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Legacies of Empire

Russia after 1991

by Aust, Martin

Is Russia a neo-imperialist state that bullies its neighbours, or the innocent victim of western expansionism? Neither, argues Martin Aust; the heated debates of the present moment underestimate the significance of the fact that since 1991, Russia has been operating in a post-imperial space that had previously been ruled by the Soviet and Tsarist empires.

The fall of the Soviet Union came about in a way that, compared to world historical precedents, was relatively bloodless. Yet, it left behind a legacy that continues to have effects today. The economic division of labour continued as much as the considerable ethnic intermingling that had been established under the imperial association of states. Meanwhile, in the newly emerging nation states, minority conflicts escalated that had been restrained within the empire. Even at the heart of Russia itself, imperial ways of thinking and institutions continue. Russia is wrestling with the question of how the imperial legacy ought to be handled and what it means for the present. Martin Aust traces all these problems and debates und shows how important they are to really understand Russia today.

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