October 2017

Financial Crisis and Economic Policy in Russia

Carol S. Leonard, “Introduction”

Juliet Johnson and David Woodruff, “Currency Crises in Post-Soviet Russia”

Currency crises have been a recurrent feature of Russia’s post-Soviet experience. This article examines three episodes of sudden and sharp ruble depreciation in 1998, 2008, and 2014-16. We examine these crises and their political consequences as iterative episodes in the Russian government’s ongoing efforts to deal with its structural dependence on energy revenues and international capital flows. We argue that the 1998 crisis and the Russian government’s response to it proved effective in transforming policies and institutions that had contributed to the ruble’s collapse, but also paradoxically reinforced the central role of resource revenues and international capital flows in Russia’s political economy. Policy decisions after 2008 then represented variations on a theme, leaving the Russian government better able to manage future currency crises while simultaneously maintaining and deepening the state’s underlying structural vulnerabilities as well as its patronage-based political-economic system. The crisis of 2014-16 may, however, ultimately bring greater shifts in policy as Russia adapts to fundamentally changed international circumstances.

Philip Hanson, “The State of the Russian Economy: Hopeless But Not Politically Serious?”

This article describes the present condition and near-term prospects of the Russian economy and analyzes the major influences contributing to its current weakness. It then draws attention to the domestic, structural problems faced by Russia and assesses the political obstacles to their solution.

Vladimir Mau and Carol S. Leonard, “Economic Crises in Post-Communist Russia”

This paper is concerned with combined crises of the 1990s and 2000s in post-Communist Russia and the evolution of a conservative fiscal anti-crisis policy to address them. Against the background of transformation restructuring, external shocks, cyclical downswings, and, sometimes, social unrest, policy makers consistently aimed to foster economic growth, while controlling inflation. Successive crises resulted in a gradual shift of emphasis from transformative institutional change to stability, a choice of self-insurance via the Reserve Fund and Welfare Fund. There is indirect support for our argument in Schularick and Taylor’s “Credit Booms Gone Bust” (2012), which shows a global trend toward safer policies, caused by the severity of the impact of crisis in a modern market economy.


David Brandenberger, “Stalin’s Rewriting of 1917”

As the hundredth anniversary of the October Revolution approaches, even a casual survey of the literature reveals scores of accounts of the Bolshevik seizure of power, written by commentators, participants and eyewitnesses from all across the political spectrum. Indeed, it seems as if no sooner had the Bolsheviks managed to seize power on the streets of revolutionary Petrograd than a new struggle began on the printed page to define the nature and significance of their victory. Neglected within this otherwise rich historiography is the role played by Joseph Stalin. How did Stalin narrate the revolution? How did he understand agency and causality? How did he balance the “Russianness” of the revolution with its internationalism? What overall lessons did he draw from 1917? What role did he afford himself within the year’s events? Analyzing two decades of Stalin’s writing on 1917 (drawn mostly from heretofore unknown archival sources), this article examines Stalin’s efforts to define the meaning of the revolution. It reveals the general secretary’s views to have changed markedly over time, leading him to repeatedly overturn the Bolshevik canon as he revised everything from the domestic roles played by the party and revolutionary masses to the international implications of 1917 itself.

Marthe Handa Myhre, “The State Program for Voluntary Resettlement of Compatriots: Ideals of Citizenship, Membership, and Statehood in the Russian Federation”

The State Program for Voluntary Resettlement of Compatriots Abroad was launched in 2006/2007 as a strategy to attract new citizens who were already fluent in Russian and accustomed to Russian culture, in a situation of gloomy demographic prospects. During its first years of existence the program proved quite inefficient, but in 2012-13 it was revised to become more attractive and extended to include more Federal Subjects (now 58). Whereas in September 2012 RIA Novosti reported that there had been 80,000 repatriates since the start of the program, the Federal Migration Service stated in 2014 that more than 200,000 compatriots had been resettled. This article focuses on this period of revival and investigates what the discussions and representations of the State Program in Russian public discourse reveal about ideals of citizenship, membership, and statehood in Russia. Discourse analysis is combined with references to theoretical debates on states’ policies of inclusion and exclusion. Researchers have already pointed to the concept of “compatriots” as ambiguous, because it only vaguely defines who the program is open for. Even though the initial aim of the program was to secure economic development in the regions and improve the demographic situation in the country, it clearly intervenes in other discourses that relate to the image of the Russian nation and the boundaries of the imagined “we.” One is the idea of Russia as the historical homeland of “compatriots,” and connected to this the idea that “compatriots” are discriminated against in other countries and therefore implicitly want to return to Russia. The debates also bear witness to an explicit dichotomy between “compatriots” and “migrants,” where “migrants” are construed as unqualified, unwanted and not rightfully belonging in the country, whereas “compatriots” are skilled and desired laborers, easy to include into the Russian “community of value.” From spring 2014 onward, the State Program became an issue also in relation to refugees from Ukraine who fled to Russia during the escalating conflict and war. This study shows how at that point the State Program suddenly turned into an effective way to integrate Ukrainian refugees--“compatriots.” Although in the media representations the program acquires several other functions, the pragmatic aspect--Russia wanting to attract skilled labor--is present throughout and stands out as the most important.

Amanda Murphy, “The Empress Undressed: Dress, Disguise, and the Next Generation in Pushkin’s Prose”

This study uses close reading of clothing imagery to unlock a system by which Pushkin was able to enshroud his political messages in layers of apparel and textual patterning that would have been accessible to his peers. Despite Pushkin’s profound “genre consciousness,” commonalities across texts suggest that each item of apparel carries a particular semiotic “charge,” which acts similarly to repeating lexical items or rhyming patterns. Though dress is closely related to the themes of social status and mobility, which occupied Pushkin during the final decade of his life, scholars have been reluctant to attribute import to the clothing items he selected for his heroes, and especially for his heroines. I will show that, for characters of both genders, certain articles of clothing allude to Pushkin’s mixed feelings about the social changes initiated by Peter’s reforms as well as his negative interpretation of Catherine the Great’s influence on Russian society.

Harriet Hustis and Maria Mostyka, “The Art of Indifference in Shalamov’s Kolyma Tales

In his Kolyma Tales, Soviet writer Varlam Shalamov represents the narrative duality or “double-telling” characteristic of the Gulag survivor’s story. In particular, in “Sententious” (“Sententsiia”) and “On Tick” (“Na predstavku”), Shalamov uses the motif of indifference in order to explore the psychological patterns and literary ramifications of the historical phenomenon of the Soviet Gulag.