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Who Saw the Collapse of the USSR Coming?

On the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Soviet Union, we asked historians, economists and political analysts why it happened, and what lessons it holds for Russia’s future.

Tatiana Stanovaya is founder and chief executive of political analysis firm R. Politik and a non-resident scholar at Carnegie Moscow Center.

There are at least three sensitive issues linked to the Soviet Union that have huge emotional meaning personally for Putin, and that the world should take into account when seeking to understand Putin’s motives. Firstly, he believes that Russia must be a unitary state and that the Soviet experience that implied national autonomies was a huge mistake. On several occasions, Putin accused Lenin of planting “a figurative bomb under Russian statehood by offering different nationalities their own territories and the right to secede,” “breaking down a 1,000-year-old state” — something that Putin believes he may restore and enforce. It shows how much Putin dislikes dealing with a federalized Russia and would rather deal with the country that governed as a single unit. It also demonstrates Putin’s strong fear of regional ambitions.

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