This article approaches failure through the lens of the ruination, residue, and debris that accumulated during the Soviet construction in northern Siberia. My focus is on the ambivalence of ruination and incomplete construction. I argue that debris as material and documentary product of the Soviet project is not merely an important component of the Soviet developmental machine but also a device for naming otherness—in particular, the imperial debris, the “enemies of the people,” and the resilience of “tradition.”
Even relative transition successes in the postcommunist world were directly linked with the integration of countries in transition into Western institutions. In Russia, this issue has never been given much thought. And now that the liberal world order is eroding, it is losing its relevance completely, as there is nothing to integrate with. Moreover, changes in the West itself indicate that a transition can go not only from authoritarianism to democracy but also vice versa. So Russia will most likely have to look for a different coordinate system for its inevitable transformation.
For 30 years, it was generally accepted that the globalizing world was entering a new, universal stage of democratization. Russia was meant to become a showcase of transition from an authoritarian system to a market-based democracy. However, almost from the beginning, Russia’s path deviated from the preset course and later drifted farther away from it. A combination of its unique geopolitical position, the sense of military-political “great power-ness,” a national focus on the primacy of sovereignty, and the socioideological crisis in the West rendered irrelevant the question of Russia’s “transitology.” Its imminent transformation will proceed in its own way.