The origin of the radical social and political changes in
Russia in the period starting in 1985 onwards can best be understood
with the help of the theory of modernization. This theory divides
societies into two main types: traditional and modern. It sees the
transformation of traditional societies (and, initially, all
societies were “traditional”) into modern ones as the driving force
of social and historical development.
modernization theory helps to explain many contradictions of the
modern age. It attributes them to the fact that peoples and
countries had entered the modern age at different levels of
development. There was a “top league” of the industrialized nations
of Europe and North America. They used their great industrial muscle
to spread their political and economic domination over a
considerable part of the globe. At the other end, there were
colonial countries. Their natural resources and populations were
exploited by the advanced industrialized countries.
There were also
other countries, in Asia as well as in Europe, that formed a middle
group of states. Some countries of that group were in the position
of semi-colonies, while others were themselves colonial empires. Yet
all of them had one thing in common: they had fallen behind the more
advanced nations in rates of development and were confronted with
the historical challenge of closing that gap.
in that middle group lagged behind for various reasons: Spain,
because it had come to depend too much on the exploitation of its
vast colonies in Latin America; Japan, due to its self-imposed
isolation; Italy, because of political fragmentation; and so on.
But the main reason was that these states had been slow to
modernize the traditional socioeconomic and political system
inherited from the medieval era and had preserved many of its
characteristics. They now faced the task of overcoming their
backwardness by taking the path of capitalist modernization and
following the lead of the advanced industrialized nations. Russia
was one of these modernizing, developing states.