Russians Are Happier Now

In international sociological comparisons of happiness Russia and the ex-USSR have become pretty much bywords for very low levels of happiness and life satisfaction.

Here is a not atypical graph showing Russia as one several extreme outliers.


However, polling evidence suggests this is an increasingly dated view, much as demographic data has already long invalidated the “dying Russia” trope.


The above graph shows the results of VCIOM opinion polls on subjective happiness since 1990. The index represents the numbers of people saying they feel very or somewhat happy minus those saying they feel very or somewhat unhappy.

There was a peak at the height of the late 2000s boom, which went down during the recession. However, sentiments quickly recovered, and were impervious to the effects of the current (much milder) recession.

Moreover, the percentage of Russia now saying they are “very happy” – at 39% – is now almost twice as high as the 22% seen in 2008, to say nothing of the typical 5-10% figures during the 1990s.

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. This national happiness industry has always been idiocy of the first water. How people answer that kind of question depends on their cultural hinterground, not on anything to do with their life circumstances, still less on that part thereof which depends on economics and government.
    In any case, happiness is not good. It takes away your edge, just as an oyster produces no pearl without irritation.

  2. It does strike one that a happiness index would be a convenient sort of BS for a certain Third World country to invent so that the Western liberal crowd who staff the international aid and development agencies would gush over them while not having to do much of any real import for their own people.

    Still, having many unhappy people can’t be good for anyone.

  3. Daniel Chieh says

    Has vodka prices decreased? /snark

  4. The exact opposite, actually.

  5. True. I wished to post “Agree” but it didn’t allow.

  6. But you can buy Jack even in Pyatyorochka and in traditional for Russians formats of 0.5 and 1.0 liter. Come to think about it, you can buy Jack or Jim just about anywhere. That indicates a significant degree of change in Russians’ alcohol tastes. In Auchan, however, the receipt stated that it was “Elite alcohol”, when I bought there 1.0 liter bottle of Jack to take with me to the village outside Moscow.

  7. Strange seeing no jump at reunification with Crimea, since the resurgent national pride hang heavy in the air then.

  8. Daniel Chieh says

    In all seriousness, I expect happiness to increase the most if there’s a substantial relative increase in income. That’s what did it for China, and why people are relatively satisfied despite anything else: can’t argue with a 30x income in salary over your lifetime.

    Not sure how Putin will be able to pull out that miracle, though.

  9. In all seriousness, I expect happiness to increase the most if there’s a substantial relative increase in income.

    Not everything is measured by money. Money is good, as long as other things satisfy.

    can’t argue with a 30x income in salary over your lifetime.

    Standard of living in USSR was, actually, fairly high–not exactly first world (only in some sectors) but it was light years above any third world standards. Second world, too.

  10. JohnnyWalker123 says

    Ron Unz is always saying how Putin has been a fairly good ruler on the whole, while America’s rulers are totally incompetent and corrupt. From the evidence that’s accumulated over the years, it seems that he’s correct.

    It’s strange because if you watch American media, you’d believe completely the opposite.

  11. Erik Sieven says

    if one would exclude the very rich / very happy bunch of countries (dots) in Figure 8.5 one would actually see a negative correlation between wealth and happiness. This is maybe a function of tropical people being principally more happy than e.g. Chinese, and the former also being poorer. Then again I understand that you talk about a change in wealth, not absolute wealth as an important factor

  12. Philip Owen says

    Denmark usually scores high on happiness indexes and yet has one of the higher suicide rates in the world. Interesting

  13. That’s because some “happiness” indices measure stuff like income inequality, rather than actual ratings of happiness. It is in such surveys that places like Denmark come out as happiest in the world.