In today’s Russia, nostalgia for the Soviet era is growing. Many Russians reflect wistfully on the passing of an era when the Soviet Union was a superpower, commanding international respect, and they blame its demise on external enemies and foolish changes in policy. In 2005, in his annual address to the Russian Federal Assembly, President Vladimir Putin called the breakup of the Soviet Union the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century.
On December 3, Brookings launched the English-language edition of Collapse of an Empire: Lessons for Modern Russia (Brookings Institution Press, 2007). The author is Yegor Gaidar, former prime minister under Boris Yeltsin, who played a major role in Russia’s economic transition out of communism, introducing a controversial program of “shock therapy” reforms after the breakup of the USSR. Gaidar discussed why this once-powerful state was doomed to fail eventually, and why Russians should be looking forward rather than backward in building their nation. Brookings President Strobe Talbott provided introductory remarks. Vice President and Director of Foreign Policy Carlos Pascual moderated the discussion.
Yegor Gaidar has held several government positions in Russia from 1991 to 1994, including acting prime minister of Russia, minister of economy and first deputy prime minister. Between 1993 and 2003, Gaidar was a founder and a co-chairman of the Russia’s Choice and the Union of Rightist Forces Parties, and a deputy of the State Duma. He is currently director of the Institute for the Economy in Transition, a Moscow-based research organization.