12. Russia and the Post-Communist Transition - Readings

We wrap up with a look at the economic histories of Russia, the Soviet Union, and the transition from Communism in former Soviet countries. Certainly this is a big topic that would require more time and readings to do it justice, but I have found a few that will provide a good summary. We want to focus on two major questions:

  1. How did the economy actually work under Soviet Socialism?
  2. What happened in the transition from Communism towards liberal democracy after the fall of the Soviet Union? What went right, and what went wrong?

Required Readings:

Acemoglu and Robinson do a good job describing the economics of the Soviet Union under “central planning” in their chapter. You do not need to read the entire chapter, only pages 124-132 (as they look at other countries over the rest of the chapter).

Boettke is one of the great Soviet economic historians and I had the privilege to take his class while in graduate school. I recommend his entire book (two other chapters are posted in the recommended readings below) on the economics of the Soviet Union and transitions from communism, but this chapter focuses on how the Soviet economy actually worked under central planning (it was far from the textbook picture of a centrally-planned economy, and fits in perfectly with our understanding of limited access orders).

It may also help to jog your memory by looking over the slides from Lesson 3 on the Socialist Calculation Debate, particularly how Marx viewed the process of development, and the early Russian socialist writings (Lenin, Trotsky, Bukharin, etc) about how a socialist economy would/could/should work.

Finally, you’ll get some surprisingly good context for the trajectory of Russian history with the amusing YouTube video.

Primary Sources

Questions to Read For: