The End of Russia's Second Revolution

MOSCOW: Sooner or later, all revolutions end. People are so sickened by crime and uncertainty that ‘law and order’ becomes their primary goal. At this point, society either succumbs to dictatorship or forges a new social compact that accepts the revolution’s key results.

In Russia, the Revolution of the 1990s has clearly entered its stabilization phase: there is broad acceptance of the market and private property; the period of feeble state authority and weak government is giving way to enhanced state power as an exhausted society allows today’s rulers wider latitude for political maneuver.

So there now exists a real possibility for a new social/political compact. Yet a critical question remains: how will Russia’s rulers use their enhanced powers and freedom to maneuver? They are now in a position to conduct a constructive policy and address problems too long ignored. But there is also a danger that these stronger powers may forge an undemocratic regime; that stabilization may be followed by authoritarianism.

Hope is to be found here in the fact that market economics is no longer seriously challenged. Struggles over the re-distribution of property, and debates about the form of the market economy continue, of course, but everybody sees Russia’s market economy as a reality. The Primakov government, which came to power in 1998, depended on the Communist majority in the Duma; yet even it did not dare dismantle any market institution. On this issue, basic agreement seems to have been achieved.