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The Russian westernizing government borrowed the ideas for its modernization at a time when Western governments came under the strong influence of the neoliberal ideology. By the 1990s the doctrines of the free market, competition, privatization, and deregulation had captured the commanding heights of world economic thought.  

As the Iron Curtain was bulldozed, Russia encountered the new liberal orthodoxy at the height of its power and self-confidence. Neoliberalism advocated the complete economic freedom of the individual, the radical denationalization of industry, and the replacement of state enterprises by private companies.

If Russian capitalist reforms had begun two or three decades earlier, they probably would have been guided by a markedly different set of principles, such as the emphasis on state regulation and the benefits of state capitalism, which held sway in the West during that earlier period. In any event, the Russian government’s abrupt withdrawal from state intervention proved detrimental to the country’s economy.

The notion of capitalism is an abstraction. Many kinds of capitalism coexist in the world: North American, European, Turkish, Japanese, Latin American, and so on. Yegor Gaidar and his team chose to emulate mainly Anglo-Saxon economic patterns, which were not entirely suitable to Russian conditions. The liberal capitalist economy of a country like Britain is a highly complex system, which has evolved over centuries and cannot be transplanted wholesale overnight and set up by “big bang” methods in a culturally distinct environment.

Moreover, Russian reformers tended to overlook the obvious fact that the market was by no means the only economic regulator in either Britain or the United States. In the United States, for instance, ever since the Great Depression of 1929-33 the role of the state in controlling the main parameters of the national economy has been far from negligible.

In a sense, the Russian radical reformers strove to surpass even such traditionally “de-etatist” countries as Britain and the United States in cutting back the scope of the central government’s control over social, economic, and political processes.

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