to look for the silver linings to the dark economic cloud hanging over Russia and, as it turned out, I found many. Although Russia’s economy and politics are weak, it has a strong human capital base that inspires optimism and confidence. By human capital I mean the inherent qualities and abilities that Russians have had over the years and still have today. Examples of these inherent Russian qualities, “Russia’s silver linings”, are resilience, entrepreneurship, ingenuity, work ethic, social capital and strength. In the following six sections I will explain why these six Russian qualities inspire my confidence in this beautiful country and how we can learn from them when dealing with the inevitable and challenging changes coming our way.