Russian Politics and Society

By Richard Sakwa | Go to book overview

12Marketising the economy

Gaidar's reform secured macroeconomic change, namely the destruction of the old economy. It was a wildly painful break, surgically crude, with the rusty grinding sound of pieces of old parts and mechanisms being ripped out together with the flesh, but the break occurred. Most likely, it simply could not have happened any other way. We had virtually nothing to work with apart from Stalin's industry, Stalin's economy, adapted to the present day. And its make-up dictated precisely that sort of a break: over the knee. The system was destroyed in the same way that it was created.

(Boris Yeltsin) 1

The divergent trajectories of post-communist economies, where countries like Poland by 1994 appeared set on the path of sustained growth whereas Russia languished in depression, raised the question of explanation. In his last work Mancur Olson stressed the role played by the state in the development of markets, identifying what he called 'market-augmenting governments'. 2 In Russia in the 1990s, there was, to put it mildly, tension between market-augmentation and economic destruction. By the end of Yeltsin's presidency Russia did have a functioning market economy, but a heavily distorted and criminalised one. Putin's government sought to reconcile market development with state reassertion to achieve economic growth.


The road to the market

The fall of the Berlin Wall ended the political division of Europe, but it exposed the economic one. Two Europes still faced each other, one relatively prosperous, the other confronted with the legacy of a failed economic experiment. By some reckonings the Soviet Union in 1991 was comparatively as far, if not further, behind the leading Western countries as Russia had been in 1913. The Soviet system stormed into the industrial age but failed to respond to the challenges of post-industrialism. Only under Gorbachev was the assault against the market tempered but the search for a distinctive socialist economics was not abandoned. Only after the August 1991 coup did economic reform give way to the marketising transformation of the entire system. There is no single optimal path of transition, and the question of sequencing - the relative priority between liberalisation, stabilisation, privatisation and restructuring - had to be determined in the course of the reforms themselves. 3

-279-

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Russian Politics and Society
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures ix
  • Tables x
  • Preface to the Third Edition xi
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Note on Style, Spelling and Transliteration xiv
  • Glossary of Acronyms, Acrostics and Terms xv
  • Part I - The Fall of Communism and the Rebirth of Russia 1
  • 1: Soviet Communism and Its Dissolution 3
  • 2: The Disintegration of the Ussr 27
  • Part II - Political Institutions and Processes 43
  • 3: The New Constitutional Order 45
  • 4: Law and Society 72
  • 5: The Executive 98
  • 6: The Legislature 125
  • 7: Electoral Politics 140
  • 8: Party Development 172
  • Part III - Federalism, Regionalism and Nationalism 201
  • 9: Federalism and the State 203
  • 10: Regional and Local Politics 224
  • 11: National Identity and State-Building 254
  • Part IV - Economy and Society 277
  • 12: Marketising the Economy 279
  • 13: Society and Social Movements 305
  • 14: Cultural Transformation 331
  • Part V - Foreign Policies 347
  • 15: Foreign Policy 349
  • 16: Commonwealth, Community and Fragmentation 375
  • 17: Defence and Security Policy 396
  • Part VI - Dilemmas of Democratisation 423
  • 18: Problems of Transition 425
  • 19: Pluralism, Elites, Regime and Leadership 445
  • 20: Democracy in Russia 463
  • Notes 475
  • Select Bibliography 524
  • Index 527
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