How different is Russia now from what it was 20 years ago?
Twenty years ago - it means 1986. Soviet Union was still on the map. 1986 - second year of Gorbachev's rule. It was a very bad year for Mother Russia and for its political system: the very year of Chernobyl nuclear disaster (April 26). In other aspects, picture was almost the same as during last years of Brejnev: steady deterioration in all spheres of life, but population has been used to it long ago. Dissident movement (not numerous at best times) has been practically silenced. Governing elite (so called "nomenklatura" - something like 3.000 families) was comparatively well off, but difference in life style and level was not as visual for general public as it is now. In capital - Moscow - situation was a bit better than in provinces, but not that much: severe shortages of food and custom goods, service nonexistent, practically no entertainment; no reliable news from abroad; strict restriction on visiting foreign countries, in wallets - only soviet money - "roubles" and "kopecs": foreign currency was obtainable only on black market and to buy it there was a criminal offence ruthlessly punished; everything belonged to state, state controlled all; state was the only employer. Communist party enrolment reached nearly 20.000.000 people, but all perks were reserved for its top echelon. No democracy whatsoever. On positive side: no enemployment, especially for blue color jobs; medicine was free (not for all kinds of treatment though); rent was stable and on low level; pride of being a citizen of great and mighty empire (it was rather large than great & certainly not so mighty, but only unlucky few knew it); no visible animosity between soviet nations (but Jews were disliked and Turkic peoples (Uzbecks, Kazakhs) were placidly called "lumpheads"). So one might say that for men and women who got nothing against unsophisticated, bleak but rather predictable day-to-day life this kind of existence was acceptable.Nowadays, on skin level, nearly everything has changed: no Soviet Union, no Politburo, goods are in plenty (but money is short for most people); one can travel (if you got time and money: a lot of people got neither); one can have his own business (a bit more theoretically than practically); information from abroad is available (especially for English-speaking); elections run with alternative candidats (most of them though are not alternative at all) and so on.Has a people psyche changed? Yes and no... Classic citation is appropriate:"Que sert-il qu'on se contrefasse?Pretendre ainsi changer est une illusionL'on reprend sa premiere traceA la premiere occasion..."Jean de La Fontaine, "Le loup et le renard".