First published: October 1998
In one of the most spectacular financial explosions in history, on 17 August, in the space of one day, Russia’s entire financial system collapsed. Stock markets around the world were sent reeling, not because of Russia’s weight in the world economy, nor the big losses incurred by Western banks speculating on the Russian bond market, but because Russian capitalism had run into a dead-end from which there appeared to be no way out. What really rattled the markets was the possibility that, faced with destitution this winter, the Russian people might call a halt to the re-introduction of capitalism, which having already resulted in the greatest peacetime industrial collapse in history, now promises worse. As one commentator said, it began to dawn on the markets that capitalism’s victory over socialism might turn out to be only a short episode at the end of the 20th century. Even the financial press, and people like George Soros, echoed this sentiment.