Russia transition from communism mixed

The fall of communism

Communism destroyed the Soviet Empire. The parasite of socialism finally drained the last blood from the Russian nation in the late 1980s and early 1990s, resulting in the spectacular break-up of Soviet control.

But freedom did not take hold in Russia. Instead of forging ahead with property rights and free markets, Russians devolved into a collection of turf wars, with ethnic groups, former rulers, entrepreneurs, organized crime and various other groups competing to survive.

Out of the former Soviet-controlled states, the one that proceeded fastest and furthest with free-market reform -- the Czech Republic -- has done the best economically by far. The ones that at least moved closer to free markets, including Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland, are doing alright.

Russia, who moved least to free markets, whose economy continued to be based on payoffs, bribes and tribute, has (surprise) done the worst economically and culturally. Yet in the 1990s this catastrophe was often blamed on moving too fast with economic reforms! The blindness, willful or otherwise, of international commentators continues to astound me.

The rise of neo-communism

In the mid-1990s, Russia began a decided move back towards nationalism and central government control. President Boris Yeltsin abandoned democratic allies to appease former hardliners, and imposed numerous crackdowns on civil liberties.

On February 5, 1996, four members of Russia's presidential human rights commission resigned, releasing what is likely the commission's final report. The head of the commission resigned in January and another member announced plans to resign, leaving only three members on the commission.

The report said that human rights violations are common is Russia, that Russia is moving from democracy back to totalitarianism, that Russia is becoming increasingly militarized, and that Yeltsin is tolerating the abuses. Examples of human rights abuses included ethnic hatred, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, mistreatment of servicemen and prison inmates, free speech restrictions, government disinformation, war abuses in Chechnya, and the renewal of the Soviet practice of issuing residence permits restricting free movement.

Source: February 5, 1996, Associated Press article, "Russian human rights commission reports gross violations, practically disbands."