From the vantage point of the middle 1990s, Russian history seemed to be uncomfortably placed at one of its many critical points. Parallels suggested themselves with the Time of Troubles at the beginning of the seventeenth century, or the collapse following the Russian Revolution of 1917. To optimists, this was the birth trauma of a new age, to pessimists the death-throes of the old. Fortune-tellers and mystics abounded, offering a wide variety of future and other worlds. In a more down to earth manner focused mainly on the present, this chapter will attempt to put the simple question (although without a simple answer): Reform or ruin?
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