The Lessons from Perestroika and the Evolution of Russian Liberalism (1995–2005)
On the basis of a study of Russian liberals’ retrospective accounts of the failure of perestroika, this chapter outlines some important tendencies in the evolution of the liberal ideological field in Russia between 1995 and 2005, when it experienced a severe crisis. Persistent disagreements regarding the lessons of perestroika illustrate the conflict between rival liberal currents, and also offer an indirect insight into their shared assumptions. The chapter argues that Russian liberalism evolved throughout this period in three important ways. First, economic liberalism moved to the core of the Russian liberal ideological field. Second, in the pursuit of political stability, Russian liberals embraced situational conservatism: a general celebration of evolution over revolution. Finally, while Russian liberals retained a commitment to the idea that the establishment of liberal order requires substantial moral prerequisites, they nevertheless generally eschewed moral restoration as a central objective in itself.