Russian Politics and Society

By Richard Sakwa | Go to book overview

16Commonwealth, communityand fragmentation

The disappearance of the Soviet superpower, oppressive to its subjects as it was, has created a dangerous imbalance of power among its former components and between them and their neighbours. Possibility of serious conflicts arise. Russia, which by any definition is a Great Power in the classical sense, is bordered by the much weaker states which have broken away from the Soviet structure. As with water, power will find its level.

(Elie Kedourie) 1

While the USSR might have collapsed with relatively little violence, the disintegration of the great empires of the past suggests that the greatest danger comes from conflicts between successor states and the threat of outside powers seeking to take advantage of the power vacuum. The arbitrariness of the borders, the intermingling of populations, and a host of unresolved problems provided fertile ground for conflict. The ambiguities in Russian policy towards the successor states, twelve of which including Russia came to be members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), was one of the main charges against the liberal foreign policy of the early post-communist years. The nature and purpose of the CIS was contested. The CIS was not itself a state in the conventional sense and neither was it a subject of international law. Its member states actively pursued their own independent foreign policies, intended often to distance themselves from their former partners, above all Russia. This distancing tendency by the late 1990s took the form of the establishment of the GUUAM group of states (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova), while Russia itself sought 'ever closer union' with Belarus. Russian policy sought to incorporate the former Soviet states (excluding the three Baltic republics) into an expanded security zone and sphere of vital interests, while the other states sought to defend their sovereignty and independence. (See Table 16.1 for data on area and populations of the former Soviet states.) This chapter briefly examines the evolution of the CIS, Russia's relations with the successor states, and analyses the problem of borders and the vexed question of individual and collective rights in nation- and state-building.


The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)

The CIS did not become the successor state to the USSR, and there is no CIS foreign policy and no CIS 'national interest'. Instead, there are divergent foreign policies in constant uncomfortable interaction with each other. The CIS is not a

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Russian Politics and Society
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures ix
  • Tables x
  • Preface to the Third Edition xi
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Note on Style, Spelling and Transliteration xiv
  • Glossary of Acronyms, Acrostics and Terms xv
  • Part I - The Fall of Communism and the Rebirth of Russia 1
  • 1: Soviet Communism and Its Dissolution 3
  • 2: The Disintegration of the Ussr 27
  • Part II - Political Institutions and Processes 43
  • 3: The New Constitutional Order 45
  • 4: Law and Society 72
  • 5: The Executive 98
  • 6: The Legislature 125
  • 7: Electoral Politics 140
  • 8: Party Development 172
  • Part III - Federalism, Regionalism and Nationalism 201
  • 9: Federalism and the State 203
  • 10: Regional and Local Politics 224
  • 11: National Identity and State-Building 254
  • Part IV - Economy and Society 277
  • 12: Marketising the Economy 279
  • 13: Society and Social Movements 305
  • 14: Cultural Transformation 331
  • Part V - Foreign Policies 347
  • 15: Foreign Policy 349
  • 16: Commonwealth, Community and Fragmentation 375
  • 17: Defence and Security Policy 396
  • Part VI - Dilemmas of Democratisation 423
  • 18: Problems of Transition 425
  • 19: Pluralism, Elites, Regime and Leadership 445
  • 20: Democracy in Russia 463
  • Notes 475
  • Select Bibliography 524
  • Index 527
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