No one could imagine in 1989 that the German Democratic Republic would stop existing in a year, that the USSR would collapse in two, and Czechoslovakia would split into two states in three years. The pullout of Soviet troops from Afghanistan started in February 1989.A series of nightmares, indeed. Non-Russians might not say the country 'collapsed in two'. That is like saying the British Empire split in two when it dissolved - Britain and not-Britain. And Russia was an empire, which is something that we often have trouble getting our heads around, because the western conception of empire is so tied up with ideas of geographical scattering (not a technical term).
There are great bits of thing I have read somewhen (I don't want to blind you with too much detail) where old Russki administrators describe their time bringing civilisation to the outlying savages in the same way that British Imperial administrators did, with the same chats about the expat lifestyle, and with the same sense of loss and dislocation that it has come to nought. Anyway, back to the plot.
Over 100,000 scientists and specialists left the country in three years.Ok, fair enough. This is a thing you'd have some trouble with. If I'd been a scientist or specialist, though, you wouldn't have seen me for dust.
In return, all Soviet citizens obtained the right to travel abroad freely, the press was given the ultimate freedom, whereas the authorities were turning a blind eye on everything.Certainly press freedom doesn't seem to be doing them any good, since journalists trying to exercise it get killed and the Russians are left with nonsense like this. I think that the authorities don't turn a blind eye to everything. I think that central government isn't as strong as it was, and there is no tradition of civil society to stop the banditry.
The best thing I have read about this (by which I don't mean the best, but the thing that was like a flash of light) was a book about the mighty river Lena, which wanders up the middle of the central Eurasian landmass being a size you wouldn't believe. The writer spent a lot of time on nostalgia for the earlier regimes. We hear a lot about this Russian yearning for strong leaders, even horrible ones, bleh, but if you live in a central Russian town, you are totally dependent on an effective government providing you with roads, food and healthcare, because you are not economically autonomous. If it's freedom or roads, we choose roads.
It's like my favourite one (I am sorry I am boring about this): if you have to choose between a washing machine or the vote, as an individual, what do you choose? Especially if you have two kids. Especially if you don't live in a city with lots of laundromats. (Is laundromat the word? I feel sure there is a more common one in English, but I can't think of it.)
Russia is too big, basically.