The recent economic collapse of the Soviet Union can be laid to policies improvised during the Civil War, when the nation reverted essentially to a primitive agrarian base; these ultimately became state practices, fatal characteristics that subsumed the role of the Communist Party, eliminated all criticism of itself, and thereby led directly to the Stalinist regime. NEP was the one deviation, but it was rejected as quickly as possible, in order to create an industrial state more swiftly. The Five-Year Plans were, in effect, continuations of the Russian civil war strategies emphasizing projects that an untrained population could perform. Some bureaucrats, seeing that many commands were idiotic, circumvented orders; others, corrupt, built their own fiefdoms; anyone competent in the Western sense either became cynical, or held their tongues, or went to prison. In the end, centralized planning became a mirage. The system based on gigantism was doomed to fail economically once an industrial base was created, because no system of planning is capable of meeting all needs of a complex society.

This system is, paradoxically, both gone now and still present, a circumstance which explains much of the chaos of the 1990’s; once the Soviet Union was where China is today, but Russia is now changed. Nevertheless, history will not go away: whatever Russia becomes will reflect in many ways its statist past. Realizing this is vital both for Russia’s future leaders and for those who will have to deal with them.