Russia Revamped

Yesterday, I was reading a copy of the New York Times when a “Special Advertising Supplement” fell out from behind the dining section. A disclaimer says that the supplement was written and sponsored by the Rossiyskaya Gazette and did not contain any reporting or editing from the staff of the Times. The supplement took the form of a short newspaper issue, but looking at the collection of articles included in this supplement, I think it is clear that its form was deceptive of its function. Though it looked and read like a newspaper, the eight pages combined to create a well-crafted and well-disguised advertisement. Just like any advertisement it has a target audience; in this case, that target audience is quite narrow. This supplement was intended to reach high-powered financial investors, and it carried a strong message for them: we’re stable, we’re on our way up, and you can be part of the ride if you take the plunge of investment.

To be fair, none of what I’m calling ‘advertising’ was untrue or exaggerated. The tone of the issue was simultaneously realistically self-aware and shamelessly self-promoting. The articles didn’t gloss over weaknesses in the nation’s economy or try to exaggerate its true extent of foreign investors, but for every story of struggle there was a story of expansion and improvement. A front-page article detailed the Russian Government’s hiring of Goldman Sachs to attract capital from abroad, and an interview feature with the chairman of the Russian Union of Gold Production had a prominent pull-quote: “we need to create the right conditions to attract investors.” Stories on the back page were concerned with the Russian tourism industry: one was about a Russian booth at a New York City tourism fair, and another assesses reviews of Russian travel destinations on the website TripAdvisor. Another front page blurb declared Russia as the world’s second-largest arms dealer, an article next to it reviews a new line of mobile devices from a Russian firm, and an entire page of the issue was devoted to the increased gold mining in Siberia and the far east. One headline is particularly amusing given our past few class discussions: “Quality rather than quantity of capital a concern in 2013”.

Since my mind has been stuck in the Stalin era and the disasters of the Five Year Plans, I’ve almost forgotten that Russia has moved beyond those years and is in the process of rebranding its once unstable economy. Though I lack a strong economics education that would help me comprehend some of the jargon and come to my own independent conclusions about the current Russian economy, it will be interesting to see what direction it will take in the coming years.