Magazine article The World and I

Russia since the End of Communism

Magazine article The World and I

Russia since the End of Communism

Article excerpt

How has Russia fared politically and economically in the decade since the Soviet Union disappeared in December 1991?

After initial progress, the movement toward democracy has apparently stalled, and in its latest survey, Freedom House gave Russia a low rating of 5 in political rights and civil liberties. Countries between 5.5 and 7 are considered "not free."

Public opinion polls report that a majority of Russians support democratic values, but a larger majority want a more powerful state that will ensure economic prosperity and guarantee political stability.

President Putin has reiterated his commitment to democracy but has backed limiting the number of political parties, reining in the power of regional governments, and controlling the electronic mass media.

Russia's GNP amounts to about 6 percent ($600 billion) of America's GDP, and an increasing number of citizens are saying that capitalism has failed in Russia.

Russia is depopulating rapidly because of a declining birth rate and a rising death rate. Some analysts say it could lose as much as one-third of its present population of 146 million by the middle of the century.

Hard-pressed for cash, the Putin government is selling billions of dollars of arms to China, Iran, and other nondemocratic countries. At the same time, the government persists in waging a costly war against Chechnya.

What does the future hold for Russia? Can it become a developed democracy in the first half of the twenty-first century? …

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