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Russia 2010 : And What It Means for the World

by Daniel Yergin, Thane Gustafson

Buy the book: Daniel Yergin. Russia 2010 : And What It Means for the World

Release Date: 14 February, 1995

Edition: Paperback


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Buy the book: Daniel Yergin. Russia 2010 : And What It Means for the World

A book giving perspective

Written in 1993, this book is still worth of reading today. Actually, it is more interesting to read today because some of the uncertainties in Russia back then had worked themselves out. The book was well structured and followed clear themes. The scenarios were plausible. I especially enjoyed the chapter on Russian transition from a market economy to a market one.


Russia's Future -- In Retrospect

Yergin and Gustafson present a series of three conceivable roads of reform along which Russia may travel between 1994 and 2010. The first scenario, "Muddling Down," which precedes all other roads in their model, is described as "the scenario that extends the present" (pg. 140). It is characterized by a weak central government and a lack of legal infrastructure. The three roads from this point are "Two-Headed Eagle" (the return of a strong state composed of both new and old elites), "Time of Troubles" (chaos and unprecedented decentralization inevitably leading to restrictive nationalism with overtones), and "Chudo" (the economic miracle, compared with both Germany during the 1950's and with Alice in Wonderland). Regardless of the path taken, the authors believe that the outcome will be the same: by 2010 "a capitalist Russia seems almost certain" (pg. 300).

As I write this review, Russia is now six years further along its path than it was when the authors penned their book. Naturally, the material in this book is dated. The authors could have done a better job in making this book more accessible to a future audience -- especially that of a future in which none of these scenarios seem to be taking shape as expected. I would not rule out the possibility that some of the events discussed could still come to pass, but not within the timeframe proposed. For example, in one scenario, Yeltsin steps down in 1996 due to poor health. Looking back, he remained in power for another four years after that, despite heart surgery and repeated ailments. Could that particular scenario still be valid in the future? That depends on many other factors, of course.

In their discussions on Russia's policy towards non-Russians (at home and in the Near Abroad), the authors overplayed the potential for problems with Ukrainians and underplayed the potential for problems with Chechens and other non-Russians to the south. The first Russo-Chechen conflict broke out at about the same time that this book was updated and revised. Yet even before that, one could have foreseen the potential for conflict in the Caucasus. The Summer 1993 issue of Foreign Affairs featured an article by Samuel Huntington entitled, "The Clash of Civilizations?" Huntington's influential article proposed that armed conflicts tend to occur along fault lines between civilizations. A prime example of such a fault line is Yugoslavia, where Islamic, Western, and Slavic civilizations come together at one point. By this rationale, the Caucasus and Central Asia are also fault lines. Ukraine, however, is not a fault line. Despite Ukrainians' dislike of decades of rule by Moscow, Ukrainians and Russians have too much in common for a serious rift to occur. After all, America overcame its antipathy towards its former ruler to become England's greatest ally.

Overall, I would recommend this book with a cautionary note to the reader that the book is not as useful now as it might have been half a decade ago. That being said, the book does still hold water with respect to Russia's future and has certainly retained its value as an academic exercise in scenario-building.


Nizhniy Novgorod

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