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Hugh Ragsdale

Hugh Ragsdale’s most recent books are The Soviets, the Munich Crisis, and the Coming of World War II and his edition of Imperial Russian Foreign Policy, both published by Cambridge in 2004.


Will the Real Mr. Putin Please Stand Up?

Winter 2005 | Criticism

The four authors under review here lead us, through a variety of perspectives, from obscure confusion to plausible conclusions. Appropriately, they tell us that to understand the nature of Putin's politics, we must understand the nature of the challenges that face him, and those challenges consist most immediately of the legacy of Boris Yeltsin. Yeltsin's legacy is made up largely of four defining moments: (1) the robber-baron style of voucher privatization of 1992, when the apparatchiki/nomenklatura of the doomed Communist Party exploited their threatened positions in the old regime to seize the most advantageous economic assets of the new one; (2) the October 1993 attack on the Duma/parliament, the West's indifference (approval?), and the subsequent design and ratification of the superpresidential constitution; (3) the so-called "loans for shares" compact of 1995–96, whereby the oligarchs/plutocrats/new Russian capitalists financed Yeltsin's reelection campaign with large loans secured by the collateral of still more state property; and finally, (4) the apparently disastrous financial meltdown, default, and currency devaluation of August 1998, which actually served as the bottoming-out base of a lively economic rebound. 

The Solzhenitsyn That Nobody Knows

For the second time Alexander Solzhenitsyn last year returned home from exile. He has had a house built in the environs of Moscow, where he plans to take up residence. He foreswears politics, yet he publicly condemns revolutions—both French and Rus [...]