To become a military superpower in the twentieth century, the Soviet system invested heavily in scientific education, especially in the hard sciences.
By the time of the Soviet collapse, literacy rates in Russia creeped close to a hundred percent.
But the Soviet regime could not command people to become entrepreneurs or invent technologies, or found companies needed to prosper in the post-industrial age.
Economic stagnation, as well as ideas to combat it, played a central role in the Soviet Union’s collapse.
The Soviet system’s inability to innovate played a central role in the country’s relative economic decline.
The communist regime could command peasants to become factory workers and thereby drive industrialization, albeit a very inefficient and corrupt form of industrialization.The question of course is a hypothetical, but the answer most certainly seems no.Russians could be much richer today -- the Russian economy as a whole could be much bigger and stronger -- had Russian leaders created the permissive conditions for technological innovation and investment.Part one considers the legacies of the Soviet Union as a possible explanation for Russia’s current conditions.Parts two and three examine more proximate causes of Russia’s economic development, focusing in particular on how the emergence of new political and legal institutions first stimulated and later stifled the growth of the high-tech sector.Some grew directly out the Soviet military industrial complex, including Klimov, Elvis Plus, Khrunichev, and MCST Elbrus.In other high-tech sectors, defense conversion occurred not at the enterprise level but at the individual-level, as employees of Soviet military enterprises left and converted themselves to work as employees for private companies – foreign and domestic – or started their own firms.At times, including most prominently in the 1930s, the Soviet system even seemed to outperform European economies.During the final decades of the communist era, however, the Soviet economy fell back behind the capitalist economies in Europe and elsewhere in the world.And yet, not every talented innovator or technologist left Russia.The legalization of private property and market prices eventually created the permissive conditions for Russian tech companies to emerge.