“The clock of communism has tolled its final hour. But the concrete structure has not completely collapsed. Instead of being liberated, we may be crushed beneath the rubble.”
Alexander Solzhenitsyn made this prediction just prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the revival of Russian autocracy in the last decade has sadly demonstrated the prescience of Solzhenitsyn’s prophecy. This is not to say that the Russia of 2011 was fated to endure the “sovereign democracy” of Vladimir Putin, as is alltoo-often suggested. As the country prepares for its next round of pantomimed elections, it is important to reflect upon the developments and decisions which led the country to its current state.
Indeed, a closer inspection reveals a country which is reaping the consequences of poor decisions made in the panicked days of the first post-Soviet decade. Seven decades of totalitarianism left the country with a devastated economy, atomised society and perverse political culture. The political developments of the twenty years following the collapse of the Soviet Union bear significant implications for Russia’s future political development, and important lessons for transitioning societies around the globe. This report provides an overview of the key developments of post-Soviet Russia which contributed to the current status quo, including the formative decisions of the Yeltsin era; the origins and reasons for the success of “Putinism;” the merger of oligarchic and state interests under Putin; the decline in political freedom; Putin’s economic policy and foreign policy