MOSCOW: Russia's politics are not those of the steppe. Russian voters cannot stroll to the left in one election, to the right in the next, unworried about falling over the edge. We live psychologically on one or the other side of a great divide. Now the question is whether or not, in elections to the Duma to be held on December 19th, and in presidential elections due next summer, the country will continue its transition or backtrack across that great divide.
When today's Duma was elected, many cast a nostalgic vote for the good-old Soviet times when wages were paid, the future was unchanging, and you did not need to work too hard. An opinion poll of last September shows such sentiments remain: 48% wanted Leonid Brezhnev back as Russia's president.
Those voices matter, but less every day. For an epoch in Russia's history is ending. It lasted only 9 years but its impact equals the age of Peter the Great and the October Revolution. It has been a fantastic, dizzying era when vast fortunes were made and lost, but also one when millions learned how to live on their own, without a faceless big brother watching over them.
It is fashionable to mock the reform process as a failure. But cynicism is wrong. Some policies could have been handled differently, but despite nostalgia for the security of an all-powerful state, we have moved so far that communism has been consigned to the dustbin of Russia's history. The impossibility of communism's restoration is perhaps the great achievement of Yeltsin's presidency.