Image: Alexander Petrosyan
One of the most superficially compelling arguments of those who insist that the Russian Federation will never fall apart is that no one can imagine a scenario for such a development like that which led to the disintegration of the Soviet Union a quarter of a century ago.
Unlike the USSR, those who make these arguments say, the non-Russian republics within the Russian Federation lack the resources, including in many cases an external border, and the constitutional right that allowed the Soviet union republics to go their own way as independent countries.
But such arguments, however correct they may be if one accepts their assumptions that only Soviet arrangements made the collapse of the USSR possible, miss the point because the disintegration of the Russian Federation if and when it occurs will take place on a very different basis and with very different factors in play than was the case with the USSR in 1991.
Igor Zhordan, an Israel-based Russian commentator, argues in an essay on the AfterEmpire.info portal that although the number of possible variants for the demise of the Russian Federation is incalculably large, the basic features of such a scenario are quite clear.
He first presents an outline of the factors he sees being involved and then discusses some of the ways in which this process could develop. His basic outline is as follows:
“Moscow runs out of money and the central powers are made ever more powerless;
The weakening of the central powers reveals the extraordinary diversity in the development and way of life of the regions;
On this basis, some event occurs which interrupts the gradual nature of the process and leads to a qualitative leap toward the disintegration of the Russian Federation;
The disintegration proceeds on the basis of two equal but mutually dependent processes: the rise of inter-regional conflicts, the goal of which is the subordination of the weak regions by the strong and the rise of inter-regional unions intended to stand up against their neighbors.
These unions will be the basis of future independent states on the former territory of the Russian Federation, and their formation will be affected by the following factors: geographic propinquity, the presence of at least one region, ‘the economic locomotive,’ which will serve as the core of the unified area, a common religious faith, and ethnic commonality, although this last will be less important than other factors.”
On the former territory of the Russian Federation will gradually be formed new states, including several ‘ethnically Russian’ ones.”
Zhordan devotes most of his essay to discussing the various possible modalities of this process. Many of his specific ideas will strike Russians and others as fantastic. But he has provided a real service by outlining how the Russian Federation could disintegrate and in a very different but nonetheless fateful way than the demise of the USSR.
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