The Rise of the Oligarchs in Post Soviet Russia

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The Russian state has been characterized by its strong heritage of powerful, autocratic leadership. This domination by small ruling elite has been seen throughout Russia's history and has transferred into its economic history. Throughout the Russian czarist period, to the legacy of seventy years of communism; Russia has been a country marked by strong central state planning, a strict command economy and an overall weak market infrastructure (Goldman, 2003). Self-interest, manipulation and corruption have all been present in the Russian economy, and have greatly helped the few as opposed to the many. To this day, Russia still struggles with creating a competitive and fair market. Throughout the czarist period to the seventy years of communism, the Russian people have endured immense hardships both economically and socially. For ages, the Russian people have been accustomed to state benefit, an emphasis on middle class values and a social safety net which was provided by the strong state (McFaul, 2001). Anything necessary for survival during communism was divvied out and controlled by the state. These were the ideals of the social contract between the people and the state (Hoffman, 2002). No matter how hard the times were, the Russian people believed that the state would provide and push Russia through the worst of times. Throughout history, especially during the seventy years of communism, the people of Russia believed in their strong leaders and did not question the motives or actions of these individuals. The priorities of the state were always greater than that of any individual. Those who did act against the state were considered anti-Russian and were dealt with accordingly. The Russian people's unwavering belief in their rulers eventually evolved into a docile acquiescence. The Russian people were happy with their leaders as long as they could survive. Even if their was blatant corruption, an obvious dichotomy between the rich and the poor and terrible living conditions; the Russian people did not complain, accepted the status quo and never questioned the state. The last few years of the legacy of communism and the Soviet Union were characterized by a widespread struggle for sovereignty and autonomy among the nations under the Soviet Union, a stable but terrible economy, political tension and upheaval, and a deep political battle for power between Gorbachev and Yelstin (McFaul, 2001). Gorbachev leaned more to the center-right and still believed in communism while Yeltsin was a liberal reformist who believed in democracy. Gorbachev wanted to improve the system he inherited while Yeltsin wanted to destroy that very system (Brown & Shevtsova, 2001). Following the August 1991 Coup, Yeltsin rose to power and became the unanimous leader of Russia. Following the Fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia jumpstarted it's transition from communism and a command way of life to a more democratic and free market lifestyle. Yelstin had dreams of a more democratic Russia with a privatized economy. Russia needed to halt its dependence on foreign aid and needed internal economic autonomy (McFaul, 2001). The idea of capitalist reforms had a polarizing affect on both the people and elite of Russia, but Yelstin saw the market as the realization of Russia's potential. The Russia which Yelstin inherited had enormous deficit, an erratic currency, a sharp drop in foreign trade and many people dealing with the reality of starvation (Kuchins, 2002). Expectations for Yeltsin's new Russia were high, and many Russians had hope in Yeltsin and his liberal economic plans. However, the economic reform in Russia during this time period was messy and misguided. Privatization in Russia was inefficient, generated little revenue and left those who needed the most help even further into poverty (McFaul, 2001). To uproot the entrenched economic stagnation and depression in his country, Yeltsin consulted his trusted liberal...
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