The Soviet Union ran on a command economy. To a great extent, it was isolated from the rest of the world economy. When the Soviet Union came apart in 1991, it had to reconstruct its economy to work with the rest of the world. That would never have been easy.
But as Gorbachev was rightly blamed for the breakup of the Soviet Union, the economic mess of the 1990s was not his fault. However, blame for one meant blame for the other to many ordinary citizens.
Paul Krugman offers economic information from 1990s Russia to show why Russians might have been angry. It was bad.
Many Russians lost all their savings. The way enterprises were privatized built the oligarch class.
Could it have been done better? Many of the satellites and former republics managed softer landings. A team from Harvard University advised the Russian government on economic “shock therapy.” The US Congress, led by Newt Gingrich’s Republicans, would have nothing to do with a Marshall Plan for the former Soviet Union. They barely were willing to fund a pittance for helping Russia to make its nuclear inventory safe.
Many Russians blame Gorbachev.
Cross-posted to Lawyers, Guns & Money