Twenty years after the beginnings of the metamorphosis of Russia, its society remains deeply divided. Personal freedoms have been largely acquired but the conversion to a market economy has led to the pauperisation of a large part of the population as well as a widespread feeling that public order has collapsed. Vladimir Putin's regime is seeking a synthesis which reconciles liberalism with an attachment, still lively, to certain Soviet values. On the domestic political scene, this synthesis involves re-establishing public order while guaranteeing freedoms. But in the face of problems with setting up an efficientpublic administration, Vladimir Putin has concentrated above all on political order, attacking the counter-veiling powers of regional bosses, the Parliament and Russia's big-time capitalists. Arbitrary tactics have been employed against the "oligarchs", which are damaging to the freedom of expression and the investment climate. This constitutes a step backwards for the spirit of freedom which has characterised Russia's reforms since Gorbachev. Does this herald a pause in the reform process?
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