One thing that's supposed to make the West so superior to Russia is that we operate on a meritocracy system, whereas in Russia it's all about connections and corruption.
The second part of that sentence is undeniably true--Russia is shamelessly connection-driven and corrupt. It is this shamelessness, or rather Russia's lack of sophisticated hypocrisy to hide it, that makes the corruption here seem even worse than it is, or rather, more exceptional than it really is. Russians are rather exhibitionistic in their cronyism; at times it can be so grotesque that it almost doesn't seem possible, like it's a giant prank just meant to piss off the Normals.
But first, a little bit of history about cronyism, corruption and the Russian narod. You hear a lot of talk about how passive Russians supposedly are, and how patiently they put up with the cruelty and corruption of the ruling class. When Westerners use this description, what they mean is, "As compared to us, who would never allow such cronyism and corruption, not for a single second."
And then these same Westerners turn on their televisions and watch someone from the House of Lords opining about the state of the Britain--I mean Jesus fucking Christ, they still have a "House of Lords," which means "god" and "master" over the serfs!... Okay, fine, so then you switch from the House of Lords guy, inevitably some degenerate who lives on the family manor, and the next channel's showing America's fuckup-in-chief, President Bush, playing with the kingdom that his daddy left him, and that kingdom was given to him by his Senator/banker granddaddy Prescott Bush, and so on...
Oh, but you object: this kind of cronyism's different, because Americans actually voted for cronyism in each case, out of their own free will. Which makes it ok, you see. They voted to give the Bush family power and riches three generations in a row, and that's totally, totally different than Russian or non-Western cronyism, when a rich daddy just GIVES his son and grandson total power and wealth. We'd never stand for that!
Yes, your average pious Westerner would flip past the House of Lords speech, past Bush, to watching a program on the obscenely-privileged children of Russia's new elite. And said Westerner would shake his head in righteous anger, reassured that at least in the West, we live by a true meritocracy.
Before taking roster of the new Russian elite's kids, we should remember one thing. The reason why the 25-year-old son of the prime minister was appointed to run one of the largest shipping companies in Russia is because the Russian people are in almost constant revolt against the privileged, nepotistic elite. Here's why.
In 1985, what helped make Gorbachev's drive for perestroika and glasnost initially popular was the perception that the despised, corrupt old Brezhnev elite would be shaken out, dragged into the light, and forced to prove their worth. As perestroika started to disappoint, Boris Yeltsin became the next people's hero not because he was a democrat, but because he railed against the privileges of the Soviet elite: their superior dachas and cars, access to Western goods, etc.
In the 1990s, when it was clear that Yelstin's new post-Soviet elite was so sickeningly, flamboyantly privileged that it made the Brezhnev elite look like austere monks, people put their hope in Putin, who seemed to promise an end to the in-your-face arrogance, contempt, and exhibitionism that marked the period of oligarchs. The general feeling was that the reason the 90s elite were so awful compared to previous elites was because...ahem...they weren't, you know, Russian. The Gusinskys, Berezovskys, Khodorkovskys, Nemtsovs, Dzhabrailovs, Kivelidis and so on, they all seemed to come from ethnic minorities, which explained, in many people's minds, why they behaved so rottenly.
So what has all this constant revolt against a revolting, nepotistic elite got Russia? How has replacing the Moishes and Goshas with Andreis and Pashas worked?