The USSR's Successor
The breakup of
the Soviet Union will go down in history as a political, social, and
economic event, whose dramatic repercussions will be as great as
those of the October Revolution of 1917. The scale of the upheaval
is revealed in the depth of the economic dislocation, the explosions
of interethnic violence escalating into local wars, the
pauperization of much of the population, the magnitude of human
suffering, and other dramatic developments.
contemporary Russian state, which emerged after the dissolution of
the USSR in December 1991, has no historical precedent. Its borders
correspond to no previous historical entity. Of the successor
states, only Russia possesses the capacity to become a global power.
It comprises 76.2 percent of the entire territory and has half the
population of the former USSR, just under 150 million people.
The country is richly endowed with natural resources and a skilled
work force. Russia has 90 percent of the oil, 80 percent of the
natural gas, 70 percent of the gold production, and 62 percent of
the electricity output of the former Soviet Union. The great
majority of research institutes and educational establishments are
also situated here.
seemed to give the Russian government many advantages in
implementing successful economic reform. The task was nevertheless
immense: to dismantle the economic system of state socialism in one
of the world’s great countries. Russia was great in terms of its
territory, population, and sophisticated economic structure. For the
second time in a century, Russia was to perform a vast experiment in
social engineering, reshaping its state, society, and economy all at