It has become a tradition to convene the Gaidar Forum at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration at the start of the new year, just after the holidays. The event brings together renowned experts, government representatives, public and political figures, and business leaders from different countries.
The Gaidar Forum is often referred to as the ‘Russian Davos’ by the Russian media, and justly so. For foreign guests, the forum is an important source of information about the key social, economic and political trends, the environment for doing business and the investment climate in Russia. For Russian experts, participation in the Gaidar Forum is a way to assess the prospects for economic growth in Russia and for the country’s integration into the global economy.
Due to the epidemiological situation, the 2021 Forum will support both in-person and remote participation where experts and speakers will hold panel discussions at the Moscow campus of the Presidential Academy, while other participants will watch the sessions online. The discussion topics will include economic policy, challenges to healthcare and education, the employment market and foreign economic activities agenda, public administration and digitalization, environmental issues, entrepreneurship and regional development, potential points of growth, as well as other relevant issues.
Yegor Timurovich Gaidar, a prominent Russian economist, politician and statesman, was born on March 19, 1956.
Gaidars’ grandfathers were two popular Soviet writers, Arkady Gaidar and Pavel Bazhov. His father, Timur Gaidar, was a well-known journalist, writer, war correspondent and Rear-Admiral. Gaidar’s mother was historian Ariadna Bazhova. Yegor was raised in a family with deep-rooted values that included courage, self-respect, independence and sense of duty.
Gaidar spent his early childhood years in Moscow. Later, shortly before the Caribbean crisis, his parents moved to Cuba taking him along. Much later, he cast back his mind to that journey. "...The still functionable, unruined American touristic civilization is combined with a genuine festive revolutionary enthusiasm of the winners, crowds, rallies, songs, carnivals... My room in hotel Riomar overlooks the Gulf of Mexico; there is a swimming pool below, and side by side with it, an artillery battery. The building where diplomats and experts from the Eastern Europe live is occasionally fired at. Our battery returns fire. From my window, I can see the slogan „Motherland or Death“ in yellow neon and „We shall win!“ in blue neon. The cleaning woman puts aside her gun and takes a mop," he wrote.
Behind the festive facade of the Cuban revolution, manifestations of economic problems were evident even to a child. Food supplies became irregular, and rationing system was introduced; manifestations of turmoil and careless and irresponsible work were all around. "There are piles of rotting fruits 100 kilometers away from Havana. It is forbidden to bring and sell them here — it is called profiteering. I don’t understand why it is like this. And no one can explain it."
In 1966, as a correspondent for the Bolshevik newspaper Pravda (The Truth), Timur Gaidar and his family went to Yugoslavia. Yegor, sober-minded and erudite beyond his years, a teenager with an adult worldview, came to European Belgrade. Yugoslavia at that time was an impressive place: it was the only country with a socialist market economy and was implementing economic reforms; people there were discussing the most sensitive issues. Yegor took a great interest in philosophy and history, read a lot and studied the fundamental works of the Marxism classics on his own at the age of 12. To his surprise, he soon discovered that behind the emasculated formal ideological facade, there were depth, talent and imagination of those prominent thinkers of that period. Yegor described his impressions in a letter to his grandmother: "It is all so fascinating and brilliant but it can be so badly dulled and dogmatized."
In Yugoslavia, Yegor spent a lot of time studying numerous books on philosophy, economy and law that were forbidden in the Soviet Union. He spoke with his father’s friends and colleagues almost as an equal, discussing the problems of the Soviet economy and society with a frankness unheard of in the Soviet Union. On his very own, Gaidar came to "...an understanding of the need to put an end to the bureaucracy’s monopoly on property. And then, to move from the bureaucratic state socialism to a market socialism, based on a functional self-government, broad rights of workers’ associations, market mechanisms and competition."
In 1971, the Gaidar family returned to Moscow and Yegor went to school No. 152, one of the best schools in the city, with an extraordinary and pleasant creative atmosphere. School was easy — Yegor had a phenomenal memory that quickly absorbed figures, facts and historical events. In 1973, he graduated with a gold medal and enrolled in the Economic Faculty of the Lomonosov Moscow State University where he majored in Industrial Economics. Gaidar wrote in his book Days of Defeat and Victory: "...The essential task of education is to train experts capable of substantiating all the changing decisions of the party with references to the respected founders of Marxism-Leninism theory. Studying is easy because I know the basic works well. Having the quotations at my fingertips is as easy as the ABC."
Gaidar got married during his second year at the University. It was the beginning of an independent adult life. He considered it unbecoming to take money from his parents and started making money on his own, trying to make time after classes. In 1978, Gaidar graduated with honors and continued to a postgraduate course. After defending his PhD thesis on Estimated figures in the mechanism of cost accounting in production associations (enterprises), Gaidar was placed on a job at the Scientific Research Institute of System Analysis of the Soviet Academy of Sciences.
The year 1980 brought the war in Afghanistan; Andrey Sakharov was sent into exile; 45 countries boycotted the 22nd Olympic Games in Moscow. In Poland, Lech Walesa founded the Solidarity independent trade union; in the United States, republican Ronald Reagan left his competitors in the presidential election far behind. The world was changing fast, and only the Soviet Union seemed to be the same.
In the beginning of the 1980s, a group of young scholars led by Dr. Stanislav Shatalin, which also included Yegor Gaidar, Pyotr Aven, Oleg Ananyin, and Vyacheslav Shironin, worked on the comparative analysis of the results of economic reforms in the social camp countries. At the time, the institute turned into one of the centers that worked on economic reform projects: there were various ideas in the air, almost liberal ones, and the discourse went far beyond the scope of Marxist political economy. Quite soon, Gaidar was absolutely convinced that the country should start market reforms, initiate self-regulation mechanisms and reduce the state presence in the economy as soon as possible.
In 1983, Gaidar met Anatoly Chubais, the informal leader of a group of economists at the Leningrad Economic Engineering Institute. A group of young and energetic people quickly formed around them — they were all united by an interest in studying the processes underway in the economy and society and finding ways of transformation consistent with the real situation in the country. Yegor Gaidar was unanimously acknowledged as the informal leader of that community.
From 1984 onwards, Gaidar and his colleagues worked with documents of the Political Bureau Commission on Improvement of Administration of National Economy.
The new generation of the Political Bureau members, led by Mikhail Gorbachev, was interested in the Commission’s work, which was to prepare a moderate program of economic transformations modelled after Hungarian reforms of the late 1960s. The young economists were preparing their proposals assuming the authorities were willing to actually carry out the reforms before the threat of catastrophic self-destruction became a reality. But the Political Bureau was unwilling to listen to them. Later Gaidar recalled being told, "You seem to want to build market socialism. Is it so? Forget it! It would not fit with the political realities."
That seemed to close the issue. Nevertheless, in 1986, Shatalin’s group received a tempting proposition: it was transferred from the Institute of System Analysis to the Institute of Economics and Prognosis of Scientific and Technological Progress of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, in which Gaidar quickly became the head researcher. A half-underground seminar of economists — advocates of market economy was held at the Zmeinaya Gorka tourist camp of the Leningrad Financial Economic Institute. Its participants were well aware of the Soviet economic realities and understood that the administrative market, drowned in bureaucracy, required urgent fundamental reformation. The participants were Yegor Gaidar, Anatoly Chubais, Sergey Vasiliev, Pyotr Aven, Sergey Ignatiev, Vyacheslav Shironin, Oleg Ananyin, Konstantin Kagalovsky, Georgy Trofimov, Yury Yarmagaev and others — a total of 30 people. The most forbidden topics were discussed in a narrow circle. "We all acutely feel the emerging freedom, a space for scientific research, for a real study of the processes that are underway in the economy," Gaidar recalled. "Everyone agrees with the necessity of well-organized reforms which could prepare the Soviet economy for a gradual restoration of market mechanisms and private property. But at the same time, we realize that it will be incredibly difficult."
The start of the reform was prevented by ideological taboos, censure and general inertia of the worn-out state mechanisms and unable to face the modern challenges. It was at that moment that the incredible happened: the higher political authorities covertly allowed the start of a public discussion on the most important political issues. The results did not take long to appear — the articles taking up the front pages of major state newspapers scared the censors who had lost their guidelines...
In 1986, Ivan Frolov, full member of the Academy of Sciences and an old acquaintance of Gorbachev, was appointed to head the Communist journal. He immediately reshuffled the editorial board and invited renowned economist Otto Latsis as First Deputy Chief Editor. Otto Latsis had been disfavored for a long time. Now all of a sudden, Latsis offered Gaidar the position as Head of Economic Department at the journal. Gaidar later wrote: "I realize there is no way our pieces of writing can change the dangerous chain of mistakes destabilizing the national economy... One gets the impression that the authorities simply do not understand what is going on, are not aware of the consequences of their ill-advised decisions. In these conditions, an opportunity to have a say on strategic issues on the pages of such an influential publication as Communist is a great piece of luck."
As the Economics editor at Communist, and later at Pravda, the ‘armchair scientist,’ widely known albeit in a very narrow circle, suddenly found himself in the focus of attention and received a real opportunity to get his ideas across to a wide audience, and to raise the most urgent problems that demanded immediate action.
Those reform-minded economists still had a hope that the necessary changes could be implemented smoothly, without applying any radical measures. According to numerous accounts, even Yegor Gaidar, whose name is forever inextricably linked with the shock therapy policy in the economy, initially intended to use a very different scenario. Up until the late 1980s, he was committed to consecutive transformations that could be implemented in the Soviet economy on the basis of Yugoslavia and Hungary’s experience. But as time went by, the government’s indecision and half-measures only worsened the situation.
A close-knit team of future reformers, led by Yegor Gaidar, took shape in the course of several seminars in 1987-1989. The idea of the near unavoidable collapse of the Soviet Union was expressed then. At first, Gaidar did not consider giving up the socialist model of the economy, but later, he realized there was no chance they could find a peaceful solution for the piled-up problems: the failure of the 500 Days state program closed this issue. In July 1990, he discussed a radical reform program at a meeting with western economists in the Hungarian city of Sopron for the first time. The shock therapy — a liberalization of prices, privatization, financial stabilization, reduction of government spending, and curbing hyperinflation — seemed necessary and unavoidable because of a systemic crisis the country was struggling with. Gaidar’s team received complete confirmation of their research from international experts, but those findings hardly gave them any satisfaction: the path ahead was hard and thorny.
By the beginning of the 1990s, Gaidar was already an economist with sustainable academic reputation, PhD, an experienced polemicist, public figure, founder and permanent director of the Institute for Economic policy of the Academy of National Economy and the Academy of National Economy of the USSR, later renamed the Institute for the Economy in Transition. He had a nice family, was absolutely happy in his new marriage with Maria Strugatskaya, his first childhood love. He had a successful carrier, his life was running along its appointed course, and he expected no problems... In 1991, Gaidar spent his summer holidays in Krasnovidovo with his family, writing a long-planned book.
On the early morning on August, 19, he was woken up by the news of a military coup — Gorbachev was arrested, and tanks drove into Moscow. Television broadcasted a declaration of the self-proclaimed State Committee on the State of Emergency. But the true scale of those events was unclear back then.
Gaidar immediately went to Moscow, reflecting on the possible consequences of the current events on his way: "An ‘enlightened dictatorship’ or a ‘Russian Pinochet’ are unlikely. There will be bloodshed, like in Pinochet’s time, even more bloodshed. But it will be all in vain. The conspirators don’t have a single rational idea on how to fix the economy that is falling apart. In a year, maybe two or three — not more — the struggling country will have to develop a market, but not the easy way. It will be a thousand times harder. A year, maybe two or even five — for history, it is but a moment. And for those who live today? How many of them will survive these years unscathed?"
Back at the institute, Gaidar cancelled his own order suspending the party organization’s activity and convened a party meeting. There were two issues on the agenda: the institute’s staff abandoning the party because of the attempted coup d’etat supported by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the USSR and the ensuing liquidation of the party group at the institute. By the evening, all of his team gathered outside the White House, Russia’s parliament building, and joined the crowd there; people had come to protect their right to choose their own future.
"Despite the flying tricolor flags of Russia and triumphant crowds, I am seriously concerned for the future of the country," Yegor Gaidar wrote. "What has happened is without doubt a liberal anti-communist revolution, provoked by the inflexibility and recklessness of the ruling elite. Any revolution is always a terrible experience and a great risk for the country."
On the same evening, Yegor Gaidar met State Secretary of the RSFSR Gennady Burbulis, one of the most influential figures on the first Russian President’s team. This acquaintance abruptly changed both men’s lives: it was Burbulis who later persuaded Yeltsin to entrust Gaidar’s team with drafting the reform program. Until then, the idea of Gaidar undertaking the practical administration of the economy had been only discussed in the academic circles as a joke; now, the situation was absolutely different. By the early 1990s, Gaidar and his team were easily the only expert group that had deeply studied the opportunities for an economic reform and estimated the possible case scenarios. Despite the very limited time and incredible stress, they had a new clear reform concept to propose and were ready to start acting carefully, decisively and responsibly.
In October 1991, Russian President Boris Yeltsin decided to appoint a government made of reformers from Gaidar’s team. The entire economic part of Yeltsin’s address at the fifth Congress of People’s Deputies of the RSFSR was prepared by Gaidar’s team. The Congress passed a resolution that approved the reform concept and elected Yeltsin to head the RSFSR Government. On November 6, 1991, Gaidar was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy and Finance responsible for all economic and financial issues by a Presidential order.
On January 2, 1992, despite the pressure from their political opponents, the government liberalized prices for industrial and agricultural products. That was followed by the Executive Order on free trade and faster privatization of state enterprises. The situation changed dramatically: a free market began to emerge on the ruins of the Soviet command economy. The first results came very fast: the commodity stock, which in January dropped to less than a half of the December 1990 level, grew to 75% of that level by June 1992; at the same time, prices skyrocketed by 3.5 times and monthly inflation was a two-digit figure, though it had slowed down a little. In an attempt to restrain hyperinflation caused by the uncontrolled emission of rubles over the recent Soviet years, the government initiated unpopular measures such as serious cuts in public spending, termination of subsidizing of retail prices and introducing the value added tax. Although these measures allowed the government to run a deficit-free budget in the first quarter of 1992, they also triggered off massive popular discontent.
The Supreme Soviet’s refusal to appoint Yegor Gaidar Chairman of the Council of Ministers can be marked as the start of an outright conflict between the two branches. It climaxed in an acute constitutional crisis in the second half of 1993 caused by their antipodal views on Russia’s constitutional system and the course of economic transformations, the Supreme Soviet’s procrastination in decision-making and repudiation of its obligations undertaken earlier. The nationwide vote of confidence in President Yeltsin (known as the Yes-Yes-No-Yes Referendum after the Presidential supporters’ campaign slogan) was ignored, the reforms were de facto rolled back, and the work on the new Constitution was postponed.
In September 1993, almost a year after his high-profile resignation, Gaidar returned to the government as a Deputy Minister on Economic Issues in Viktor Chernomyrdin’s cabinet. It became clear to him that agreeing with the Supreme Soviet’s policy meant scrapping all the reform achievements and going back to square one — to the ruined Soviet economy. Gaidar decided to support the President whatever happened.
The tragic events of October 1993, the armed conflict between the supporters of the President and the Supreme Soviet ended the protracted constitutional crisis. Very soon, rallies evolved into organized anti-government protests. The general confusion and the law enforcement’s inaction exacerbated the conflict; there was a feeling of an impending catastrophe in the air.
In those circumstances, Gaidar acted decisively — it was the first and last time he ever called upon civilians to take to the streets to protect the elected President’s legitimacy. "I remember the crowd on Tverskaya Square, and it probably was the most beautiful crowd I’ve ever seen in my life because of the people, their faces and so on. I took on a huge responsibility; I realized that these people could die, many of them could die, and that I would be responsible for it, it would be on me forever. But I knew I could not let myself do otherwise..."
After the rally of the President’s and government’s supporters in front of the Mossovet building on Tverskaya on October 3, the sentiment among Yeltsin’s supporters changed substantially: there was no more confusion. The new Russian leaders took decisive actions and stormed the House of Soviets with elite tanks and special forces, arrested of Ruslan Hasbulatov, Alexander Rutskoy and other active supporters of the Supreme Soviet.
After October 1993, the new government began to dismantle the Soviet system, and eventually the new Constitution of the Russian Federation was adopted at a referendum on December 12, 1993, which consolidated Russia as a presidential republic. To overcome the dual power deadlock, the country had to go through bloodshed, and the level of responsibility for those events is still the subject of heated debate.
In early 1994, Yegor Gaidar was elected to the first State Duma, the country’s new lower house of parliament. As one of the key reformers, he took an active part in putting together a party that ensured political support for the reforms. He was one of the founders of the Choice of Russia bloc, the head of the largest parliamentary party in the first State Duma, chairman of the Democratic Choice of Russia party, a co-chair of the Union of Right Forces party and a deputy of the third State Duma.
After being elected to parliament, Gaidar quit his work in the government, but still had influence on the subsequent cabinets of ministers and contributed to all significant reform decisions in Russia’s recent history. Gaidar founded and headed the Institute of Economy in Transition, retaining his importance in transitology — the study of the social and economic transition from one political regime to another.
According to Anatoly Chubais, "take any subsystem of our country’s economy, and each one would be either described by Gaidar or his institute, or developed with his active involvement."One of the key aspects of his life was writing books and articles in which Yegor Gaidar analyzed his own activities and studied patterns observed in society’s transition and emergence of new social and economic institutes, and the forms and features of young economies’ rapid growth.
Reflecting on his perception of time, Gaidar wrote: "Perhaps, the most difficult part of adapting to being in the government, especially while going through an extreme crisis, is a radical change in your time management. A scholar plans his work in terms of years, months and weeks. An advisor, in terms of hours and days. A head of government has to do with seconds — minutes, if he’s lucky. Having a couple of hours to think and get consult is almost luxury."
Yegor Gaidar lived his life during a period dense with epoch-making changes, and was an active participant and architect of those transformations. He devoted himself entirely to doing what he believed was just and right till his very last day.
The Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA) was established by President Dmitry Medvedev’s Executive Order No. 1140 of September 20, 2010 and Government Resolution No. 1562-r September 23, 2010. The founder of the Academy is the Russian Federation represented by the Government.
RANEPA was established through a merger of the Academy of National Economy under the Government of the Russian Federation (ANE) and the Russian Academy of Public Administration under the President of the Russian Federation (RAPA) and a number of regional civil service academies.www.ranepa.com
The Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy (IEP, the Gaidar Institute) was founded in the late 1990s (the Institute of Economic Policy of the Academy of National Economy and the USSR Academy of Sciences; later, the Institute for the Economy in Transition). Yegor Gaidar led the institute until December 2009.
Although the Gaidar Institute has had its ups and downs, its projects have always enjoyed high demand from the country’s political and economic elites. Its research fellows successfully combine theoretical research and applied economic and political studies and strongly believe that all theoretical insights should be developed to draft laws or resolutions.
The Gaidar Institute is involved in fundamental as well as applied research. Its core areas of research are macroeconomics and finance; the real sector; institutional development, ownership and corporate governance; political economy and regional development; and legal studies (including the Association of Innovative Regions of Russia (AIRR)).www.iep.ru/en/
The purpose of AIRR is to provide assistance in economic interaction between its member regions based on a comprehensive representation of their interests at the interregional, federal and international levels.
The AIRR includes 17 most innovative constituent regions of the Russian Federation, including: The Republics of Bashkortostan, Mordovia, Sakha (Yakutia), and Tatarstan; the Altai Territory, Krasnoyarsk Territory, and Perm Territory; the Irkutsk, Kaluga, Lipetsk, Novgorod, Nizhny Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Samara, Tomsk, Tyumen, and Ulyanovsk regions.
The AIRR regions account for:
The AIRR regions have over 300 innovative infrastructure facilities, including regional engineering centers, technology parks, industrial parks, business incubators, innovative territorial clusters and others that account for almost a half of all such facilities operating in the Russian Federation.www.i-regions.org/eng/