Almost 26 years have passed since the collapse of the Soviet Union. As many of those who were born in the USSR look back at their Soviet past, they often wonder whether it would have been best for all the Soviet people to stay together.
First deputy chairman of the State Duma Committee for Affairs of the Commonwealth of Independent States, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots, director of the Institute of CIS countries, Konstantin Zatulin, shared his views about the collapse of the USSR with Pravda.Ru.
"Do you think that Russia lost politically, but won economically from the collapse of the Soviet Union?"
"Russia lost both politically and economically from that. One needs to make comparisons here in absolute and relative numbers. During a very long period of time, we could not reach the level of production output similar to what we achieved in 2013. There was a fall in volumes, production was declining. Obviously, when something collapses, it does not give any ground for prosperity or economic growth. Disintegration in no way can lead to investments in economy. This, in turn, becomes an obstacle on the way to further development. Any system adapts to circumstances as time goes by, and we are no exception.
"Against the backdrop of all the trouble, there were a few positive circumstances. We have our oil and natural gas and all other minerals, and all that natural wealth helped the country enormously in the struggle against the decline in living standards and production. Still, those industries had to live without modernisation and investment funds for long. Today, they are depleting the potential, the foundation of which was laid in Soviet times. Our oil, gas and mineral industries are in need of major reconstruction."
"Which republics do you think benefited from the collapse of the USSR?"
"Azerbaijan is the only country that officially surpassed the level of 1990, but it could be possible only owing to its oil and gas deposits. All other countries, being deprived of natural wealth, slowed down in their development considerably. Ukraine used to be a prosperous country in every respect, but today, Ukraine can hardly catch up with a half of what it used to do in terms of GDP."
"But every republic of the USSR had its own profile."
"This is a very rough analysis. The RSFSR specialised practically in the entire product range. There were a few industries, that the RSFSR did not have. Cotton, for example, does not grow in the Russian geographical zone. Republics with mono-production found themselves in a difficult situation, because they had to find a new consumer for their products.
"Some other countries experienced economic regress in all areas. For example, Moldova imports tomatoes these days! Moldavia used to be the central food republic in the USSR. It used to produce all kinds of agricultural products, juices and wines for the whole Soviet Union. Nowadays, Moldova is unable to produce even tomatoes. When the USSR collapsed, Moldova lost its sales market. Moldova has to purchase vegetables from the European Union, and this is an utterly shameful phenomenon, taking into account traditions of vegetable growing in Moldova."
"Do you think we can turn back time?"
"I do not think that it can be possible to go back in the past to restore the USSR that would incorporate most of its territory. Today, we are on the path of creating and developing economic unions hoping that they can gradually become more and more self-sufficient. Experts say that a market becomes self-sufficient at 250-300 million consumers. Today's Russia has a half from this number. Just like the Eurasian Union, and all other countries, we try to solve the Big Market issue, which would allow us to restore a range of lost or critical sectors of the national economy. It goes about such industries, as, in particular, aircraft building, and a number of other industries that used to suffer from depression before they started developing.
"Economic depression was associated with the collapse of the joint market. East European socialist states also suffered from economic consequences of the break up of the USSR. For example, Hungary used to supply its Ikarus buses to all socialist states. Today, Ikarus does not exist. RAF minibuses disappeared too, a large electronic factory in Riga ceased to exist as well."
"Do you think the CIS is a new embodiment of the Soviet Union?"
"Of course, not. From the very beginning, the assumption of the CIS to become a more modern alternative to the Soviet Union was nothing but propaganda and lies. The majority of Soviet citizens voted for the preservation of the USSR at a national referendum, but the Union fell apart. Therefore, one needed to calm people down and brag about creation, rather than destruction. "We are not deserting the Soviet Union, we are creating the CIS." This is a fairly simple trick, but it worked for many, albeit not everywhere.
"Today's Russia is building its economic system on completely different grounds. In the text of its Constitution, Russia refused from state ideology. She does not profess Marxism-Leninism as the guiding line either. This makes Russia different from the Soviet Union.
As for Russia's contemporary national interests, we do have them indeed, but the USSR used to have them too. They were not only about Marxism-Leninism, but also about the role of the country in the world. Russia is doomed to play its special role in the world, because it simply cannot be otherwise."
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