Russian Economist Gaidar: An Appreciation

Yegor Gaidar, an architect of Russia's economic transformation after the collapse of the Soviet Union, died while working on a book at around 3 a.m. today from complications arising from blood clots, his institute said. He was 53.

Gaidar was one of a group of young economists who rose to prominence under late President Boris Yeltsin. He was Yeltsin's economy and finance minister in the final days of the Soviet Union. Following the Soviet collapse, Gaidar briefly served as acting prime minister and finance minister.

In Russia, Gaidar's name is associated most widely with the lifting of state price controls, contributing to inflation rates of more than 1,000 percent that wiped out the savings of millions of Russians.

"Russia's great good fortune was to have Yegor Gaidar at one of the most difficult moments in its history," said Anatoly Chubais, who headed Russia's mass post-Soviet privatization program. "In the early 1990s he saved the country from starvation, civil war and collapse," Chubais said on his LiveJournal page.

Boris Nemtsov, a former first deputy prime minister under Yeltsin and Gaidar's colleague in the Union of Right Forces political party, said Gaidar was a "strong and courageous" leader.

'Bloody Civil War'

"Many people in our country didn't like Gaidar, even hated him," Nemtsov said by telephone. "But back in the 1990s, Gaidar had to choose between a bloody civil war and painful economic reforms. He chose the latter and saved us all."

Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University's Earth Institute, who advised the Russian government in the early 1990s, called Gaidar "the intellectual leader of many of Russia's political and economic reforms" and "one of the few pivotal actors" of the period.

"Gaidar's basic goal was unwavering: to help Russia become a democratic, market-based society," Sachs wrote in a review of Gaidar's book Days of Defeat and Victory, published in the U.S. in 1999.

Gaidar was the grandson of Arkady Gaidar, a popular Soviet author of children's books, and son of Timur Gaidar, a war reporter for the official Communist Party newspaper, Pravda.

He headed the Moscow-based Institute for the Economy in Transition.

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