RIP Yegor Gaidar
It seems rather strange that we are losing the “young economists”. Last year, Boris Fyodorov, and this year Yegor Gaidar. And the tragedy is that they were still young, and could have done so much more. People are already posting articles with memories of Gaidar. Lyudmila Telen’s piece at Radio Free Europe is worth reading, and I am going to repost Lilia Shevtsova’s essay in its entirety because it is so great (as always).
He Has Left Us
In Memory of Yegor Gaidar
There have been too many losses of late, too many tragedies around the country, and too many losses among our ranks. Death takes careful aim, and it remains a mystery why the best always seem the chosen victims, and why fate lets this happen. By Russian tradition, to earn recognition, be valued, hear kind words in your address, even be raised to the rank of genius and prophet, you first need to die, or be killed, and in this sense, Gaidar has followed tradition to the letter. Now the time has come to pay him the tribute he deserves.
It looks almost as if Gaidar was in a hurry to leave us, because he was ashamed of our time, of our government, of our liberals, and ashamed that what he began ended the way it did.
He seldom spoke in public over these last years, made a conscious choice to stay in the shadows and preferred to keep silent. This silence was symbolic. He did not go to bow and scrape before the authorities the way many of his former colleagues did. He took no part in all the circus numbers at Kremlin-organized events. People no doubt tried to convince him to take the stage or at least add his voice to the chorus, but he stayed silent. He chose to keep out of this arena. This was his reaction to the developments here over the last years. Perhaps this silence was also part of his remorse for perhaps not having used the opportunities he had back then in 1991-1992, for not having done things differently… I do not know.
But when he did leave his shelter and speak up, he said what needed to be said. He spoke the truth. He said that this system would not last long. The system is doomed, he said, and the current authorities are doomed with it. I want to quote these few words of Gaidar’s that I think reflect the way he saw the situation today: “It’s possible to exit the crisis without changing the political system, but creating the conditions for sustainable economic growth over the next 20 years without changing the political system is impossible. World history of the last 200 years shows us that if you have reliably guaranteed private property rights, free markets, and a legal system that people trust, you can achieve rapid growth, but without these things problems inevitably arise.”
I admit that I criticized Gaidar for his actions in 1991-1992. He responded to my criticism with dignity and addressed the matters of substance. History will judge who was right: Gaidar or his critics. But history will also give him credit for trying to do what no one had ever attempted before him – create a market economy in a nuclear empire, and for not accepting the system that has emerged here.
I have no doubt as to whose side Gaidar would take and where he would stand if destiny were to give Russia another chance. But no matter what the future holds, we will miss him greatly indeed.