End of post-Soviet transition. Op-Ed by Victor Pelin

“The post-Communist transition reached the final point of the bifurcation after which the further developments can lead either to a new edition of the Russian imperialism or to the opposite direction, to the European integration. This is the current context in which Ukraine, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova filed an application to obtain the EU candidate country status....”

Event that marked end of post-Soviet transition

A number of events marked the end of the so-called period of transition from the totalitarian Communist period to a renewed and attractive community for the former Soviet republics in the post-Soviet space during the past two years, evidently except for the Baltic countries. The stake on the so-called Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) turned out to be without prospects from the very beginning. This is an amorphous surrogate that is erroneously regarded as a stage of civilized separation.  

The CIS turned into a doomed project when it became clear that all the Russian Federation’s efforts were aimed at finding a formula for rebuilding the dead empire, not at building a community of partners with common interests and equal rights. Consequently, after 30 years, in February 2022, the senior administration of Russia decided that it can try to score a victory – to restore the empire - only by using military force. In such circumstances, it won’t be an exaggeration to assert that together with Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, the so-called post-Soviet transition ended. Simply, there is no possibility to restore the post-Soviet space in a peaceful and mutually advantageous way, based on unanimously accepted principles, after a war.

Besides the CIS, the so-called project of the Russian world also turned out to be doomed, being also imperial in origin. It should be noted that right before the invasion of Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin stated that... “the Russian world is multilateral, huge. Not we created it. Our mission is to strengthen it, to develop it and to make it attractive for our citizens, for the whole world”. During only several months of war against Ukraine, anyone could see how attractive the Russian world propagated by Vladimir Putin is. 

About coincidences and arguments

The end of the post-Soviet transition was also marked by the recent death, in May 2022, of two of the great signatories of the agreement on the dissolution of the Soviet empire and, respectively, on the constitution of the CIS. Stanislav Shushkevich, ex-chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the independent Belarus, who signed the agreement on the dissolution of the USSR of Belovezh, died on May 3, at the age of 86. Leonid Kravchuk, the first President of independent Ukraine, departed this life one week later, on May 10, at the age of 88.

It should be noted that the mentioned signatories of the Belovezh Accords were faithful promoters of the integrationist processes in the post-Soviet space. Their efforts didn’t produce results for the simple reason that the President of Russia Vladimir Putin, the nominated successor of the third signatory and initiator of the dissolution of the USSR Boris Yeltsin, decided that the priority is the rebuilding of the Russian empire at any cost, including by the most brutal methods: a) inciting and supporting of separatism in ex-Soviet republics; b) use of energy blackmail by exerting political pressure; c) annexation of the territory of neighboring states; d) direct military aggression.

In his discussion with the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Putin argued the aggression against Ukraine was launched because a coup was staged in Ukraine in 2014: “I know your concerns about Russia’s military operation in Donbas, in Ukraine. <...> The whole problem appeared after the coup that was mounted in Ukraine in 2014. This can be called how one likes, but it was actually an unconstitutional coup.” The given argument cannot stand. In fact, after President Victor Yanukovych fled the country in 2014, presidential and parliamentary elections were held in Ukraine and their results were recognized by the Russian Federation. The charm of the situation resides in the fact that Presidents Petro Poroshenko and then Vladimir Zelensky won their presidential terms in free elections, without being nominated by someone.

For his part, Vladimir Putin won office as a candidate nominated by President Yeltsin, who, according to most of the citizens and law enforcement agencies of Russia, committed a series of serious crimes against constitutional order: a) initiated the dissolution of USSR; b) orchestrated the coup of October 1993; c) falsified the results of the presidential elections of 1996; d) started and waged a criminal war against Chechnya, which ended in the death of tens of thousands of Russian citizens.

In such circumstances, President Vladimir Putin, given the way in which he came to power, has much less legitimacy than any of the Ukrainian Presidents before and after Yanukovych. Moreover, none of the Ukrainian Presidents dared to amend the country’s Constitution to  extend their tenure, as Putin did, following the examples of other post-Soviet authoritarian regimes. From the aforementioned, it’s clear that the arguments presented by Putin in his meeting with the UN Secretary General are of no value. Russia’s aggression against Ukraine can be explained only by the manifestation of imperialist reflexes.

Last “clamp” of Russian world

There is no doubt that Russia’s aggression against Ukraine was planned long before the invasion of February 2022. President Putin’s article of June 18, 2020 for the U.S. magazine The National Interest The Real Lessons of the 75th Anniversary of World War II was actually an anticipated attempt to justify the revanchism. For the purpose, Putin initially blamed the West for the Nazi revanchism that manifested itself fully after World War I. In this regard, Russia’s actions of the recent past do not seem something else than an attempt to take revenge for the defeat of the USSR in the cold war and for the subsequent dissolution of the Soviet empire.

The problem is that Russia’s attempt to take revenge gradually turns into blackmail against the whole world given its threats to use nuclear weapons for achieving its goals. The active phase of the blackmail started in the summer of 2021, together with the limitation of gas supplies to the European market, followed by the famous letters to the U.S. and NATO by which these were requested to return to the spheres of interest that existed before the dissolution of the USSR and by the start of the aggression against Ukraine and the threat to denazify other states, whose territories were once part of the tsarist empire. This way, things can be arranged in a logical chain.  

In fact, the main problem of Russia is that its pretentions to influence the fates of the world do not match at all its potential. It turned out that besides its natural resources, Russia does not have what to offer to its commercial partners. Without import technologies, Russia does not produce even nails. The only thing with which Russia’s administration tries to impose itself on international public opinion is insisting that the whole mankind should be grateful for the largest number of victims it sacrificed for the victory in World War II.

In fact, no one doubts the USSR’s contribution to the victory against Nazism. However, many challenge the USSR’s behavior of 1939-1941, when this actually took part in the division of Europe and discussed the division of the world alongside Nazi Germany. The historical events speak for themselves. Also, many challenge the totalitarian communization of Central and Eastern Europe after victory against Nazism. The equivocal attitude to the so-called ribbon of St. George that became the symbol of victory only in 2015 derives from here. This ribbon was earlier used by: a) the tsarist empire; b) albgardist movement; c) national liberation army of General Vlasov, who fought on the side of the Nazis. Now the given ribbon is a symbol of the military aggression against Ukraine! So, the ribbon of St. George is justly regarded as a symbolic connection between the tsarist, Stalinist and Putinist empires, generally serving the ideology of the Russian world.


The post-Communist transition reached the final point of the bifurcation after which the further developments can lead either to a new edition of the Russian imperialism or to the opposite direction, to the European integration. This is the current context in which Ukraine, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova filed an application to obtain the EU candidate country status.

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