August 3, 2021

What Egor Gaïdar represented in Russia

All the Russian press, left and right, on December 17 published on the front page of articles devoted to Egor Gaïdar, ex-Prime Minister of Boris Yeltsin, at the beginning of the 1990s, and father of the shock therapy of the economy. He died the day before, aged 53.

Under the title “The reform man”, the Izvestia recall that “Gaïdar has often been called ‘the architect’ of contemporary Russian economy. Economist, journalist, he came to power in the early 1990s, at a time when the country was threatened by famine and civil war. In the fall of 1991, Gaïdar, aged 35, became Minister of the Economy and Finance, and Deputy Prime Minister, in which capacity he assumed the functions of a head of government. that it implements a series of reforms: the liberalization of prices, for example, allows the return of food products on the shelves of the stores, from where they had disappeared for years. ”

The Izvestia quote Anatolie Tchoubaïs, architect of privatizations and former boss of the electricity monopoly, who worked alongside Gaïdar: “He saved the country from a bloody civil war (…). He agreed to take responsibilities at a time, in November 1991, when the state did not even have 1000 dollars to buy bread, meat and insulin. At the time, no one wanted power. Intelligent people understood very much. well the real state of the situation. What Gaidar did is invisible, like the foundations of a very beautiful house. He built the foundations of the Russian state. All the disadvantages and advantages of this state are in these foundations. Few people know what essential role he played in the American decision to abandon the installation of an anti-missile system in Poland and the Czech Republic … “.

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Petr Aven, president of Alfa-Bank, worked in the 1970s with Gaïdar at the Academy of Sciences, in the same office. “The legacy of Egor Gaïdar will be fully appreciated in the decades to come. The country in which we live today is the one built by Gaïdar. He was very realistic. In 1985-1986, we asked us, with Gaïdar, to write the reform program. We decided to base ourselves on an economic model which had already proved its worth in another country. Gaïdar proposed Hungary or Yugoslavia. Was more radical, I proposed Sweden. And Gaïdar said to me: “We cannot transform the USSR into Sweden, but we can try to make Hungary of it.”

Unpopular but necessary reforms

The newspaper Novye Izvestia writes that “the author (…) of Russian reforms is dead”. “He joined, at 35, the government of a country that no longer existed. And he did not let him die. Neither starvation, nor bullets … It is very difficult to explain today. tell the young people that there was nothing on the shelves of the stores – no toilet paper, no light bulbs. Gaïdar left the country ignoring the incomprehension, the hatred, the betrayals. He was not afraid, like a good doctor who is not afraid of harming his patient during surgery, if it can cure him. The majority of Russians could not forgive him that their deposits money in the banks lost all their value. The absence of social justice in the communist fashion, they did not forgive him either. But Gaïdar did not expect thanks, neither from friends, nor from from the enemies. ‘If you make reforms and wait for thanks, he said, you don’t understand how the world is organized.’ he has done a lot in life. ”

Komsomolskaya Pravda headline with a phrase from Gaïdar: “I did what I considered my duty”. The newspaper estimates that, “if Yeltsin had become the political symbol of the new Russia, Egor Gaïdar was its economic symbol”.

Komsomolskaya Pravda quotes President Dmitry Medvedev, who hailed a “courageous, honest and determined” man, author of unpopular but “necessary” reforms which “led to the formation of a free market and the transition of our country to a new path of development”.

For Prime Minister Vladimir Poutine, Egor Gaïdar “served his homeland at a key stage in its history, which is decisive for the future of the country”.

“Always on the right”, headlines the Kommersant, an economic daily which underlines that Gaïdar was, between November 1991 and December 1992, one of the leaders of the “cabinet of suicide bombers”. “He was sure to be right, which allowed him to take unpopular measures.”

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The newspaper Protected recognizes that many Russians link the name of Gaidar with the fall in their standard of living at the time: “The Russians do not understand, the article continues, or they do not want to understand, that without the” therapy of shock ” which freed the place and allowed to build the foundations of the market economy, the well-being of recent years would have been impossible. Gaïdar succeeded in transforming the country. He will go down in history as one of the main authors of this unprecedented transformation. ”

Alla Chevelkina



Pierre Assouline, journalist, writer, member of the Académie Goncourt and columnist for L'Express.Pierre Assouline


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