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Friday, December 18, 2009

Yegor Gaidar Passed Away

Yegor Gaidar passed away at the age of 53. Death was due to pulmonary edema caused by his heart disease.

During the nineties Mr. Gaidar was the main architect of the shock therapy in Russia. Many of his compatriots associate him with the miseries of that decade. Maybe some day Russian society will realize that Yegor Gaidar did what should have been done, and did it with courage, determination and wit. Says Washington Post, he freed prices, knowing that some people's meager savings would be wiped out, because there was no other way to get goods to market; he favored rapid privatization, knowing that the only people with capital to invest were, by Soviet definition, criminals, because he had faith that property-holders would begin to understand the importance of the rule of law; he always defended his program with logic and honesty against enemies who bothered with neither; his program brought less success than similar policies applied in Poland and other central and eastern European countries; he made mistakes, of course; but he also faced ferocious opposition from unrepentant communists and inconstant support from Mr. Yeltsin; having spent a generation longer under communism, Russia had a deeper hole to dig out from; and while outposts of the Soviet empire could blame Russia for their unhappiness during the difficult transition to capitalism, Russians, having no such ready scapegoat, found it convenient to blame Mr. Gaidar. Says Andrei Ostalski from BBC, there were only two solutions - either introducing martial law and severe rationing, or radically liberalizing the economy; the first option meant going all the way back to the Stalinist system of mass repression; the second meant a colossal change, a journey - or, rather, a race - through uncharted waters with an unpredictable outcome.

What happened in Russia after the nineties? Vladimir Putin (favored by soaring oil prices) spurned Gaidar's views and embraced nationalism and authoritarian governance. Still, says Washington Post, it would be wrong to label Mr. Gaidar a failure. The middle class he dreamed of has indeed emerged in Russia, and it enjoys a kind of personal freedom unknown in previous Russian history.

(Zoon Politikon)



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