The profession that used to be known as sovietology has been torn apart by debates over who failed to predict the collapse of communism, and why. But a greater failure of prediction, by any lights, was Russia’s slide into chaos, crime, and corruption under its postcommunist leadership. This misunderstanding stems from the same fallacious assumptions that have been steering Russia’s reform efforts into that morass ever since the breakup of the USSR and the advent of Boris Yeltsin’s leadership.
Reform in Russia has been inspired less by practical considerations than by ideology. This is true both as a reaction against whatever the Soviet regime professed to stand for, and in attempting to implement an idealized free-market image of Western society. However, the free-market...
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