The 1990s were the best time in Russian history. Not in Ukrainian history because Ukraine has experienced better times since. But for Russia it was an undeniably wonderful, hopeful time. There was intellectual effervescence, there was a sense of hope and possibility that were finally inwardly oriented. By “inwardly oriented” I mean that people were starting to feel a sense of agency. What if our problems and consequently solutions to these problems are of our own making? they began to ask.
By 1997-8, it was all pretty much dead, though. Too much work, too much responsibility, who needs all that? Paralysis and self-pity set in. Soviet imagery came back and the Soviet past began to be idealized.
So yes, theoretically this could have all gone differently but the chance for that was lost almost as soon as it appeared.