September 28, 2022

Russia’s Great Transformational Failure

The collapse of the Soviet system led to a period of hope in Russia. Throughout the 2000s, it was popular to describe Russia as a “normal country.” The changes it went through during its transition from Soviet communism to a Westernized, market-based economy and parliamentary system were agreed to be irreversible, setting the stage for the country to eventually join the club of liberal democracies.

While post-communist countries saw varying degrees of success, it is the failure to modernize along all three dimensions that distinguishes Russia.

Thirty years later, however, it seems clear that Russia’s much-heralded modernization effort was a failure. In the early 1990s, the political scientist Claus Offe explained the nature of the unique challenges faced by countries across the post-communist region, which he called the triple transformation: the political transition from autocracy to democracy; the economic transition from planned to market economy; and a national transition from empire to nation-building. While post-communist countries saw varying degrees of success, it is the failure to modernize along all three dimensions that distinguishes Russia. By the late 2000s, it became apparent that Russia’s political system was not particularly “normal.”

Read the full article from Tablet Magazine.

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