Russia is the world’s largest country by area, covering more than an eighth of the planet’s land surface. It is bounded to the west by the Arctic Ocean; to the south by Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan; to the east by Ukraine and Belarus; and to the north by Mongolia and China.
The Russian Federation consists of federal subjects, or regions, each with their own governments. The federation’s capital and largest city is Moscow, which has a population of 142 million people.
In the early 20th century, Russia was a unified empire that encompassed eastern Europe and northern Asia. During this period, it experienced some political, social and economic reforms but also a series of revolutions.
Since the 1990s, the Russian economy has grown rapidly and Putin’s leadership has helped restore order to the country. Although many Western governments have criticized Putin’s efforts as un-democratic, he has won widespread support from the population.
Putin’s popularity comes from the public’s resentment of the political and economic chaos that occurred during the collapse of the Soviet Union. In addition, the Kremlin has found it useful to portray Russia as a nation at odds with the West and its increasingly liberal policies.
It is unclear what will happen next in Russia. One possibility is that a new regime will revert to hardline nationalism, with Putin and his inner circle acting as a de facto ruler.
Another scenario involves protests and demands from the population that could result in the resignation of Putin. These demands, which would be unlikely to come from elites or war hawks, might create the conditions for a transition of power.
Finally, a final scenario might involve the West reengaged in Russia and offering a vision of the future. This would not be a quick fix, but it might serve as a sign of the West’s willingness to offer an alternative path for Russia.
In the end, the Russian public and its leaders will have to decide whether to embrace the possibility of a post-Putin Russia that is neither dominated by hardliners nor hostile to the West. The key will be to make sure that any new regime is willing to adopt a liberal, democratic, and open-minded approach to governance.