What this thoroughly considered social pyramid did not envision was the sudden onset of capitalism.

Everything surrounding the Soviet citizen was constructed with a specific purpose in mind, but those objectives never included profit making and the accumulation of private wealth.

And yet it is precisely those motives – once rejected by the Soviet Union – that now drive the ruling elite.

This is in part because the higher up a person is in the pyramid, the greater his potential to profit from that position.

Capable managers exploited the methods left over from socialism and built a capitalist system for themselves.

Ordinary citizens were placed in the role of consumers with no right to choose the supplier. Meanwhile, that “supplier” sold them resources and services that were not originally intended for sale.

The result is a business that profits from people, who find themselves in the same pyramid, and same panel houses, only now for money.

Everything has become a business: utilities, the number of parking spaces (of which there are few), the paperwork (of which there is a lot), health care and education, which are unreliable and often inferior. This is a life of few options in a country that lives off exporting resources that were given by nature and discovered and charted by Soviet-era geologists.

The harshness of today’s unjust capitalism is commensurate with the harshness of the unjust socialism that preceded it.

To heal this deep trauma that dictates the entire system of relations in the country, Russia will need an entirely new type of politics.

Has any other country made a similar shift from Soviet socialism to corrupt state capitalism? Even in China, the private sector is expanding, not shrinking as it is here.

It will require giving people the opportunity to live in their own houses, rather than within narrow, identical panel houses.

It means giving citizens the ability to earn enough to follow their own life plan and become masters of their own country.

Maxim Trudolyubov is a senior fellow with the Kennan Institute. This article was originally published in Vedomosti.

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