Petrostate: Putin, Power, and the New Russia

By Marshall I. Goldman | Go to book overview

3
Pirates Unleashed:
Privatization in the Post-Soviet Era

THE USSR IS NO MORE

The disintegration of the Soviet Union unleashed a cascade of centrifugal forces, both political and economic. In 1992, after the USSR broke up into fifteen independent and occasionally hostile countries, a Moscovite traveling to Kiev or Minsk could do so only if he had a passport for foreign travel. If that Moscovite tried to ship goods to Ukraine, Belarus, or Uzbekistan, he would have to send them through customs, pay a tariff, and accept payment for his goods in something other than rubles. None of this had been necessary before when they were all brother republics within the USSR. Equally disquieting, Boris Yeltsin, the hero in putting down the August 1991 coup attempt and the duly elected president of Russia, had serious drinking and health problems (both physical and mental). This made it impossible for him to focus properly on matters of state. Yeltsin had no problem forcing the breakup of the USSR and spinning off the other fourteen republics (including Ukraine and Belarus that were Slavic), which before the revolution were provinces of the Russian empire. But in an action that haunts Russia today, Yeltsin decided that Russia would not let anyone else split off from Russia and so ordered his troops to put down an insurrection in Chechnia, a relatively unimportant but problematic

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