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Concluding remarks


Whereas almost all of our authors make it plain that Russia has changed enormously over the last two decades, they caution that problems once endemic to the old Soviet Union have not all gone away. Putin’s remark in 2005 to the effect that the collapse of the USSR was ‘the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century’ rang true then to a great many Russians. Although the statement has been abused badly over the years, used out of context to suggest wrongly that Putin wanted to resurrect the USSR, few would deny that the precipitous collapse of the USSR left millions of people dangling with none of the economic or social safeguards to which they were long accustomed. In 1992 the new Russia’s economy was in tatters, the country had no foreign policy, no allies, and no reasonably sufficient means of defence. In short, Russia stood naked on the world arena. The optimism that existed in spite of those grave circumstances soon fell by the wayside as the economic situation actually worsened, NATO expanded eastward, and civil war burst out in Chechnya. An inner circle of unelected former KGB and military operatives, known as the siloviki, wielded economic and political power hand-in-hand with media and industry barons generally know as the Oligarchs.