Nostalgic Reformers

The Yegor Gaidar Fund hosted an event earlier this month to commemorate and discuss the 25th anniversary of the “start of economic reforms in Russia”.

Participants in the first government of Yeltsin – Gaidar recalled how they made decisions about economic reforms during the collapse of the USSR, and reflected on the reasons for the successes and failures of their activities.

The meeting was led by Gennady Burbulis, President of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, Alexander Shokhin, and Higher School of Economics’ Yevgeny Yasin. Anatoly Chubais, Petr Aven, Andrei Nechayev, Boris Saltyakov, Stanislav Anisimov, and other members of the first “Gaidar government” also participated.

Burbulis speaking. There are more photos of the event here

“The participants tried in hindsight to discuss not only the results of their activities for transforming the country… but also the mistakes they made and which could have been avoided. In particular, Andrei Nechayev said that their main mistake was that they gave all their attention and energy to the economy and did not engage in politics.”

But on the other hand, “…Gennady Burbulis said that Yeltsin immediately rejected the idea of establishing a party of power and put greater attention on propaganda because he wanted to be a president for all Russians.”

The excuse that “we just didn’t explain what we were doing well enough” also made an appearance at the discussion.

President Putin’s former economic advisor, Andrei Illarionov, called the participants out on both claims. He reminded his readers that these people did in fact take part in politics: participating in parliamentary elections, creating the political party SPS etc. And that they did in fact do a lot of PR work to “explain their actions”, writing articles and books, giving interviews, doing lecture circuits, and so on.

Nevertheless the former members of the reform government tend to evaluate their activities for the most part as a success.

Petr Aven said:

“We in the reform government wanted the best, but it did not work out as usual, but in a different way. Despite all of our errors we managed to change the country, and now it has become completely different.”

The group concluded that “…the modernization begun in the 90s remains unfinished, and the economic agenda of the first government remains partially relevant.”


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