I don’t think they misunderstood anything

From The Invention of Russia (2015) by Arkady Ostrovsky:

The new class of businessmen that emerged from the rubble of the Soviet economy thought of themselves as the champions of capitalism as they understood it. In some ways they were the victims of Soviet propaganda that portrayed capitalism as a cutthroat, cynical system where craftiness and ruthlessness were more important than integrity, where everyone screws each other and money is the only arbiter of success.

Russian capitalism was far removed from the concept of honest competition and fair play or Weber’s Protestant ethics. It was not built on a centuries-long tradition of private property, feudal honor and dignity. In fact, it hardly had any foundations at all, other than the Marxist-Leninist conception of private property as theft. Since Russia’s new businessmen favored property, they did not mind theft. The words conscience, morality and integrity were tainted by ideology and belonged to a different language — one that was used by their fathers’ generation. “For us these were swear-words which the Soviet system professed in its slogans while killing and depriving people,” Vladimir Yakovlev said.

The tenets of socialism were removed only to reveal a vacuum of morals — in itself the result of the Soviet experiment in breeding a new being. The transition from Soviet to post-Soviet society was accompanied by a change in perception of what makes one succeed in life. In 1988, 45 percent of the country felt it was “diligence and hard work.” In 1992 only 31 percent felt these would get you anywhere. The factors that gained importance were “good connections,” “dexterity” and “being a good wheeler-dealer.” The first Russian businessmen had all those qualities and boasted about them.

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