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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 433,491 346,520 310,000 16
GNI per capita
 US $ 2,610 2,140 1,750 97
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Russia


Update No: 355  (26/07/10)

The dynamics of revolution
The two great countries of revolution in Europe have been France and Russia. England had its revolution in the English Civil War in 1640-60 and a decorious epologue in the Glorious revolution of 1688. But the British are proud of never having another one since. The French and the Russians have had several each subsequently into modern times; they are aficianados at it.

Revolutions seem to abide by a a strange oscillation. First comes a radical moment, then a reaction against it, then a reaction to the reaction, consolidating the gains of the revolution, in so far as it is possible. One just has to think of Danton and Robespierre, then the Directory, then Napoleon.

In Russia, it goes Lenin and Trotsky, then the Triumvirate and culminating in Stalin. In the latest Russian revolution, first came Gorbachev and Shevardnadze, then came Yeltsin; and finally has come Putin, put in by Yeltsin, as the Directory put in Napoleon and the triumvirate put in Stalin.

This is all very schematic - but perhaps suggestive of what is going on in Russia today.

The twin stars of the latest Russian revolution
Gorbachev set the whole process in motion by declaring glasnost and perestoika, soon after coming to power in 1985. But Yeltsin took over the momentum from 1987 onwards, when he was ousted by Gorbachev from the mayoralty of Muscovy no less, the best favour he could have done him.

Yeltsin realised that the Russians were frightfully fed up with endless shortages and humiliations. They wanted not the reform of the system, as Gorbachev proposed, but its overthrow: 'They should have tried it out in a smaller country first,' as Yeltsin rightly said.

He proceeded to dissolve the USSR in 1991 and give the West a chance. Alas, the Western gurus advocated shock therapy and instant privatisation. Everything was to be done with maximum of hurry, the exact opposite to the gradualist approach of post-Maoist China. It was to be a Great Leap Forward. Actually, it turned out to be a great leap backwards.

Yeltsin, no intellectual, knew something was amiss. Millions were out of work; whole industries destroyed.

He knew he had to try something new. He had created a new country after all – and what a country. It spans the globe.

He opted for order. The KGB operative by excellence is exactly that – Putin.

Putin the powerhouse
Yeltsin knew what he was doing. The Western wiseacres did not.

He handed over power before time to Putin, a KGB man, an operative of the structure of the state, who certainly knows, and very exactly, how Russia is run.
Putin is the ultimate KGB man – and proud of it. He said to sleuths of the same ilk; 'comrades we are back in power.'

EurasecEC summit
Putin is immensely aware of his uttterly massive advantage -
He is the natural ruler of Eurasia!

The presidents of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan launched on July 5th the annual summit of the Eurasian Economic Community (EurasecEC) in Astana, the Kazakh capital. Among the summit’s attendants were officials from Armenia and Ukraine which acted as states-observers. The summit took place at the Acorda Palace.

Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev welcomed the guests and said that this year’s meeting was symbolic as the Eurasian Economic Community marked its tenth anniversary, being founded in 2,000. He also stressed that the treaty on the establishment of the organisation prior to that occasion was also signed in Astana.

Trade pact between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan
Normally these occasions produce a lot of lather, but little substance. Not so this time.

The summit led to one concrete achievement in the shape of a trade pact between the above-mentioned countries, the three, as it so happens, which agreed to dissolve the USSR in December, 1991, much to the chagrin of Gorbachev. They are pivotal players in the former Soviet sphere, as they were in the USSR itself.

Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia signed up to a customs union in the margin of a meeting of the EurAsian Economic Community (EurAsEC), which also counts Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan as members.

Russia had hoped that at least Kyrgyzstan might also consider signing on, but the recent and continuing political upheaval in that country made it impossible for it to participate in the preparatory work. Nor were small and medium entrepreneurs in Kyrgyzstan keen on the prospect, while the country is already a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) - which Russia is not. Armenia and Ukraine attended the EurAsEC meeting as observers.

Had Kyrgyzstan joined, then the customs union's membership would have been exactly the same as that of the so-called Group of Four formed within the organization of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in the early 1990s during the economic upheaval following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

The Group of Four served in practice as the multilateral basis for the failed re-invigoration of a limited-membership CIS Customs Union at the end of the 1990s, from which the leaner EurAsEC emerged in 2000. It appears that EurAsEC is progressively taking shape. The documents signed among the three parties establish a single market for goods, labour and investment to enter into force at the beginning of 2012. Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev has proposed creating a common "non-cash" currency called the yevraz (from the Russian word for "Eurasia"), which would, however, likely have little effect.

The yevraz proposal seems to make it functionally equivalent to the "transferable rouble" that was used among Comecon members during the Soviet era exclusively as a bookkeeping device for balancing national accounts with one another. It was not convertible into Western currencies, nor even (in contrast to the actual Soviet rouble) into anything that anyone could carry in their pocket and use to pay for anything in the region.

Russian observers suggest that although the initiative to establish a customs union within the EurAsEC had been under way for some time, it was the European Union's announcement of its "Eastern Partnership" initiative in spring 2008 that propelled Moscow into more vigorous action. The EU's Eastern Partnership programme was a knock-on to the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP), which extends beyond the former Soviet area into the Middle East and North Africa around the littoral of the Mediterranean Sea. However, the ENP included Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine within that broader framework.

The Eastern Partnership was designed to enhance the EU's focus on these countries, which have more in common among themselves than with the other partners in the ENP. Indeed, the Eastern Partnership was originally presented as the "Eastern dimension of the ENP", but it went beyond the ENP with the programmatic intent to offer Association Agreements with the EU, free-trade areas leading eventually to economic integration, visa liberalization, cooperation over energy security, and EU-assisted regional development programmes including assistance for developing small and medium enterprises).

Incongruously, and unwisely, the new head of EU diplomacy, Baroness Catherine Ashton, has proposed abolishing the post of EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus, currently occupied by Peter Semenby.

In June 2009, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia agreed on a unified customs tariff, which entered into force this month. The effect of the customs union's entry into force upon Russia's application for membership of the World Trade Organization as well as upon its trade flows with the EU remains to be determined. The new agreement is far from the first attempt to establish some form of international institution for economic cooperation among some number of the "newly independent states" (NIS, actually a term from international law, although they aren't so "newly" independent anymore) or Soviet successor states.

The Customs Code itself entered into effect on July 6 following the acceptance by Belarus' President Alyaksandr Lukashenka of Russian terms for settling a dispute over energy payments involving export duties.

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