As the 2018 football World Cup in Russia draws to a close, many of her foreign visitors were surprised to encounter in Russia an affluent society and a friendly, welcoming host. This makes it difficult to appreciate that only a generation ago, Russia experienced a political, economic and social collapse of calamitous proportions. After the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991, Russia embarked upon a transition from communism to capitalism. The so called “shock therapy” program, prescribed and guided by western experts resulted in the longest and one of the most severe economic depressions in the 20th century. Today, few people outside of the nations of former Soviet Union remember this dark episode. Fewer still understand it.
Even among the better informed intellectuals in the west, the failure of Russia’s shock therapy transition is largely misunderstood and often attributed to some sinister flaw in Russian society – a flaw which spawned corruption and criminality of staggering proportions. In this toxic environment, the sweet fruits of western democracy and capitalism simply could not grow in spite of the generous benevolence of Russia’s western friends and helpers. Continue reading