In This Review

Resisting the State: Reform and Retrenchment in Post-Soviet Russia
Resisting the State: Reform and Retrenchment in Post-Soviet Russia
By Kathryn Stoner-Weiss
Cambridge University Press, 2006, 182 pp

The essential question about Russia today is not what has happened to reform, but why has the state -- notwithstanding Vladimir Putin's maneuverings -- been unable to pull itself together and deliver for its citizens what a state should? Stoner-Weiss, who knows Russia region by region and who for this book interviewed in 72 of the 89, believes that the answer lies in the will and ability of regions to defy the central government on key economic policy issues, that their defiance depends heavily on local businesspeople who made off quite literally as bandits during the collapse of the Soviet state and who do not want reform to threaten their gains, and that the root of all of this can be traced back to ill-conceived aspects of Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms, which were mightily enhanced by Boris Yeltsin's privatization schemes. Given the essence of the problem -- a state too little embedded in society and too susceptible to "capture" by "societal elements" -- Stoner-Weiss does not think Putin's moves to impose control will work. The book is short, and the argument tight.