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Russian Liberal Reformer, Economist Yevgeny Yasin Dies at 89

Yevgeny Yasin. Mikhail Fomichev / TASS

Yevgeny Yasin, a former Russian economy minister, academic and prominent liberal reformer, has died at the age of 89 after a reported illness, his family and colleagues said Monday.

Yasin, born in the Soviet Ukrainian port city of Odesa, headed a Soviet commission on economic reform during the final years of Perestroika and later became a co-author of the aborted 500 Days Program, which laid out a path from communism to a market economy.

He then served as Russia’s economy minister in 1994-97 under President Boris Yeltsin, who rode to power on a wave of widespread discontent with the old Soviet system and reformist enthusiasm.

Yasin began teaching at Russia’s top-ranked Higher School of Economics (HSE) shortly after his time in government and gradually rose through the ranks to become an honorary academic supervisor in 2021.

He had also worked part-time at Moscow State University, where he taught current Russian Central Bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina, who was later seen as his protege at the Russian Economics Ministry.

Yasin also presided over the Liberal Mission Foundation, which serves as a debate platform to promote the values of free market principles and freedom of speech, since its establishment in 2000.

The former economy minister was hospitalized in August with brain swelling and heart complications, according to media reports that his family initially denied.

Yasin died in the northern Moscow suburb of Khimkhi in his daughter’s home, according to Baza, a news channel on the Telegram messaging app believed to have links to Russian law enforcement.

“Shortly before his death, [Yasin] asked doctors to discharge him from the hospital to be with family for his last days,” Baza reported without citing its sources.

Former finance minister Alexei Kudrin described him as “one of the pillars of the Soviet economy’s market transition.”

“[Yasin was] one of the last liberals who hadn’t changed his views,” said Andrei Kolesnikov, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 

Yasin’s daughter, economist Irina Yasina, said a memorial service will be held at HSE’s campus on Thursday.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Yevgeny Yasin taught Elvira Nabiullina at the Higher School of Economics. He taught her at Moscow State University.

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