News

    Impact of Berlin Wall Collapse Still Rippling Through Russia

    Impact of Berlin Wall Collapse Still Rippling Through Russia
    Impact of Berlin Wall Collapse Still Rippling Through Russia
    <!-- IMAGE -->

    Since the collapse of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago, many former communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe have distanced themselves from Russia with a series of military, political and economic reforms.  But Russia itself is still struggling to lead an effective military alliance, to modernize its resource-driven economy, and to liberalize its authoritarian political system. 

    The collapse of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989 signaled not only the end of communism in Europe, but also of Moscow's control of the former Eastern Bloc.  Several nations in the region have since entered the European Union and traded their membership in the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact for NATO.  Independent Russian military analyst Alexander Konovalov says new NATO members sought protection against Moscow.

    Konovalov says the Soviet Union imposed its political will many times, and although they would never openly admit it, the main reason those countries joined NATO is historic fear of Russia and the Soviet Union as powers that could impose something they do not want.

    Russia has sought to organize a new defense alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which includes five other former Soviet republics.  But in moves widely seen as snubs against Moscow, Belarus boycotted an alliance summit in June and Uzbekistan has refused to sign a key agreement on a rapid reaction force.  Konovalov says Russia has also lost the initiative in another security group, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, or SCO.

    Konovalov says many countries are seeking to join the SCO and they are currently being granted observer status, but the organization is not successful because it was organized by Russia, but because China is a member.  He notes that SCO is an Asian, not Soviet organization.

    Konovalov says the collapse of the Berlin Wall exposed Russia to market forces and revealed that its Soviet-era command economy was not competitive.  Today, Russian leaders frequently talk about economic diversification, but the country continues to import the majority of its finished products and to export mostly oil, gas and other natural resources.  This makes Russia heavily dependent on global price fluctuations.  The RIA Novosti News Agency quotes Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin as saying the value of Russian exports would drop by $190 billion this year due to reduced worldwide demand.

    The President of Moscow's New Eurasia Foundation, Andrei Kortunov, says the abundance of natural resources in Russia means there is little incentive for economic reforms.  He says Russia also lacks another incentive that provided a big boost to former Soviet satellite countries.

    "They wanted to join the European Union, and that was the key factor that defined their economic transformation policies," said Kortunov. "Russia doesn't have such incentive.  Russia is not likely to join the European Union anytime soon.  Therefore, there is no supergoal that Russia might pursue."

    Kortunov says the Soviet-era social contract between ordinary Russians and the state continues by inertia.  That contract, he says, presumes many ordinary Russians still expect the state to be responsible for their well-being.

    "Under Mr. Putin, we had a restoration of the old social contract," he said. "On the one hand, the state provides citizens with growing real incomes, and at the same time, citizens - the population - are ready to provide their political loyalty to the state."

    This inertia, says Kortunov, prevents many Russians from seeing the connection between their economic interests and the liberty to pursue them on their own.

    Masha Lipman at the Moscow Carnegie Center agrees, but notes Russia has made considerable progress since the demise of the Soviet Union.

    "The freedom of travel, there is a freedom to engage in entrepreneurship - if we compare this to the USSR, where private property and drawing profits were a crime," said Lipman.  "This is a huge, huge difference, and for many people this opens new avenues to fulfill themselves.  Not without limitations, not without reservations, but still a huge difference."

    Lipman says some older Russians have nostalgia for the superpower status they enjoyed under the Soviet Union.  As for the young, she says they have difficulty imagining the constraints of life in the totalitarian Soviet police state.

    "It is indeed very hard to imagine, unless you lived in those days, how your very natural things were denied to you, like playing the music that you like, dress the way you like, enjoy yourself the way you like as a young person," she said.

    Lipman says Russia today is a country in search of an identity; an identity that collapsed along with the Berlin Wall.  She adds that many Russians have mixed feelings about that historic day, which Eastern Europeans used to revive their status as independent nations.  Russians, however, appear torn between their Soviet and Czarist past; between communism and capitalism, and also between authoritarian and democratic rule.  

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.