The Economist had an article speculating on the possibility of the breakup of the Russian Federation. This doesn’t seem likely to me, but I’m no expert.
The old Soviet Union was a multi-national empire which was united, in theory, by Communist ideology which, in theory, treated all persons and all cultures equally.
The present-day Russian Federation is united mainly by Russian nationalism, based on the Russian language and Russian Orthodox Church.
This may solidify the loyalty of Russians, who are the federation’s largest ethnic group, but not necessarily Chechens, Tatars and other non-Russian peoples, who are treated as second-class citizens by Russian-speakers.
The Russian government had to fight a bloody war to keep Chechnya from seceding and the potential exists for other conflicts.
Many of the non-Russian nationalities have higher birth rates than the Russians.
What would happen if Russia did break up? The United States, China and maybe Germany, Turkey, Iran and Japan would probably try to draw the fragments into their sphere of influence—a possible source of conflict and war.
The worst case would be if Russia descended into chaos and anarchy, and some rogue government or movement got control of Russian nuclear missiles.
I don’t think The Economist is seriously predicting this. But who knows what might happen?
What if Russia breaks up? The peril beyond Putin by The Economist.
When the old Soviet Union came apart, Mikhail Gorbachev had the wisdom and humanity to refrain from trying to keep it together by force.
If the Russian Federation starts to come apart, and Vladimir Putin or his successor choose to fight the secessionists, there could be the same kind of bloody conflict and human suffering that is seen in Iraq, Gaza or Chechnya and with the same favorable environment for new violent fanatic movements, but on a continent-wide scale.
Empires in decline typically try to maintain national unity by starting foreign wars. This was a cause of the Russo-Japanese War of 1905. The world can be thankful to Mikhail Gorbachev that the old Soviet Union did not resort to war in the face of decline and imminent break-up. I don’t think the Russian Federation is in danger of breaking up anytime soon, but I do think this is a very real danger if Russia’s unity is threatened.