November/December 2010

Andrei Illarionov’s Busy Year

When he’s not on a plane, flying from one corner of the world to another, Andrei Illarionov, senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, is on the phone. This workaholic champion of market democracy is Russia’s leading libertarian, a former chief economic adviser to Vladimir Putin, and now a force in Russia’s pro-liberty opposition. His colleagues find Illarionov still at his desk when everyone else is headed home for the night — and still there as they arrive again in the morning.

This overwhelming productivity isn’t new for Illarionov. Before leaving the Kremlin in 2005 in protest over Putin’s authoritarian policies, Illarionov was instrumental in reducing government expenditures, cutting red tape, liberalizing the Russian economy, creating the Stabilization Fund, and bringing Russia into full membership in the G- 8. He’s published three books and more than 300 articles on Russian economic and social policies.

Illarionov remains Russia’s leading voice for liberty, a role he retains even though the government prevents him from appearing on television and limits his access to newspapers and radio. With those mainstream sources cut off, much of Illarionov’s advocacy flows through his hugely popular Russian language blog, one of the top 100 blogs in the country. It was there that he broke many crucial facts about the airplane crash at Smolensk in April that claimed the lives of Polish president Lech Kachinsky and almost 100 members of the Polish political and military elite.

He also travels. Since 2009, Illarionov has given lectures in Britain, Germany, Belgium, Poland, Slovenia, Macedonia, Estonia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Mexico, and Peru — as well as Chicago, New York, Charlottesville, Bozeman, and Washington, D.C. He spoke about the global financial crisis, the necessary conditions for freedom, democracy’s impact on economic growth, communism’s heritage and the post-communist world, the Russian-Georgian War, and the questionable science of global warming alarmism.

So much time in the air and behind the lectern hasn’t prevented him from spending much of the last year studying what he terms “the Russia Puzzle,” the combination of economic growth occurring simultaneously with the government’s destruction of the institutions of civil society. This has led Illarionov to begin work on a book that will trace how Russia had diverged from the path of political and social evolution familiar to the modern civilized world. Much of this huge endeavor has already appeared as articles Illarionov authored for journals, including “The Siloviki in Charge,” published in the April 2009 issue of the Journal of Democracy.