This de facto
privatization of assets, which technically were still regarded as
public, gave many representatives of the
opportunities and unfair advantages to enrich themselves at the
state’s expense by exploiting state assets in their control. They
were now the new class of the rich, a powerful economic and
political elite. All they needed was to legitimate their property
ownership in the eyes of the population. The legalization of their
propertied status was achieved during the next stage of the
ownership transformation, which was officially sponsored by
official privatization program itself consisted of two stages. The
first stage began in late 1991 and was completed by the end of 1994.
It was called “people’s privatization” or “voucher privatization”
and was associated with Anatoly Chubais (b. 1955), the
minister in charge of privatization in Gaidar’s government. Over
three to four years the mass of state-owned enterprises was to be
transformed into joint-stock companies, sold to or distributed among
the country’s citizens. A privatization on such scale and within
such time limits was unprecedented in world economic history.
government strove hard to give the semblance of “people’s
privatization” to its program. However, it proved to be little more
than a simulation of a popular redivision of state assets among the
entire population of the Russian Federation. Every single member of
Russia’s 150 million-strong citizenry, from newborn babies to
old-age pensioners, was to be given a privatization voucher, which
conferred the right to own shares.
The value of
the voucher was fixed at the end of 1991, when the government could
not foresee the scale of inflation that would be inaugurated by the
price liberalization in January 1992. One voucher was worth 10,000 roubles,
which at the time was a substantial sum of money, equivalent to
approximately half the price of a popular Lada car. The reformers
hoped that the voucher’s high value would cushion the adverse
effects of price liberalization on consumers’ savings and thus help
to diffuse their resentment.
envisaged that in 1993 the population would be given the opportunity
to either sell their vouchers for cash or use them to buy shares in
privatized companies. But price liberalization and the consequent
rate of inflation rapidly devalued the voucher. By the end of 1993
it had become worthless: 10,000 roubles
could now buy just three or four bottles of vodka.