Russia's Revolution 20 Years Later: Hopes of the Past, Expectations for the Future

Video

Post-Event Summary
On the 20th anniversary of the Soviet Union's collapse, a panel of leading experts on Russia gathered at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) to reflect on and assess the events that have taken place since then and what the future holds for Russia. AEI's Nicholas Eberstadt opened the discussion by noting that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was one of the greatest geopolitical events of the last century. Specifically, according to AEI's Leon Aron, the demise of the Soviet Union was brought about by Russia's glorious revolution in 1991. Today, the country's burgeoning civil society is continuing this revolution. Anders Aslund of the Peterson Institute for International Economics argued that Vladimir Putin made a fundamental mistake in September when he acknowledged Dmitry Medvedev's presidency has been a sham. In essence, Putin conceded that he has been Russia's de facto leader during the last three years, a period of economic stagnation. Aslund maintained that this week's protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg are evidence that Putin's leadership is imploding. The financial crisis, which has hit Russia far harder than any other major economy, has convinced the Kremlin that a multipolar world is forming, Andrew Kuchins of the Center for Strategic and International Studies argued. However, the crisis has also compelled Kremlin leaders to question whether Russia will represent a powerful, independent pole in this reconfigured system -- a belief that was axiomatic in Moscow just a few years ago. Georgetown University's Angela Stent observed that, contrary to conventional wisdom, U.S.-Russia relations have been more consistent than most assume. Despite several honeymoons during their respective tenures, both the Clinton and Bush administrations ended with U.S-Russia ties at a post-Cold war nadir. Putin's recent comments about U.S. and other "foreign meddling" in Russia's parliamentary elections do not suggest relations will improve in the near future.

---Vera Zimmerman and Daniel Vajdic

Event Description
Since December 1991, Russia has undergone huge transformations both domestically and in its foreign relations. With an expansion of political freedoms and rapid privatization, the Yeltsin years appeared to set Russia on a path to democratic and free-market consolidation. However, over the last 12 years Russia has turned into an authoritarian, corrupt petro-state. In addition to continuing these trends, Vladimir Putin’s inevitable return to the presidency next year has the potential to strain U.S.-Russia relations over Iran’s nuclear weapons program, U.S. missile defense plans in Europe and the promotion of democracy in what Russia calls its “sphere of privileged interests.”

What were the original hopes and expectations of Russia’s 1991 revolution? Why have they not been realized in the 20 years since then? What will Russia look like 20 years from today? At this AEI event 20 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, a group of leading experts will discuss these and other questions in the context of Russia’s domestic politics, economic policies, role in the global economy and, above all, its relations with the United States.


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About the Author

 

Leon
Aron
  • Leon Aron is Resident Scholar and Director of Russian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. He is the author of three books and over 300 articles and essays. Since 1999, he has written Russian Outlook, a quarterly essay on economic, political, social and cultural aspects of Russia’s post-Soviet transition, published by the Institute. He is the author of the first full-scale scholarly biography of Boris Yeltsin, Yeltsin: A Revolutionary Life (St. Martin’s Press, 2000); Russia’s Revolution: Essays 1989-2006 (AEI Press, 2007); and, most recently, Roads to the Temple: Memory, Truth, Ideas and Ideals in the Making of the Russian Revolution, 1987-1991 (Yale University Press, 2012).


    Dr. Aron earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University, has taught a graduate seminar at Georgetown University, and was awarded the Peace Fellowship at the U.S. Institute of Peace. He has co-edited and contributed the opening chapter to The Emergence of Russian Foreign Policy, published by the U.S. Institute of Peace in 1994 and contributed an opening chapter to The New Russian Foreign Policy (Council on Foreign Relations, 1998).


    Dr. Aron has contributed numerous essays and articles to newspapers andmagazines, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, theWall Street Journal Foreign Policy, The NewRepublic, Weekly Standard, Commentary, New York Times Book Review, the TimesLiterary Supplement. A frequent guest of television and radio talkshows, he has commented on Russian affairs for, among others, 60 Minutes,The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, Charlie Rose, CNN International,C-Span, and National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” and “Talk of theNation.”


    From 1990 to 2004, he was a permanent discussant at the Voice of America’s radio and television show Gliadya iz Ameriki (“Looking from America”), which was broadcast to Russia every week.


    Follow Leon Aron on Twitter.

  • Phone: 202-862-5898
    Email: laron@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Katherine Earle
    Phone: 202-862-5872
    Email: katherine.earle@aei.org

 

Nicholas
Eberstadt
  • Nicholas Eberstadt, a political economist and a demographer by training, is also a senior adviser to the National Bureau of Asian Research, a member of the visiting committee at the Harvard School of Public Health, and a member of the Global Leadership Council at the World Economic Forum. He researches and writes extensively on economic development, foreign aid, global health, demographics, and poverty. He is the author of numerous monographs and articles on North and South Korea, East Asia, and countries of the former Soviet Union. His books range from The End of North Korea (AEI Press, 1999) to The Poverty of the Poverty Rate (AEI Press, 2008).

     

  • Phone: 202.862.5825
    Email: eberstadt@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Alex Coblin
    Phone: 202.419.5215
    Email: alex.coblin@aei.org

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