Russian Federation Integration
Some disorder and conflict has occurred within the Russian Federation.Many ethnic groups want independence from Russia. If that is not possible, they at least want more recognition and autonomy. Consolidation of power in the hands of Vladimir Putin nevertheless prevented major conflicts (other than the seemingly continuous unrest in the Caucasus region). During Boris Yeltsin’s regime, many remote regions existed in semi-independence. The federal government’s decisions were largely ignored. Although the process of stabilization is slowly occurring, few expect Moscow to lose its political grip.
The most difficult internal issue continues to be the conflict in Chechnya, which has been occurring on and off since the mid-1990s. Separatist movement in this southern republic still creates a serious danger despite the presence of thousands of heavily armed federal military and police forces. The Caucasus region never fully accepted its status after Russia occupied the area during the nineteenth century as a part of its imperialistic ambitions. The ethnic mosaic here is, perhaps, the most complex in the world. It represents a powder keg that is ready to explode at any time.
In terms of political integration, another issue that keeps recurring is that of unification between Russia and Belarus. Ever since the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991 and the two former republics became independent, many have called for reunification. Although a majority of people on both sides would support referendums for unification, some significant issues still remain unresolved. The Russian government, for example, insists on Belarus’s complete integration into the Russian state. Belarus’s leadership, on the other hand, supports equal representation in the future political union.
Some problems regarding Russia’s boundaries still exist. One of them is the issue of territory of the South Kuril Islands that the Soviet Union annexed in 1945. During the last days of World War II, Soviet forces occupied these islands that the Japanese considered to be theirs. To Russia, the claim represents the return of its territory lost in the war of 1904–05. Japan sees it as an issue that must be solved by returning to pre-1945 boundaries. In geopolitical terms, Russia benefits from controlling the islands, because they provide an adequate maritime corridor for the Russian Far East Fleet.
On the other hand, Russia’s westernmost territory also creates problems. Once in the hands of Germans, Kaliningrad Oblast is an exclave, a part of Russia that is separated from the rest of the country by Lithuania and Belarus. Geographic isolation has contributed to serious economic and political handicaps. While other countries are joining the European Union, this part of Russia exists in isolation from both Europe and the rest of Russia.