Never in its political history has Russia gone through such a fundamental, revolutionary transformation as it is undergoing now. All previous attempts at change--those initiated by Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, and the Bolsheviks--were political reforms that strengthened the authoritarian regime, whereas the changes introduced by the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev resulted, rather unexpectedly to its author, in a fundamental systemic transformation unprecedented in Russia's 1,000-year existence. With an impact reaching far beyond Russia's borders, this phenomenon is only vaguely appreciated in both the West and in Russia itself.
Since Gorbachev came to power in 1985, Eastern European states have regained independence; the Soviet Union has disintegrated; Czechoslovakia, East Germany, and Yugoslavia have ceased to exist, and communism collapsed in virtually all Soviet-dominated states and former Soviet republics. The Moscow-led military alliance, the Warsaw Pact, no longer exists; neither does the Soviet controlled East European economic organization COMECON.
After Gorbachev's resignation in December 1991, his successor, Boris Yeltsin, in effect embarked upon systemic transformation aimed at changing Russia into a democratic state with a national economy based on market forces. Because Russia had never before experienced democracy and knew very little, if anything, of the market economy, Yeltsin's dual mission began