Staunton, February 11 – Even before he was chosen to lead the CPSU and hence the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev in December 1984 said he opposed the kind of megaprojects Soviet leaders had used up to then and favored instead more balanced development, a shift in attitude that informed his subsequent decision to block Siberian river diversion.
His decision had other consequences as well: it eliminated one of the means Soviet leaders had used to promote patriotic feelings, and it reduced one of the main channels of the inter-regional transfer of resources. But it gave rise to the hope that Moscow would not sacrifice services for the Soviet population on the altar of such leadership projects.
Both Gorbachev and his first Russian successor Boris Yeltsin followed that approach, the first out of conviction and the second because of the absence of resources or agreement on what might be done. But now as the Sochi Olympiad shows, Yeltsin’s successor, Vladimir Putin, clearly wants to return to the megaproject approach.