Russian President Vladimir Putin told the German television TV channels ARD and ZDF Thursday that freeing the country from the grips of the Soviet machine did not have to end in the dissolution of the USSR. German journalists inquired about Putin's message to the Federal Assembly (parliament) that had mentioned the disintegration of the Soviet Union as a great geopolitical catastrophe. Putin was surprised.
"Germany was unifying, while the Soviet Union was breaking up, and this causes your surprise. Strange," he said. Putin called the break-up a tragedy for 25 million people.
"Just give thought to this figure! This is an absolutely obvious tragedy, linked with the rupture of the ties of relationship and economic links, with the loss of all the savings that people amassed in the bank during their entire lives and a number of other grievous consequences.
Is it not a tragedy for concrete people? Of course, it is a tragedy," he said.
He noted that the changes in the beginning of the 1990s freed Russia from the monopoly rule of one political force.
"It was, in essence, the first step to freedom and democracy. And it certainly gives us a chance to build relations as a normal civilized European nation with all our neighbors in Europe and in the world. And the most important result of these changes is the result of the change of Russian society's internal quality," Putin said.
He also touched on Russia's further development.
"The population must not associate the market economy and democracy with poverty and anarchy, and the market economy must not be associated with an absolute rule by oligarchs who rob millions of people," he said. "The state must support business, must develop mass media, create its own economic base of development for them and build a multi-party system and civil society.
"All this is being done, and we will do it. For this purpose we...are adopting several laws, specifically on development of the municipal level of the administration," Putin said.
"Sure, some people may dislike it, in the past decade some people got accustomed to stealing billions and to use both mass media and some other civil institutions in their group interests," he said.
"But, they must come to understand that, in the final analysis, if such a situation had persisted in Russia, if the development along the oligarchic road had continued, this would have led to such a collapse, which would have buried them, too," Putin said.
After WWII, the Soviet army left Austria, and the latter had always remained a neutral state and never joined NATO
Russia experienced default on August 17, 1998. Today, 20 years after those events, the economic situation in Russia does not seem stable to many