Here is a young entrepreneur who is also a firm believer in Russia. His country has corruption, red tape problems, crime, a demographic crisis, failing social systems and a suicide rate that is among the highest in the world. But Georgiy Rodionov has faith that things can improve. He and his 30 employees install digital television and broadband Internet services. In spite of the obstacles, he is convinced his work makes a difference, and says he would never leave Russia.
Rodionov said: “Not on your life! This business of connecting people means communication, access to information. People won’t stay shut up in their own small spaces; this allows them to exchange. My company (called ‘Laik’) offers them an important way to look at the bigger picture around them today.”
Elizaveta Glinka is in the front lines of Russian social reality. The have-nots given help by ‘Aid and Justice’, the association she started in 2007, with a mixture of fondness, gratitude and respect call her ‘Doctor Liza’.
Glinka said: “First I was helping 30 homeless people. Yesterday there were more than 130. We also help them with paperwork, we send the ones who need it to hospital. We try to organise both urgent and long-term medical attention for them. We also help poor families. We get 300 people [at the back of a touring soup truck] every Wednesday.”
This reanimation and palliative care specialist left Russia in the 1980s, returning 20 years later. At the head of Vale Hospice International, she is also a humanitarian fundraiser. She knows how badly it is needed for all sorts of social groups, and is familiar with the hurdles.
Glinka said: “There are a lot of foundations now, and in some areas they manage to plug the holes in the state system, especially with help for children. That is not so for adult assistance and the homeless. There is so much bureaucracy.”
Marina Kozlova has been a children’s book publisher for about five years. With three little ones of her own, she found the Russia market was poorly served. Now the company Pink Giraffe also organises web-content, parent group meetings and shows for children.
Kozlova said: “When we started out, we were a bit lost with the laws about publishing. But our first books were an unqualified success, focusing on ones that couldn’t miss. Very soon we found our feet. We don’t print a great number but we put our heart and soul into every work we publish. We hope the people who read our books will think about their choices and that they will make this country beautiful and prosperous.”
Some Russians are pinning their hopes for the future on the party that has been in power since shortly after the fall of communism, others on opposition parties – even those not allowed to run in the latest elections.