Writing in Foreign Policy Arkady Ostrovsky, the Moscow correspondent for the Economist magazine, exposes the Potemkin Village that Vladimir Putin has built in neo-Soviet Russia:
For the Western world, 1929 marked the start of the Great Depression. For the Soviet Union, it was a year that Joseph Stalin called the “Great Break”—the ending of a short spell of semiprivate economic policy and the beginning of the deadly period of forced collectivization and industrialization. Often mistranslated as the “Great Leap Forward,” “Great Break” is truer to Stalin’s intentions and much more befitting their tragic consequences. The events he set in motion 80 years ago broke millions of lives and changed human values and instincts in Russia. It was, arguably, the most consequential year in Russia’s 20th-century history. Now, 80 years later, and for much different reasons, 2009 could shape up to be a year of similarly far-reaching consequences for Russia’s 21st century.
Today’s Russia is not the Soviet Union, and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is not Joseph Stalin. But just as historians view 1929 as the end of the revolutionary period of Soviet history, scholars will (and already do) define Putin’s rule as a restoration that followed a revolution. Restoration—of lost geopolitical influence, of Soviet symbols, of fear, of even Stalin’s reputation—has been the main narrative of the past decade. But as history shows, periods of restoration do not restore the old order; they create new threats. This is what Russia is today—a new, much more nationalistic and aggressive country that bears as much (or as little) resemblance to the Soviet Union as it does to the free and colorful, though poor and chaotic, Russia of the 1990s.