The realistic scenarios of the Russian collapse that we must be prepared for
After the large-scale invasion of the Russian troops in Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the topic of the possible collapse of the Russian Federation into several independent states gained popularity in the Ukrainian and Western media. The amount of this speculation is increasing with the success of the Ukrainian Armed Forces at the front and the problems that have arisen in the Russian army.
In September 2022, when our army managed to recapture the territory of Kharkiv Oblast from the Russians, General Ben Hodges said that the world must be prepared for the collapse of the Russian Federation, likening its possible collapse to the disintegration of the USSR, because the West was not ready. In early January 2023, several major publications at once (Politico, Foreign Policy, The New York Sun, The Sunday Guardian) devoted articles and commentary to the topic of Russian disintegration. The main newsmakers on this topic in Ukraine are the secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Oleksii Danylov and the head of military intelligence Kyrylo Budanov, who from time to time raise questions about the collapse of the Russian Federation in their speeches and comments.
A recent survey of 167 experts conducted by the Atlantic Council showed that 40% of those polled expected Russia to collapse in the next decade due to revolution, civil war, political disintegration, or other reasons.
Let’s try to consider the possible disintegration of Russia from a historical perspective.
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The key issue, in my opinion, in the process of the collapse of the Russian Federation is the strength and influence of national movements (that is, those forces that seek to gain independence for their ethnic groups or autonomous entities) within modern Russia. In addition, there is the influence of legal, economic and security factors, in particular the support of Western democracies for the disintegration aspirations of the peoples of Russia.
From the point of view of the politics of imperial Moscow, all the levers have been used to suppress such movements in recent decades, as, in principle, it has been done for centuries before. Despite the fact that Tatarstan, Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, Karelia, Yakutia (Sakha), Bashkortostan, Chuvashia, like some other subjects of the federation, are republics and have their own constitutions with the established right to national self-determination, this is not it is evidence of the free democratic development of these national communities. Rather the opposite.
Russian collapse would likely occur with a domino effect
We know from the history of Ukraine that in June 1917 the Ukrainian Central Rada (UCR) proclaimed its First Universal Declaration, and on November 3 – on the formation of the Ukrainian People’s Republic (UNR). The situation was similar in other regions of the old empire. In December 1917 the Republic of Tatarstan was proclaimed. From this period originates the formation of the Turkish state of Idel-Ural, which included the lands of the modern Chuvash Republic, Tatarstan, Bashkortostan and several nearby regions of the Orenburg, Chelyabinsk and Samara oblasts. In February 1918 the Kuban People’s Republic was created and in June the Republic of Siberia.
All these entities eventually ceased to exist under the pressure of the Red Army. The nations that succeeded in proclaiming and maintaining their independence were those with strong national movements, a relatively recent tradition of having a state of their own, as well as the support of officials from the United States, Great Britain, and France, countries that won World War I and created a new world order. Thus, independence was successfully proclaimed by Poles, Finns, Latvians, Estonians and Lithuanians.
During this period, the Russian Empire experienced a medium collapse, but over time it was restored by the Bolsheviks. In their new empire, the Bolsheviks could not ignore national sentiments, and for this reason, with the so-called “indigenization” policy, they tried to make these conquered peoples “make themselves their own”, temporarily giving the population of these territories certain traits of identity. real national entities, such as paraphernalia. Thus, the Russian Empire was transformed from a monarchical state into a federation of socialist republics – the USSR. However, imperialism did not disappear, and the “independence” of the national republics was conditional.
An attempt at another restructuring of the “old” Russian empire in the mid-1980s amid military failures in Afghanistan and the democratization of public life failed, leading to another semi-collapse. First, the Central European countries broke away from the imperial center, and then this trend continued in the Soviet republics. The Ukrainian SSR, which was located closest to such states, and whose national movement could not be suppressed by terror, wars and repressions, and which was especially active in exile, proclaimed sovereignty in 1990 and independence a year later. A few months later, the USSR ceased to exist.
We seize this opportunity and embark on the so-called parade of sovereignties and territories that are now part of the Russian Federation. In 1990, the Republic of Tatarstan proclaimed its declaration of sovereignty, but the matter did not reach a declaration of independence. Tatarstan officials enjoyed autonomous rights within the Russian Federation for some time, but Putin recently canceled them. In 1991, the Chechen-Ingushetian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic declared its sovereignty and became the 16th union republic. After their division into Ingushetia and the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, the Chechens exercised their right to withdraw from the union treaty and declared their independence, which was suppressed by the Russians in the early 2000s after two bloody wars.
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In general, after the collapse of the USSR, the Russian leadership, using the typical imperial “carrot and stick” method, was able to keep all the subjects of the Russian Federation under control. However, the outbreak of the full-scale war with the Ukraine has already caused certain crises of resistance to mobilization in the republics. In addition, Russian propaganda continues to use the images of “Kadyrovtsy” and soldiers from Buryatia and other non-Russian peoples as the most cruel and trained participants in the hostilities in Ukraine, thus trying to shift future responsibilities for the crimes of the Russian army onto members of other towns.
Modern Russia is an authoritarian country with a fascist regime in power. His cult of personality and propaganda are key to keeping Putin’s entourage in power and continuing the war against Ukraine. In recent years, the Kremlin has done everything possible to suppress any impulse by the subjects of the federation to secede.
The Russian collapse would presumably occur with a domino effect, so a declaration of independence in one republic provokes the same actions in other regions, and 20 different independent states could emerge from the territory of the Russian Federation. Chechnya is considered one of the republics with the most potential to cause a domino effect in modern Russia. It is the Chechens who have a long history of fighting for their own recognition against the Kremlin, as well as a large and influential diaspora. It is possible that the local elites, led by Ramzan Kadyrov, who are now Putin’s servants, with his weakening or death, will see more benefits for themselves in making a complete break. However, it is important that the members of the Chechen national movement outside of Chechnya are ready to support the desire for a break and can also find understanding with those who have not left the territory of the republic. And here, in my opinion, lies the biggest threat to the successful restoration of the independence of Chechnya. This state of affairs could lead to a new military conflict in the Caucasus, which may also involve neighboring regions.
This scenario, sometimes referred to as the “Yugoslav scenario”, is feared by the governments of Western states and therefore wary of lending any support to the national aspirations of the peoples of Russia.
A much more likely and desirable scenario would be peaceful disintegration., something like 1991 and the collapse of the USSR. This process could start from Tatarstan, a republic located on the Volga. This territory is quite independent in economic terms and lost its features of autonomy not so long ago. In addition, as already noted, there was an attempt in 1917 to unite all the Turkic and Finno-Ugric peoples of the Volga region into the single state of Idel-Ural. Therefore, it is highly likely that, based on historical tradition and having recent experience of self-government, in a period of turbulence and political power vacuum in Russia, Tatarstan, like other entities in this region, will be able to secede peacefully. and declare independence.
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The situation in Siberia and the Far East may develop radically opposite. The People’s Republic of China (PRC), which has not yet clearly outlined its attitude to the war unleashed by Putin in Ukraine, but whose friendship with the Russian Federation supposedly has no limits, can assert its claims over this region. This will allow the PRC to strengthen itself not only in land and mineral resources, but will give it access to the Arctic Ocean, the cover of which is decreasing every year, and the struggle for whose resources is looming.
The modern empire of the Russian Federation will eventually suffer another collapse. Under the influence of the war that Russia has unleashed, the economic recession, the infighting of different political groups, the rise of national consciousness and the weakening of the dictator, the Russian Federation may begin to undergo a process of disintegration. As difficult as it is to answer now, its success will depend on the strength of national movements and the readiness of Western democracies to support the peoples of Russia on their path to the formation of independent states.
It is important that Ukraine, as a country at the forefront of the struggle against Russian imperialism, does everything possible to weaken the positions of the Putin regime in the republics and autonomous entities of the Russian Federation and to strengthen their national movements. Certain steps have already been taken, of course. Ukraine has recognized Chechnya as temporarily occupied, and units consisting of members of the peoples of the Russian Federation are fighting in the Ukrainian Armed Forces. However, greater coordination of their struggle was required in terms of foreign policy.
In 1943, not far from Rivne, the First Conference of Enslaved Peoples was held, which was aimed at the formation of national revolutionary armies from among the national formations of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). They were to, in the course of the movement of the Soviet-German front to the west and the weakening of the power apparatus of the USSR, break into their own national territories and create independent entities. At that time, this scenario could not be realized, but it was possible to unite in the diaspora, under the leadership of the Ukrainians, representatives of all the peoples enslaved by communism and Russian imperialism in the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations (ABN). Now we must take this historical experience into account and adjust it to the needs of the current realities of the fight against Moscow.
Read the original article at The new voice of Ukraine