I can still remember the exhiliration of 1989, when President Reagan's hard-nosed stance against the Soviet Union finally paid off, and Mikail Gorbachev took over as Soviet Premier. In long speeches, he declared that the centralized, Marxist economy had wrecked, and that the nation needed to make new structural arrangements to give itself a fresh start.
The Soviet Union ended its watch in 1989, leading to the creation of some fifteen new nations, most of whom wanted nothing to do with Russia. Meanwhile, inside Russia, a new generation of leaders came to power who distanced themselves from the Soviet foundational concepts. The new leaders wanted a market economy, a representative government, alliances with Western nations, and to restore friendly relations with the former Soviet Satellites. It involved not just changing direction, but reversing it.
Pat Oliphant's 1989 cartoon about the changes in Russia showed sinister men interrogating former goverment officials. Older Americans could not miss that the interrogators imitated the methods of the old House sub-committee for un-American Activities, that asked the same question: "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?"
Gorbachev and his successor Boris Yeltsin took extraordinary risks trying to turn around the nearly bankrupt nation; but they had to nearly shut down the old state industries, purge all the government departments of Soviet hardliners, and start privatizing agéd service departments and replacing older manufacturing processes and equipment.
Not surprisingly, they ran into opposition. Russian citizens lost their jobs, as the old state industries and cooperatives privatized. Submissive indoctrinated citizens felt out of place in private enterprises that demanded personal initiative, and they lacked enough imagination to think up profit-making commericial concepts. Plans for a maket economy fell on deaf ears.
As the changes disrupted the lives of people, they made their complaints known to the Communist Russian Parliament; and suddenly the idea of turning Russia around to make it a competitive player in the capitalist World economy did not seem like such a good idea.
Boris Yeltsin pushed his plan as far as he could, but as his health declined, he had to turn over the responsibilities to someone else—Vladimir Putin! Putin quickly put his own acquisitive plans into action, soon after assuming power, and the rest is history. The photograph below captures Putin in an unguarded moment. His expression suggests habitual mistrust, like a Mafia-thug appearing in court.
With the invasion of Ukraine and the slaughter of civilians, Putin's savagery has advanced beyond anyone's wildest imagination. Once again, German newspapers reflect the updated view of Putin's depravity, dressed in bathrobe and toting a bath-towel. The caption reads, "Igor, please pour me a blood-bath."