chapter  6
20 Pages

Conclusion: lessons from the journey to the Undiscovered Country

In summer 2007 I returned to Russia to start a new project, but I could not avoid some ethnographic study of the continuing post-Soviet experiment. Were petrodollars and Putin’s discipline changing Russia? In Petersburg and Tula, many people had more disposable income. Loans were more readily available, and more Russians drove used foreign cars and were buying apartments (the quality of which remains unclear). Consumer service improved after 1991, although my experience and acquaintances’ anecdotal evidence suggest quality dropped after 2003. Putin seemed in control in the Russia media, although clearly rigged Duma elections in December 2007 and his increasingly strident bluster abroad makes one wonder whether the master has lost the plot. Tram lines laid five years earlier were ripped up and roads were repaired in record time for the June 2007 European economic summit-the old logic of Potemkin villages. Capital repatriation and oil wealth were followed by inflation, then by capital flight and economic shocks after war with Georgia. Corruption and red tape were endemic, it was unclear whether such state projects as nanotechnology were just propaganda and patronage, and the spirit of innovation might not have overcome the spirit of “easy money.”1 If the market transition was creating consumer society or letting entrepreneurs open stores, Russia has been on its way to the market.