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The USSR's Successor State


The breakup of the Soviet Union will go down in history as a political, social, and economic event, whose dramatic repercussions will be as great as those of the October Revolution of 1917. The scale of the upheaval is revealed in the depth of the economic dislocation, the explosions of interethnic violence escalating into local wars, the pauperization of much of the population, the magnitude of human suffering, and other dramatic developments. 

Present-day Russia

The contemporary Russian state, which emerged after the dissolution of the USSR in December 1991, has no historical precedent. Its borders correspond to no previous historical entity. Of the successor states, only Russia possesses the capacity to become a global power. It comprises 76.2 percent of the entire territory and has half the population of the former USSR, just under 150 million people. The country is richly endowed with natural resources and a skilled work force. Russia has 90 percent of the oil, 80 percent of the natural gas, 70 percent of the gold production, and 62 percent of the electricity output of the former Soviet Union. The great majority of research institutes and educational establishments are also situated here.

All this seemed to give the Russian government many advantages in implementing successful economic reform. The task was nevertheless immense: to dismantle the economic system of state socialism in one of the worlds great countries. Russia was great in terms of its territory, population, and sophisticated economic structure. For the second time in a century, Russia was to perform a vast experiment in social engineering, reshaping its state, society, and economy all at once.

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Great Leap to Capitalism

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