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.


One thought on “1990s

  1. Frankly, I find the explanation “Too much work, too much responsibility, who needs all that? Paralysis and self-pity set in. ” misleading. History doesn’t work like that – people don’t just decide to completely change their outlook for no reason. You have to consider the context, and very often the change in people’s outlook is a response to technological and economic changes.

    The first Chechen war was not free for Russia, and the economy was never managed properly. This led to Russia defaulting on its debt in 1998 (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1998_Russian_financial_crisis#Crisis_and_effects), with the resulting inflation and hard times for the people.

    So intellectually, the 90’s were a time of possibility, with more freedom of the press, but to the best of my understanding that was never accompanied by a non-corrupt government that didn’t steal from the people. And that inevitably caught up with them.

    Perhaps one could say that it was too much work for the people to track what their government was doing, hold it responsible and try to elect non-corrupt politicians, and that failure curtailed the country’s growth.

    Very few of the former Soviet republics managed to reduce corruption – perhaps only the Baltic states, and those weren’t part of the Russian empire for long to begin with (the USSR was effectively the Russian empire of the 20th century). If not for Clarissa posting about Ukraine being somewhat successful at this very recently, I would also consider them a failure in this respect.


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