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The year 1989 marked a new beginning. The Berlin Wall fell, and with it, the Soviet empire. East Germany was soon absorbed by the Federal Republic of Germany, but other nations in Central and Eastern Europe long held in captivity by the Soviet Union proclaimed their independence. History took still another turn in 1991. The Soviet Union itself disintegrated, and from its ruins a great many new nations emerged in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. All the nations that once constituted the Soviet Union and its empire are now engaged in a reconstructive process of considerable scope and intensity. One dimension of this reconstructive process is economic: the great socialist experiment, in which all the means of production were owned by the state, has been declared a failure. The production of goods and services under socialism lagged behind that of capitalist societies, and in the name of economic efficiency reformers are now transferring the ownership of state enterprises to private hands.

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