RUSSIAN FEDERATION
     
Entrance to the Kremlin Senate, part of the Moscow Kremlin and the working residence of the Russian president
Russia, also officially known as the Russian Federation, is a state in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects. At 17,075,400 square kilometres (6,592,800 sq mi), Russia is the largest country in the world. Russia is also the ninth most populous nation with 142 million people. It extends across the whole of northern Asia and 40% of Europe, spanning 9 time zones and incorporating a wide range of environments and landforms. Russia has the world's largest reserves of mineral and energy resources. It has the world's largest forest reserves and its lakes contain approximately one-quarter of the world's fresh water.

The nation's history began with that of the East Slavs, who emerged as a recognizable group in Europe between the 3rd and 8th centuries AD. Founded and ruled by a Varangian warrior elite and their descendants, the first East Slavic state, Kievan Rus', arose in the 9th century and adopted Orthodox Christianity from the Byzantine Empire in 988, beginning the synthesis of Byzantine and Slavic cultures that defined Russian culture for the next millennium.

Kievan Rus' ultimately disintegrated into a number of smaller states; most of the Ruslands ultimately were overrun by the Mongol invasion and became tributaries of the nomadic Golden Horde. The Grand Duchy of Moscow gradually reunified the surrounding Russian principalities, achieved independence from the Golden Horde, and came to dominate the cultural and political legacy of Kievan Rus'. By the 18th century, the nation had greatly expanded through conquest, annexation, and exploration to become the Russian Empire, which was the third largest empire in history, stretching from Poland in Europe to Alaska in North America.


Russia established worldwide power and influence from the times of the Russian Empire to being the largest and leading constituent of the Soviet Union, the world's first constitutionally socialist state and a recognized superpower, that played a decisive role in the Allied victory in World War II. The Soviet era saw some of the greatest technology achievements of the 20th century, such as the world's first human spaceflight. The Russian Federation was founded following the
Belavezha Accords with dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 ('we conclude that the USSR has ceased to exist as a subject of international law and a geopolitical reality'), but is recognized as the continuing legal personality of the Soviet state. Russia has the world's 12th largest economy by nominal GDP or the 7th largest by purchasing power parity, with the 5th largest nominal military budget. It is one of the five recognized nuclear weapons states and possesses the largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction.
Russia is a great power and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, a member of the G8, G20, the Council of Europe, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Eurasian Economic Community, the OSCE, and is the leading member of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Besides, the twenty year strategic Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation between the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation (FCT) was signed by the leaders of the two international powers on July 16, 2001.

The treaty outlines the broad strokes which are to serve as a basis for peaceful relations, economic cooperation, as well as diplomatic and geopolitical reliance. Controversially, Article 9 of the treaty can be seen as an implicit defense pact, and other articles point at increasing military cooperation, including the sharing of "military know-how", namely, Chinese access to Russian military technology. The treaty also encompasses a mutual, cooperative approach to environmental technology regulations and energy conservation; and toward international finance and trade.

The document affirms Russia's stand on Taiwan as "an inalienable part of China", and highlights the commitment to ensure the "national unity and territorial integrity" in the two countries.



Kommersant, Russia's daily on line

Against the backdrop of the breakdown in relations between the EU and Russia, 17 May, 2016 there was a discussion that focused not only on possible ways to reset relations once the Ukraine crisis is resolved, but also how best the EU and Russia can cooperate on common challenges and areas of mutual interest during the current period.  The event involved a number of well-known experts from both Russia and Europe. The new report 'Russia and the European Union: Three Questions Concerning New Principles in Bilateral Relations' by the Valdai Discussion Club on the topic acted as a base for the discussion.

economic and political interdependence of the two global actors remains significant, therefore a new concept of relations is needed. In response to the European Commission’s “Five Principles” of the EU-Russia relations announced in March, the Valdai Club has formulated its own six principles, which must become the basis of Russia’s relations with the European Union.

 


Understanding Uneasy Nation-Building Process in Post-Communist Europe (Ivan Krastev): Moscow is right to insist that the West is not doing much to understand how Russians feel about the post-Cold War world. As Europe and Russia are redefining their relations, understanding each other’s experience of the past 25 years is more important than talk about values and interests, believes Ivan Krastev, Chairman of Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Speaking at the Valdai Club seminar, you said that Russia perceives the current EU crisis through the lens of its traumatic experience of the late 1980s – early 1990s, reflexively anticipating the worst. Do you think the western elites realize how the trauma caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union continues to shape Russia’s attitude to the European Union and the processes that are going on there now?

The experience gap is a critical factor in explaining the current dynamics of the EU-Russia relations. For the West, the whole story of 1989-1991 was the story of the end of communism. For the majority of Russians the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and not the collapse of communism, was the central story. In the early 1990s Russia lost about one third of its GDP and experienced a very high economic, political, and cultural uncertainty. As for the end of communism, not so many people in Russia were sorry about it. The language that was coming from the Russian elites at that time was that of a victory. All the rhetoric at that moment was that it was a win-win game.

But soon the language of unilateral victory prevailed in the West, which was pretty embarrassing for Russia.

Right, and this, in my view, is the emotional foundation of the current politics of resentment against the West. But for many East European countries communism was perceived as occupation by Moscow. And, unsurprisingly, although the official discourse was of our common victory over communism, there were “victory parades” outside Russia, but not in Russia. This attitude made it easy for the current Russian propaganda to assert that anti-communism of the West was nothing more than another form of traditional Russophobia. However, propaganda works precisely because there are certain shared sensitivities to which it can refer.

We are in a difficult moment of bilateral relations, because on many occasions Moscow is right to insist that the West is not doing much to understand how Russians feel about the post-Cold War world. But, at the same time, for the Russian government the demand that others should better understand Russia is a demand that the West should uncritically accept what Russia is doing and the way it is doing it. In my view, better understanding of Russia’s post-communist experience is urgently needed, but this does not mean justifying certain Russian policies.

In the aftermath of the World War II, four countries were universally recognized as exceptional based on what had happened: the two ideological super powers, the United States and the Soviet Union, which defeated Hitler; Germany, which had engendered Nazism; and Israel, which was created as a consequence of the murderous Nazi policies. In the age of the post-Cold war normality, these four countries were forced to redefine their exceptionalities. The US tried to make its democratic exceptionalism the new normal; Germany became exceptionally normal, Israel constantly resisted attempts to be viewed as a normal country perceiving this as a threat to its survival, while Russia stumbled in its attempt to become a “normal country” and now in my view is in a desperate search of some Russian exceptionalism.
At the round table at the Valdai Club on Monday, Carl Bildt hailed participants of the Euromaidan as the first truly post-Soviet generation in Ukraine. But a generational shift has taken place in Russia, too. Those who were born after 1991 experienced an era of relative prosperity and national pride in their teens and witnessed the post-Crimean euphoria in 2014. They did not inherit the feeling of national weakness that came with the experience of the USSR collapse, which became formative for many of those Russians who are now in their thirties and forties. Do you feel this fact is overlooked in the West?

I believe the generational dimension is very important and should be taken very seriously – all over Europe. In Russia, you have a younger generation, which is certainly the most westernized – at the level of their consumption or travel habits and so on – but at the same time the most anti-western one. This is not a new phenomenon. This can often be seen in many countries of the world. The post-Cold war period was an age of imitating the West and the result of this imitation is both growing similarity and resentment. In terms of their attitude to the West, this generation resembles any second generation of immigrants, who are better integrated and at the same time much more resentful. This generation’s idea is that they want to be proud of their country. Many of them want to get the recognition of the West by opposing the values and norms of this same West. This is not unique for Russia. Look at other post-communist countries. At the recent elections In Poland, 60 percent of people younger than 29 voted for parties which make national dignity their major story. This is largely the result of disappointment in cosmopolitanism and globalization promoted after the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. So, some things we think are exceptional for Russia or Ukraine are part of bigger European trends.
What we see all over Europe is the rise of identity politics. People in the West tend to compare Ukraine to Poland in 1989, but what is happening there rather resembles the painful process of nation-building that we witnessed at the time of disintegration of colonial empires in the 1960s and 1970s. Russia is also in the process of state-building because historically, Russia never had an empire, it was one. So, unlike England, it could not simply cut itself off from its overseas possessions. In order to understand what is happening in Ukraine, we should rather look at the experience of countries like Algeria in the 1960s than Poland in the 1980s. That’s why you have the rise of anti-Russian sentiments there – this is the type of things that states are built with.
If you look at how the ongoing confrontation with Russia is reflected in the Ukrainian social media, you can notice that the most rabid anti-Russian comments are often left in the Russian language and by people with Russian names. Interestingly, it is as common to see Russians with Ukrainian names promoting Russia’s cause in online battles, given the significant proportion of ethnic Ukrainians in Russia’s population.

This is the most important argument for my case. Being Ukrainian today does not depend on the language you speak. The war in Ukraine paradoxically liberated Russian language. Today, Ukrainian identity is defined by the position you take in the war in Ukraine and not by the language you speak.

In comparing the identity-building processes in the post-Soviet space I was always fascinated by the case of Belarus. They do not have a strong nationalistic tradition to go back to, like, for example, western Ukraine. So, Lukashenko succeeded in taking the Soviet legacy to the core of their identity. In fact, Belarusians began to build the identity of the last Soviets, while everybody was against that. For him, it was an identity that had to be distinctive from what was happening in Russia. So he did not go anti-Russian in building the identity of Belarusians, opposing to the anti-Soviet discourse of Russians instead. I’m saying this because many are surprised by the rise of anti-Russian sentiments in Ukraine, neglecting the fact that states are traditionally built not only by borders and constitutions but also by certain mobilization of national sentiments.

The rise of nationalism was easy to predict. If you take the post-Yugoslav space, you realize what kind of states can emerge out of post-Communist disintegration and what kind of stuff national identities are made of. And this is a huge problem for the European political and intellectual elites. In the words of historian Charles Tilly, “states make wars, but wars make states”.

The traditional framework of the EU-Russia relations has been impacted by new factors – the refugee crisis in Europe and the decline in energy prices. Do you feel these crises offer Russia and the EU an opportunity to rethink their relations and to start from scratch?

The EU and Russia are experiencing very important transformative political crises. The refugee crisis is pushing the EU to redefine itself, testing its resilience. On the other side, Russia is suffering not only from low oil prices, but also from the lack of infrastructural reform, the failure to diversify its economy, as well as uncertainty about its future political model. At present, society is consolidated around President Putin but it is difficult to imagine how post-Putin Russia will look like. As a result, the domestic political crises (which are very important because they are essentially about identity and survival of these states) and the way we will react to them will largely define the relations between Russia and the European Union. Here, we have two scenarios. We can try to cope with this crisis by better regulating our relationship, trying to guarantee that the policies of the other are not an additional destabilizing factor. Or we can use the confrontation with each other for domestic political consolidation. I believe the choice is to be made. This will shape the relations between Russia and the European Union and from this point of view 2016 is going to be more important than the previous two years.
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RUSSIA, EU SHOULD HAVE CLEAR LONG-TERM OBJECTIVES IN BUILDING RELATIONSHIP
(Lavrov in Voice of Russia, Interfax, 13 February 2014)

Relations between Russia and the European Union should set clear long-term objectives, and the EU should stop using the friend-or-foe principle in dealing with Russia, says Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. "It's getting increasingly more obvious that we are being hampered by a lack of clear long-term objectives in resolving specific problems related to the developments on our continent," Lavrov said in an article published in the Thursday issue of Kommersant.

"There is the impression that our Western partners often act instinctively, being guided by the simplistic friend-or-foe principle and not thinking too much about far-reaching implications of their steps. Anyway, I think the primitive tug of war between the European Union and Russia cannot meet the realities of international relations, which are getting increasingly more complicated, and is not worthy of the huge political-diplomatic experience the European powers have accumulated for centuries," Lavrov said.

"The relationship between Russia and the European Union has approached a kind of moment of truth. In order to build cooperation consistently and purposefully, we should understand whether we are determined earnestly to follow the way of achieving ambitious goals of true strategic partnership. Otherwise, we will continue stumbling now and then on the absence of clear objectives. Information wars won't help here. This calls for true leadership and political wisdom," he added.

"The reflections on what actually prompts our Western partners to be so stubborn in taking the either-or approach in the Ukrainian situation and, rejecting proprieties, bluntly pursue the line of its inclusion in its geopolitical environment inevitably lead to fundamental aspects of relations between the European Union and Russia. It turns out that the present misunderstanding is based on a lack of clarity regarding long-term objectives in the development of relations between Russia and the EU, or, using Javier Solana's expression, a deficit of strategic trust," Lavrov wrote. Western media outlets often resort to anti-Russian information campaigns using Cold War-style phraseology, he said.

"I had the chance to hear echoes of such judgments at the OSCE ministerial meeting in December 2013 and at the recent jubilee session of the Munich Security Conference. Certainly, society is a living organism, and ideas about values may change as long as it develops. A lot of approaches common in the European Union today were perceived as unacceptable in the same countries just about 20-30 years ago. I mean, in particular, moral relativism, the propagation of permissiveness and hedonism, the strengthening positions of militant atheism, and the rejection of traditional values that have been the moral foundation of human development for centuries. Moreover, these attitudes are being promoted with messianic persistence both in those countries themselves and in their relations with neighbors," he said.

Lavrov pointed out in connection with this that "principles of democracy imply above all respect for opinions of others. Everyone should acknowledge that, by agreeing on basic values, including respect for democratic foundations in public affairs, human rights and fundamental freedoms, the peoples of Europe should at the same time allow each other to remain different and retain their cultural identity, in full compliance with universal human rights conventions and declarations," Lavrov said.

 
'Russians at Russians' (9 March 2015)

Early this century, it seemed Putin was still full of European values and it was expected that Russia would transform to Western ideas. Although Russian population want, it is now clear that Putin thinks opposite, driven by fear of developments to European standards.

There is paranoia and spreading of false ideas of reality. A propaganda machine was set up and is in full swing. All
means and causes are used to strengthen patriotism and
nationalism and to distort perception of circumstances.

In 2008, Russia started war again, partly inspired by ancient history and the humiliation of 1991. Russia lost its colonized neighbouring countries.
There dominate other concepts of thinking; there is no broad-based decision-making process and Russians are living in their history.

Minsk II, a package of measures to alleviate the ongoing war
in the Donbass region of Ukraine, is a dead letter. The increasingly radicalized
Ukraine need economic reforms, but did not get the chance to become a normal country and that is exactly what Putin wants.

The west can guard against the propaganda, support the opposition and reaching population, with the risk that the support will be misunderstood. Keep talking on diplomatic and political level between East and West through OVSE, so something is still possible.

Economic sanctions are significantly effective, but political russia is set to war. Military intervention is for a Europe that is not accustomed to this, a final step. Russia's behavior has
been a reason for the creation of an European Defense Union.

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GO RUSSIA!

Dmitry Medvedev’s wrote 10 September 2009 'Go Russia!':

Russia entered a new decade of the twenty-first century. Of course, important junctures and significant dates are more symbolic than practical. But they give us a reason to reflect on the past, evaluate the present, and think about the future. Think about what awaits each of us, our children, our country.

First, let’s answer a simple but very serious question. Should a primitive economy based on raw materials and endemic corruption accompany us into the future? And should the inveterate habit of relying on the government, foreign countries, on some kind of comprehensive doctrine, on anything or anyone – as long as it’s not ourselves – to solve our problems do so as well? And if Russia can not relieve itself from these burdens, can it really find its own path for the future?

Next year we will celebrate the sixty-fifth anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. This anniversary reminds us that our present day is the future of the heroes who won our freedom. And that the people who vanquished a cruel and very strong enemy back in those days must today overcome corruption and backwardness. To make our country both modern and viable.

As the contemporary generation of Russian people, we have received a huge inheritance. Gains that were well-deserved, hard-fought and hard-earned by the persistent efforts of our predecessors. Sometimes the cost of hardships really was terrible casualties. We have a huge territory, large amounts of natural resources, solid industrial potential, an impressive list of outstanding achievements in science, technology, education and art, a glorious history regarding our army, navy, and nuclear weapons. By using its authority Russian power has played a significant -- and in some periods determinate -- role in events of historic proportions.

How should we manage that legacy? How to magnify it? What will the future of Russia be for my son, for the children and grandchildren of my fellow citizens? What will be Russia’s place, and hence the place of our descendants, heirs, and future generations, among other nations in the global labour market, in the system of international relations, in global culture? What must we do to steadily improve the quality of life of Russian citizens today and in the future? To allow our society to become richer, freer, more humane and more attractive? So that Russian society can give to those who desire it a better education, an interesting job, a good income, and comfortable environment for both personal life and creative activity?
I have answers to these questions
.


Click for the presentation Russia's return as superpower

 

.............'RUSSIA's COME BACK AS SUPERPOWER'

World wide, speculations on a Russian come back as superpower are broadly discussed. Come back, because of the fact that there was already talk of a superpower from the 18th centurey. As known, that power decreased from 1989.

Either Russia is on the way to become one of the world's leading countries again with related consequences for international relations or not, is discussed in the essay 'Russia's come back as Superpower'. Russia is an important country; it is part of Europe and the security and economic policies are of influence on world politics. But what is a superpower?

 

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Immigrant Russia - a crisis of demography or ethnicity?
(by Ben Judah - 26 Oct 10)

Hamid drives a clapped-out Soviet bus in a Russian mining colony beyond the Arctic Circle, where temperatures regularly plunge below minus forty. Yet this native of the Uzbek deserts has few regrets about his decision to migrate to Putin’s empire. “In my country there more men than jobs - In Russia there are more jobs than men.” He expresses himself in the faultless Russian of a Soviet education. “It’s easy for us to come and work here. The borders are not hard to cross, we speak the language and there are lots of people who can make you the permits.”

Russia is now an immigrant society. In Moscow and other major cities, migrants from the ex-Soviet states of Central Asia, the Caucasus and Eastern Europe do the work that natives turn down. Tajiks sweep the streets, Moldovans wait tables and Uzbeks work on construction sites. The metro flutters with flyers stuck inside carriages hawking the mobile numbers of professional forgers -“We Make Your Moscow Permit.”

Russia has become the second most popular destination for migrants in the world after the USA. In St. Petersburg hour long queues snake round the migration bureau where hundreds of migrants nervously swap cigarettes for job tips as they wait to register. Magadan on the Pacific has several Georgian restaurants and even on the dirt tracks of northern Siberia, Uzbek cafeterias are not uncommon.Visa-free regimes between Russia and most of her former colonies, along with the endemic corruption of her Gogolian officialdom, mean few bother with the hassle of formal immigration. Nor have many much intention of returning to their weak and mostly impoverished states for more than a holiday.

In 2009 the Russian Migration Service claims over 10 million migrants entered the country. They add that as many as 5 million illegals“are living in the shadows.” Many experts agree that the migrant population is over 8.5 million, although off the record, some diplomats suggest the real figure may be over 15 million. That would be roughly 8 million more workers that the 6.7 million drop that Russia has recorded since 1991.

Ethnic or demographic crisis?

The danger of demographic collapse is frequently cited as the Achilles heel of Russia, with the original BRIC report noting that it posed a danger to the country’s growth. In fact Russia does not have an economic demographic crisis – instead she has a demographic crisis in terms of ethnic Russians and fully fledged citizens as a proportion of the population.

Ethnic Russians were officially 79% of the population in the suspect 2002 census which did not include migrants, and was widely accused of exaggerating the number of Russians while masking Chechen demography. Taken at face value the census suggests the country is as Russian as Israel is ethnically Jewish or the United States racially ‘white.’ However, if you include migrant workers, ethnic Russians may make up as little as 73% of those living in Russia.

This multi-ethnic composition echoes back to imperial past of both Tsarist Russia and the USSR. Slavic Soviet elites voiced concerns throughout the 1970s and 80s about what they called “the yellowing” of their country, and the fact that ethnic Russians made up just 50% of the population by 1990 played a part in President Yeltsin precipitating the break-up of the USSR.

a movement which arose in the years of perestroika. Its main task was the awakening and preservation of the societal memory of the severe political persecution in the recent past of the Soviet Union
The news that Russia’s notoriously low birth-rates have picked up in recent years is of some comfort to the Kremlin. Levels today are comparable to other European countries, and higher than some – for instance Italy or Hungary. This contrasts with 1999 when post-Soviet fertility rates hit rock bottom at just 1.16, at a time when 40% of Russia’s population earned less than the official poverty rate. By 2009, when the numbers in official poverty dropped to around 10%, the fertility rate rose to 1.54. The Health Ministry says that in September 2009 births outnumbered deaths for the first time since 1994.

It is Russia’s male death rates – not birth-rates – that mark her out from the rest of the developed world. Male life expectancy is only 59 – compared to 73 for Palestinian men. However, male life expectancy did rise by four years between 2005 and 2009.

This slight improvement is partly due to the steady emergence of a private healthcare industry with access to western drugs. Russians were poorly nourished in the shortage economy of the late 1980s and early 1990s when adverse demographic trends set in. Now supermarkets and the availability of imported food are playing their part in these incremental improvements.

Russia’s demographics are still bad, but the country is not ‘dying out’ just yet thanks to these positive signs that the population is at least starting to recover. And, as well as a likely reliance on migrants for decades to come, it is striking that the highest birth rates in the Federation are in the non-ethnic Russian republics of the North Caucasus and outer Siberia. The Russian military is concerned that by 2015 an estimated third of its conscripts may be of Muslim origin, many from the war-torn Caucasian regions they are expected to serve in. The decline in the Russia population in both the Far East and republics such as Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan will make it far harder for the Kremlin to dictate their future.

Will mass-migration modernise Russia?

What insider Gleb Pavlovsky has called “a sociologically obsessed Kremlin” is trying to discreetly fashion a more multi-cultural society. In April, Putin himself bluntly declared that “the door will always be open” for those that wanted to tie their future to Russia. In September the head of the Federal Migration Service said migrants were the key to improving the country’s demographic situation. This echoed another statement by Putin in April that Russia was aiming to make foreign workers “feel more at home in Russia”, as he further liberalised labour laws with Kazakhstan and Belarus.

Last year the Kremlin claimed that the number of Russian citizens increased for the first time in 15 years – albeit it by a rather measly 25,000 – thanks to 330,000 new citizenships being awarded (mostly to migrants).

But benefiting from migration involves more than just letting people in. Most migrants live in penury and often suffer harassment by skinheads. Transient and largely unprotected by labour laws, their presence in turn risks driving down the wages of other workers and prolonging the lives of otherwise defunct and uncompetitive Soviet factories.

Mass migration has also politicised elements of Russia’s working class. The ‘Movement Against Illegal Immigration’, the myriad skin-head gangs and neo-Nazi brotherhoods have mobilised the energies of the losers of Putinism – a de-industrialised underclass who desperately need economic modernisation, an enabling welfare state and a crackdown on corruption. Ethnic struggles have eclipsed class struggle on the streets.

Migrants may yet save the Russian economy from a demographic crunch. Yet if Putin’s plans do not include strengthening the rule of law, they could lead to other challenges to the Russian state, holding back the modernisation of the country’s creaking industry and emptying what it means to be a ‘Russian citizen.’

(source: ECFR)