collapse of communism in eastern europe

It was Western Europe that invented Eastern Europe as its complementary other half in the eighteenth century, the age of Enlightenment. It was also the Enlightenment, with its intellectual centers in Western Europe, that cultivated and appropriated to itself the new notion of “civilization,” an eighteenth-century neologism, and civilization discovered its complement, within the same continent, in shadowed lands of backwardness, even barbarism. Such was the invention of Eastern Europe. It has flourished as an idea of extraordinary potency since the eighteenth century, neatly dovetailing in our own times with the rhetoric and realities of the Cold War, but also certain to outlive the collapse of Communism, surviving in the public culture and its mental maps. One may begin to understand and confront the idea of Eastern Europe by exploring the intricate historical process that left it embedded and encoded in our culture.
—  Larry Wolff, Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment (1994), 4.
Let’s start with Putin. Any man who actually believes, as Putin has said, that the breakup of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century is caught up in a dangerous fantasy that can’t end well for him or his people. The Soviet Union died because Communism could not provide rising standards of living, and its collapse actually unleashed boundless human energy all across Eastern Europe and Russia. A wise Putin would have redesigned Russia so its vast human talent could take advantage of all that energy. He would be fighting today to get Russia into the European Union, not to keep Ukraine out. But that is not who Putin is and never will be. He is guilty of the soft bigotry of low expectations toward his people and prefers to turn Russia into a mafia-run petro-state — all the better to steal from.