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Hardcover | $29.95 Trade | £20.95 | ISBN: 9780262014656 | 360 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 7 figures, 1 table| October 2010

No Precedent, No Plan

Inside Russia's 1998 Default


In 1998, President Boris Yeltsin’s government defaulted on its domestic debt and Russia experienced a financial meltdown that brought it to the brink of disaster. In No Precedent, No Plan, Martin Gilman offers an insider’s view of Russia’s financial crisis. As the International Monetary Fund’s senior person in Moscow, Gilman was in the eye of the storm. Russia’s policy response to the economic collapse stemming from the disintegration of the Soviet Union was chaotic. Fiscal deficits loomed in anticipation of future budget revenue that never seemed to materialize—despite repeated promises to the IMF. The rapid buildup of sovereign debt would have challenged even a competent government. In the new Russia, with its barely functioning government and no consensus on the path toward democratic and economic transformation, domestic politics trumped economic common sense.

Gilman argues that the debt default, although avoidable, actually spurred Russia to integrate its economy with the rest of the world. In analyzing the ordeal of the 1998 crisis, Gilman suggests that the IMF helped Russia avoid an even greater catastrophe. He details the IMF’s involvement and underscores the unique challenge that Russia presented to the IMF. There really was no precedent, even if economist Joseph Stiglitz and others argued otherwise. In recounting Russia’s emergence from the IMF’s tutelage, Gilman explains how the shell-shocked Russian public turned to Vladimir Putin in search of stability after the trauma of 1998. And although Russia’s own prospects are favorable, Gilman expresses concern that the 1998 Russian default could serve as an unfortunate precedent for sovereign defaults in the future with the IMF once again playing a similar role.

No Precedent, No Plan offers a definitive account—the first from an insider's perspective—of Russia's painful transition to a market economy.

About the Author

Martin Gilman, with the International Monetary Fund from 1981 to 2005, was the IMF's senior representative in Moscow during Russia's period of default and rebuilding. Currently Professor of Economics at Russia's Higher School of Economics, he lives in Moscow with his wife, the distinguished Russian journalist Tatiana Malkina, and their two children.


"1998 will go into history books as one of the most dramatic years in contemporary Russian history. Martin Gilman was at the very center of these remarkable developments, which makes his insider story such fascinating reading."
--Aleksei Mozhin, Executive Director for Russia, International Monetary Fund

"As both a direct participant in Russia's economic transformation and a level-headed, insightful analyst of it, Martin Gilman has written a truly unique book. No Precedent, No Plan highlights the critically important role of state weakness in explaining Russia's trajectory and, by opening up the 'black box' of the state for the reader, makes that often overlooked story compelling and eminently readable."
--Samuel Charap, National Security and International Policy Program, Center for American Progress

"Those who have a stereotypical view of what has happened in Russia since the collapse of the USSR will take no comfort from reading No Precedent, No Plan. Drawing on a unique combination of experience and expertise, Martin Gilman convincingly proves that 'the reality is more complex, and perhaps more troubling.' By putting the story of Russia's struggle for a market economy in broader international and historical context, he makes an invaluable contribution to our view of these critical years in Russia."
--Fyodor Lukyanov, editor, Russia in Global Affairs