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Evaluating the Transition


The high hopes and great expectations of the late 1980s and early 1990s concerning the direction and prospects of the social transformation in Russia have not been fulfilled. The transition has advanced the country not quite to the destination that Russia was supposed to reach, surprising and disappointing many Western observers. The dramatic years of social and political upheavals have failed to transform it into a Western-style democracy. 



Moreover, under President Vladimir Putin the development of the political system seems to have revived certain characteristics typical of the traditional Russian state, including greater power centralization and greater state intervention in solving major political problems and directing vital national efforts.

Some put all the blame for the high social and economic cost of Russian modernization on the liberal reformers. These critics say that the reformers have misled the country by forcing on it a set of attractive but fallacious liberal prescriptions. Others offer more elaborate interpretations. They say that democracy and a market economy, as such, are fine principles. However, Russia is not yet ready to assimilate them. Russian society has not yet matured for them and will need years and years before it learns how to utilize the advantages offered by a democratic system of government and a free economy. Only then will it be able to achieve decent living standards comparable with the rest of the civilized world. 

This explanation finds fault not with the liberal concepts and democratic principles, but with the country itself, whose inherent defects do not allow it to capitalize on the benefits offered by Western political and economic patterns.

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