The Russian Federation (Российская Федерация, Rossiyskaya Federatsiya) is a great power on Earth.
Although its historical roots go back to the medieval Tsardom of Moskva, modern Russia owes its heritage partly to the Russian Empire founded in 1721, and partly to the communist Soviet Union that replaced the Empire in 1917 following its defeat in the First World War. After undergoing a period of harsh repression and industrialisation under Lenin and his successor Stalin, the Soviet Union had rebuilt sufficiently to successfully defeat an invasion from Nazi Germany – albeit at a great human and economic cost – and emerge from the Second World War as one of only two super powers alongside the United States.
For the next five decades, international politics was dominated by the Cold War with the US, but in the end, the Soviet Union was torn apart by economic pressures, growing separatism in the republics, and the general loss of government credibility. A final major crisis caused by an attempted military coup d’etat in August 1991 proved impossible to reverse, and the Union was formally dissolved by Mikhail Gorbachev in December the same year. The former Russian Socialist Soviet Republic, which had previously been the strongest part of the Union, emerged from the break-up as its successor state and the new dominant power in the region.
However, only a few decades had passed after the fall of the Soviet Union before Russia once again found itself embroiled in civil war, this time when growing regional particularism and disaffectment with Moscow led a number of provices, especially in the Far East, Caucasus and near St. Petersburg, to attempt to break away from the Federation in 2041. The ensuing civil war lasted until 2046, when Moscow finally regained control of the last rebel strongholds in the Far East. Only the western enclave of Kaliningrad remained independent and eventually joined the EU as a member in its own right; a situation that has been a constant source of conflict between Russia and the EU since then.
While still ostensibly a democratic, semi-presidential federation, the civil war led to a fundamental restructuring of Russian politics. In the eyes of the military, which emerged from the war as the single strongest institution in Russia, the crisis had been the fault of the civilian politicians – thus, it seemed obvious, the military needed to step in and take responsibility for the integrity of the Federation.
Consequently, while present-day Russia has a federal legislature and a civilian government, real power is found in the National Security and Defence Council (Совет Безопасности и Oбороны Российской Федерации, Soviet Bezopasnosti i Oboroney Rossiyskoy Federatsii), whose membership is predominantly military, and in the General Staff of the Armed Forces (Генштаб, Genshtab). While Russia is not a direct military dictatorship, and the day-to-day business is left to the civilian government, the armed forces effectively make all top-level decisions, and have proven themselves quite willing to intervene directly in the political process or even remove uncooperative governments by force when considered necessary.
Despite the lack of political freedoms, and although significant covert opposition remains in the old break-away provinces and other peripheral areas, the government remains broadly popular. Much of its popularity can be attributed to its successful reestablishment of at least some measure of Russia’s former great power status, as well as to its belligerent and jingoistic rhetoric. Much of this rhetoric is particularly directed against the European Union, which is portrayed as having unlawfully encroached on Russia’s natural spheres of interest through its eastward expansions, and against China, which provided substantial assistance to the eastern provinces during the civil war and which still allegedly seeks to undermine Moscow’s authority in the Far East region.
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In addition to the regular armed forces, there exist a number of paramilitary forces attached to other parts of the government, including the Interior Ministry’s Internal Forces, the Border Guard Service, the infamous special police force OMON, the Railway Troops and others. The relationships between the regular military and these more specialized units are not always clear.