7 . The New Wild West 7.1 TRANSITION TO WHAT? Western writers sometimes seem to liken the Soviet system to a sailboat straining against an unfavourable wind. Change the wind, we seem to say, and the boat will quickly right itself. But a more appropriate metaphor for the Soviet economy is that of a gnarled tree that has grown up leaning against the north wind of forced-draft industrialisation. Its past is written into the composition and location of its capital stock, the patterns of its roads and railroads, the size and type of its plants, the distribution of its manpower, the kinds of fuel it burns and ore it uses. Even a perfect leader and a perfect reform, whatever those might be, could not right in a generation what has taken two generations to form. (Gustafson, 1989, pp. 23-24) For a decade beginning in 1991, the Russian oil economy had to adjust to the dual problem of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the attempt to establish a market economy. In 1990 the ‘USSR Presidential Guidelines for the Stabilisation of the Economy and Transition to a Market Economy’ (16 October 1990) described the situation as follows: The position of the economy continues to deteriorate. The volume of production is declining. Economic links are being broken. Separatism is on the increase. The consumer market is severely depressed. The budget deficit and the solvency of the government are now at critical levels. Antisocial behaviour and crime are increasing. People are finding life...
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