Publication: Prism Volume: 4 Issue: 17

By Peter Rutland

Events in Russia are still in a state of crisis, and resolution of the political and economic collapse which befell the country may not come for several months. The situation is eerily reminiscent of the failed August 1991 coup: It was not until December 1991 that it became clear that the only way to resolve the collapse of then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s authority was to break up the Soviet Union.

Russia has experienced many political and economic crises during its first seven years of troubled life as an independent state, but it managed to survive each one while preserving its basic commitment to market economics and liberal democracy. Even the hyperinflation of 1992 (a 2500 percent surge in prices) and the street fighting of October 1993 failed to undermine the political authority of Boris Yeltsin’s regime. This suggests important underlying factors which do pull the Russian political system towards equilibrium. Are there reasons for believing that the latest crisis is qualitatively different?