"On the subject of the former Soviet Union. It's too bad that things turned out the way they did for the Slavish and other peoples of the old Russian Empire. They made a bold step into the future and fell, in slow motion, into a deep hole. "
I disagree. Central planning was the best thing that happened in Eastern Europe, since the Middle Ages, when many countries of the region experienced relative prosperity, before it started sliding down the drain the World System.
The biggest accomplishments was the accelerated economic development that reversed the centuries of backwardness in countries like Poland, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, etc. bringing them more or less to the level comparable to Western Europe. There is still much to be done, but the gap between Eaest and West in Europe is a very narrow one, comparin to that, say, between North and South in the Americas.
More importantly, that quantum leap was accomploshed at a considerably low social cost, especially to the classes that usually carry most of the burden of 'progress'. Standards of living in all EE countries generally were decent (albeit rathr modest), but far better than those in the shanty-towns that are the hallmark of market-schmarket driven development.
By those standards, the introduction of capitalist institutions - market-schmarket and bourgeois democracy to th eregion has been a disaster market by skyrocketing unemplyment, poverty, homelessness, income inequality, crime, and insome cases, civil unrest.
If anything, it was 1989 - not 1945 -- when most EE countries stepped into a a very deep hole.