Oil and gas prices aren’t the sole reasons for Russia’s economic recovery.
Indeed, the recovery began before the oil boom, thanks to the Russian spirit of enterprise and the introduction of the free market.
People tend to forget that Yeltsin had inherited an economy almost wholly dependent on oil. Russia could only feed her people by importing food in exchange for oil, a choice made in the twenties after Stalin’s collectivization destroyed the country’s agriculture. As energy prices plummeted in the eighties, Mikhail Gorbachev drove the country deep into debt to maintain food-subsistence levels. When Yeltsin came to power in 1991, Russia stood on the brink of famine, in no position to pay back her debts. The economy had ground to a halt, and oil production was dwindling. It was only after Gaidar’s privatization that production picked up.
True, the so-called oligarchs—the well-connected elites of Russia—made a killing, buying state enterprises for a song. Yet they also put the economy back on track. Their enterprises saved Russia.