Economic Reform in the USSR and Its Successor States
Robert W. Campbell
A would-be guide offering an interpretive tour through the great dismal swamp of Soviet economic reform is hard put to find a tussock stable enough to serve as a platform from which to start his spiel. Trying to describe the features of the reform on the basis of the excitements of recent history does not satisfy, given the way each choice and act of the last six years has seemed to get undone or overshadowed by the next. An interpretive stance has to go well beyond economics to consider politics, military affairs, and the dynamics of empires, but one's fellow specialists in those fields seem unable to offer much in the way of firm interpretations or perspectives. A predictive approach seems positively foolhardy, given the multiplicative contingencies one can foresee, the lack of models, and the differences from the closest analogue, Eastern Europe. And with the dissolution of the Union, our swamp has turned into fifteen distinct ecological habitats. But this is so dramatic a landscape, holding such portentous possibilities, that we can hardly call off the tour. I will start with an explanation of what the transformation of the old USSR means, then describe the efforts up to the time of the coup and the dissolution of the empire, and conclude by offering some reflections on prospects.
The classic Soviet system combined territorial integrity over an imperial economic space with a highly centralized administrative approach to directing economic life within that space. It is help