A variegated, intense compendium of contemporary thought on the Russian future, providing a plenitude of useful and thought-provoking viewpoints.
This anthology arose out of a Library of Congress conference convened by the Templeton Foundation in an attempt to counter a normally pessimistic field with unorthodox strategies and positive examination. Vanden Heuvel (former Deputy US Representative to the UN) organized it into four sections, concentrating on the establishment of standards of freedom and ethical conduct in legal affairs, the nascent free-market economy, the post-Communist civil society, and unfettered inquiry and belief. Most of the contributions here are unorthodox. Onetime political prisoner and social activist Boris Putintsev opens strongly with a sharp assessment of the endurance of moribund ideologies (“a political union between Communists and neo-Nazis looms large”). Marat Salikov, a pioneer in Russian constitutional law, contributes a clear, energetic overview of the Russian legal system’s ragged development of an independent judiciary during the 1990s, while Siberian newspaper editor Sergei Komaritsyn offers a penetrating discussion of the relationship between the developing above-ground economic state and the impending power plays between such oligarchic figures as Iurii Luzhkov and Aleksandr Lebed (who still wield much of the real power behind the scenes). Other distinguished contributors include Ural State Law Academy professor Irina Reshetnikova (whose brief piece extends earlier discussions regarding justice in society into the realm of civil ethics) and the Soros Foundation’s Mikhail Kaluzhskii (who discusses the turbulent role of foreign funding). Arkadii Novikov’s “Adventures of a Restaurateur” is disappointingly disingenuous in blandly depicting his success with high-end “theme” restaurants to service Russia’s nouveau riches (while avoiding thorny issues of organized-crime pressures and regulatory corruption). Librarian of Congress James Billington ties it all together with a fine conclusion, depicting the collisions between creativity and chaos that has marked Russia since August 1991.
A well-executed anthology on a difficult subject, with a strong variety of insider perspectives on the Russian chimera.