Reading about social identity in the Soviet Union, in our “Stalinism” book, got me thinking about some recent readings in my Russian Politics course. I am struck by the continuation of the problem of income inequality. Of course, this is a problem that people face around the world, including in the U.S. However, Russia has been particularly affected by this problem of the divide between the haves and the have-nots. I have read about how, following the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia’s economy was thrown into chaos, as the markets liberalized and the means of production were privatized. For many people, their situation actually worsened significantly following “shock therapy”. A privileged few managed to ride the wave of capitalism and come out on top, with unprecedented wealth. These “oligarchs” were quite visible in society and many became a household name.
I am struck that in both of Russia’s huge political upheavals, in both 1917 and 1991, the purpose was to help the Russian people, the working man and woman. In the time following both these upheavals, the reality of the situation strayed far from the original dream, much to the suffering of the very people that were supposed to be helped. It seems that only a privileged few are able to reap benefits from political and economic change, regardless of the original intent.