Some people feel that there is untapped entrepreneurial potential in Russia. Do you agree with this?
There will be a certain number of people who have business talent among the population of any country. Russia also has its share, of course. It’s no worse in this regard than any other population.
When we talk about an individual, the dominant factor is their personal genetic qualities. When we are talking about a country or a society at large, we begin to look at the average of its population’s genetic properties. Social and societal factors also come to the fore, such as how society itself contributes or does not contribute to the development of business talents. Clearly, Russia is far from being the most favourable environment for the development of entrepreneurship. Nevertheless, it’s not the worst. Underlying the situation are centuries and millennia of history, religion, traditions and customs, a kind of historical memory, the social structure, and our worldview.
As we know, the history of entrepreneurship in Russia has always been very difficult and thorny. Entrepreneurship, the idea of business acumen and wealth as an institution have been received extremely negatively by people. Russia is an Orthodox country in which wealth is considered, if not vicious by definition, then at least not a virtue. At one point, entrepreneurship itself was outlawed, and the word “entrepreneur” was criminalized. It’s extremely difficult to create a highly favourable environment for entrepreneurship in a society like this.
There is a view that the Protestant mindset is inherently much more favourable to entrepreneurship. This is because Protestantism itself as a conceptual system of views was formed at the same time as bourgeois society. In this kind of environment, wealth acquired legally and legitimately is perceived as a person’s property, a reason to respect that person and an indicator of their talent, which was bestowed upon them by God and must be revered to the fullest. In such societies, entrepreneurs are perceived as talented and intelligent people who society should respect and support in every possible way.
Of course, public attitudes and social norms also have a big impact on the development of entrepreneurship. In this regard, Russia has enormous room for improvement. Treating entrepreneurship as the vanguard of social development in multiple directions and taking a business-focused approach to various aspects of life bring phenomenal results. We see this in the example of western countries, and even these newer “Asian Tigers”. Entrepreneurship as a way of thinking and a values-based conceptual system of ideas is a gigantic driver in the development of social relations.