Friday, April 12, 2024

Is the Russian Federation Set to Fall Apart on Its Own?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 9 – The Congress of the League of Free Nations which took place in Estonia April 6-7 provided not only many insights about the direction such groups are now moving ( but also an occasion to reflect about some larger issues as well.

            A commentary by the IdelReal portal about the meeting ( notes that many who took part in the meeting assume that Russia is about to “fall apart on its own” and that their task is less to struggle for that outcome than to to be prepared to take advantage of that situation once it occurs.

            Indeed, in the minds of many such people, especially those who are now forced to live abroad, there is little they can do otherwise. But one consequence of that they spend a disproportionate amount of time drawing borders on maps and talking about not the immediate tasks but about a much-desired future that will occur only after some unspecified interval.

            On the one hand, such attitudes give their discussions a certain air of unreality that leads most outsiders to dismiss them and their notions as irrelevant. And on the other, they can in at least some cases promote a kind of passivity among those who want such futures, a self-serving feeling that they will be benefit from changes they can’t or at least aren’t working to promote.

            But even more than that, such views reflect a widespread attitude that the future of Russia will be like that of the Soviet Union in 1991, a collapse that in the minds of many happened somehow naturally rather than as the result of the activism of ethnic and regional elites and political struggles at the top.

            Because the collapse of the USSR was so quick and at least for the first few years relatively peaceful, many people both from Russia and the West assume that the same pattern will hold in the future even though the demographics, politics, and attitudes of outside players have changed significantly.

            That Russia faces serious even existential problems and that Vladimir Putin’s policies have put that country on course to disintegrate is certainly true; but when and even if things will go all the way along that road and whether they will do so quickly or only after a very long interval are issues that should be confronted and then acted upon.

            The author of these lines last year offered a discussion of these issues in which I suggested that the approaching end of Russia is far more likely to resemble what happened in 1918 than what happened in 1991 (; a Russian translation is available at

            In that presentation, I argued that the coming collapse is likely to be far more immediately bloody than was 1991 and far more likely to result in the re-assembly of more parts of the empire under a Moscow-centric state even more brutal than the one Putin embodies and that the role of outsiders in this process now as in 1918 may paradoxically lead to that outcome.

            My remarks last year were just one effort to push the discussion into more fruitful directions, and it is my hope that both those who live under Moscow’s yoke and those who would like to see that yoke smashed will focus on some major questions that unfortunately in my view are not being discussed.

            Among these, two are overwhelmingly important at the present time. For activists in or from the regions and republics of the current Russian Federation, the critical issues are simple: What should they be doing now and in the future to promote the demise of the Muscovite state? And what can they do to avoid taking steps that are counterproductive?

            And for those abroad who either recognize that the continued existence of a Putinist Russian Federation is an existential threat to the West and/or want to see a better life for the peoples on the current territory, the questions are even greater: What should they be doing now to promote those ends? And how can they avoid doing so in ways that subvert their own ends?


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