The post–New Year holidays in Russia have brought less joy or happy expectations than usual to the country’s elites, the urban middle classes and even to Russia’s millions of labor migrants. Over the past 15 years, all these groups shared in the country’s prosperity, which had grown steadily since President Boris Yeltsin resigned and made Vladimir Putin his successor. The crisis of 2008–2009 delivered only a short interruption to this increase in incomes and fortunes, though the mass protests in 2012 revealed growing discontent among liberal-minded “creative classes” in Moscow. The year 2014, on the other hand, began with optimistic anticipations of success focused on the Sochi Winter Olympics. The Games were, indeed, spectacular; but the serious escalation of the Ukraine crisis immediately after the Olympics’ Closing Ceremonies swiftly and profoundly altered Russia’s trajectory. Moscow’s aggressive actions against its western neighbor brought Russia into a sharp confrontation with the West, which has evolved into the current economic disaster (Kommersant, December 26, 2014).
The rest of the article is in Eurasia Daily Monitor, January 5 2015.