Most articles on the death of Mikhail Gorbachev dwell on the political failure of his reform project. The Russian Federation, the main successor state to the Soviet Union, has not, to say the least, become a democratic, open society. Ukraine may finally have gotten there, but that very success is probably one major reason the country is now fighting for its life against Russian invasion.
What I’ve been reading has placed less stress on the economic failures of post-Gorbachev Russia. Yet those failures were spectacular and surely helped pave the way for Putinism. So let’s talk about how badly things went wrong in the 1990s.
First, some background: Nowadays everyone views the old Soviet Union, with its centrally planned economy, as an abject failure. But it didn’t always look that way. Indeed, in the 1950s, and even into the 1960s, many people around the world saw Soviet economic development as a success