The Age of Pandemic: Year Two. The Future Is Back || The Annual Report of the Valdai Discussion Club
Report_The Age of Pandemic
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There is something liberating about irreversibility. Certainty can cause some unease at the beginning, but as one gets to understand and accept what is going on, it can even provide comfort and a respite from having to busy one’s brain with strategy, creating an opening to focus on tactics instead. Having no alternative is also a relief, especially if the only way forward is at the same time the only right option. The necessity to choose once again and deal with new complex bifurcations may come as a shock, and the impossibility to keep following the beaten trail may be frightening. However, it is also an opportunity to take a different path instead of staying on the one that possibly ends in an impasse.

The 2020 coronavirus pandemic occurred during one of the most lasting and overall quite stable periods of universal peace. In fact, there have been no major wars in 75 years. It is for this reason that some tend to compare the pandemic’s impact with the ravages of the last global confl ict. However, while wars are caused by people, this is not the case for the pandemic, which makes it impossible to inscribe its consequences into the matrix of interstate power relations.

Accordingly, unlike global conflicts that lead to the emergence of a new hierarchy and a world order that conforms to this hierarchy, no such thing happens with the pandemic.

Never before in its history has the world witnessed a pandemic of this scale. Never before has there been a shock of such magnitude not caused by a major war, and that would top the global political agenda. Largely, the pandemic became a watershed moment in the global redistribution of power, as well as for the liberal market economy and the capitalist system, at pains to overcome their growing fatigue and weariness. The potential for change was already there even before the pandemic. All it needed was an impulse that took the shape of the unexpected infection outbreak. The pandemic matters to no lesser extent in itself, regardless of the preceding developments. It emerged as a universal challenge for almost all countries around the globe, testing everyone’s responses, representations and capabilities determined by the algorithms underpinning modern state behaviour. Most countries took identical action from the onset of the pandemic, but the results they achieved down the road varied greatly.

Almost two years have passed since this strange virus turned into a global pandemic, and so much has been written on this subject, that delving into it one more time may seem unnecessary, considering that even the Valdai Discussion Club has already published two reports[1] in which we tried to assess the ongoing developments and even look into the future, even if we presented our vision as a utopia, but why not?

We opted for a utopia due to the forward-looking nature of this concept. It can be argued that the return of the future is one of the key consequences of the pandemic. This future can take multiple paths, the events can unfold under various scenarios and bring about a great variety of wide-ranging outcomes.

Programme of the 18th Annual Meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club
The COVID-19 pandemic has become a global shake-up. The source of the disease itself is extremely unpleasant, but it is not the most dangerous and destructive virus compared to those that have been encountered in history. However, the epidemiological force majeure coincided with an urgent need to change the existing order.

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[1] See: Oleg Barabanov, Timofei Bordachev, Yaroslav Lissovolik, Fyodor Lukyanov, Andrey Sushentsov, Ivan Timofeev Staying Sane in a Crumbling World. Valdai Club Report. URL:; Oleg Barabanov, Timofei Bordachev, Yaroslav Lissovolik, Fyodor Lukyanov, Andrey Sushentsov, Ivan Timofeev History, To Be Continued: The Utopia of a Diverse World. Valdai Club Annual Report. URL: