The collapse of the Russian federation,  a complex, artificial, highly unequal and increasingly unproductive community  will take place because of its leaders in Moscow, and only because of them.

How many parts will the federation break into, and will these parts correspond to the present delimitations of its republics and provinces? In each case, people will decide. At the local level, the existing institutions, leaders and borders will have a role to play in the implementation of the “right to self-determination, including secession.” But there are many other determining factors: economic and cultural, domestic and international. The new states will be diverse: some will be democratic, others authoritarian. All will be linked more to their neighbors, their trading and security partners, than to their old, worn-out and repulsive “kin.”

The territories that belonged to other national entities before becoming part of Russia after the Second World War (East Prussia, parts of Karelia, the Kuril Islands) will leave the federation with undisguised pleasure. Ethnic and religious tensions in particularly complex regions such as the Caucasus may lead to new wars. With the collapse of the federation, social inequalities, a hallmark of Russia in recent decades, will increase further. The provinces producing raw materials will be richer, and other regions will be poorer. Enjoying freedom, their people will show new creativity. They will start trading in what only free societies can create. They will invent their comparative advantages, new and unique.

Currently, the Russian Federation counts 24 republics including Crimea and Donbass. Republics are administrative divisions orginally created as nation states to represent areas of non-Russian ethnicity. The indigenous ethnic group that gives its name to the republic is referred to as the titular nationality. However, due to centuries of Russian migration, each nationality is not necessarily a majority of a republic's population. Republics differ from other subjects in that they have more powers devolved to them. Republics have their own constitution, official languages, and national anthems. Powers vary between republics and largely depend on their economic power. However, at the turn of the century, Vladimir Putin's centralization reforms steadily eradicated all autonomy the republics had with the exception of Chechnya. The bilateral agreements were abolished and in practice all power rests with the federal government. In 2014, Russia invaded and annexed Crimea, claiming it as the Republic of Crimea. The territory remains internationally recognized as the Ukrainian Autonomous Republic of Crimea. In 2022, Russia declared the annexation of four partially-occupied Ukrainian regions, claiming the Donestsk and Luhansk regions as republics. These also remain internationally recognized as part of Ukraine.

The 21 Russian Republics (Pop Est.24 million)

  1. Republic of Adygea: Cap: Maykop, Circassians 25.2%, Pop: 439,996
  2. Republic of Altai: Cap: Gorno-Altaysk, Altai 33.9%, Pop: 206,168
  3. Republic of Bashkortostan: Cap: Ufa, Bashkirs 29.5%, Pop: 4,072,292
  4. Republic of Buryatia: Cap. Ulan-Ude, Buryats 30%, Pop: 972,021
  5. Chechen Republic: Cap: Grozny, Chechens 93.4%, Pop: 1,268,989
  6. Chuvash Republic: Cap: Cheboksary, Chuvash 67.7%, Pop: 1;251,619
  7. Republic of Dagestan: Cap: Makhachkala, 13 indigenous nationalities, Pop: 2,910,249
  8. Republic of Ingushetia, Cap: Magas, Ingush 94.1% Pop: 412,529
  9. Kabardino-Balkar Republic: Cap: Nalchik, Balkars 12.7%, Kabardians 57.2% Pop: 859,939
  10. Republic of Kalmykia: Cap: Elista, Kalmyks 57.4% Pop: 289,481
  11. Karachay-Cherkess Republic: Cap: Cherkessk, Abazin 7.8%, Kabardians 11.9%, Karachays 41%, Nogais 3.3% ¨¨Pop: 477,859
  12. Republic of Karelia: Cap: Petrozavodsk, Karelians 7.4% Pop: 643,548
  13. Republic of Khakassia: Cap: Abakan, Khakas 12.1% Pop: 532,403
  14. Komi Republic: Cap: Syktyvkar, Komi 23.7% Pop: 901,189
  15. Mari El Republic: Cap: Yoshkar-Ola, Mari 43.9% Pop: 696,459
  16. Republic of Mordovia: Cap: Saransk, Mordvins 40% Pop: 834,755
  17. Republic of North Ossetia-Alania: Cap: Vladikavkaz, Ossetians 65.1% Pop: 712,980
  18. Sakha Republic: Cap: Yakutsk, Yakuts 49.9% Pop: 958,528
  19. Republic of Tatarstan: Cap: Kazan, Tatars 53.2% Pop: 3,786,488
  20. Tuva Republic: Cap: Kyzyl, Tuvan 82% Pop: 307,930
  21. Udmurt Republic: Cap: Ishevsk, Udmurts 28% Pop: 1,521,420 

Most likely candidates for secession


Ingushetia, Chechnya, and Dagestan have a combined population of 5.2 million. In the last decade, it has grown over 13 percent. All three polities exhibit strong national identities, practice Islam, and have resorted to anti-Russian violence in the past.Chechnya stands out having waged a decades-long war against Russia in the 19th century and two wars of national liberation in the 1990s. Its current leader, the authoritarian strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, enjoys extensive autonomy and, given appropriate incentives, could easily turn his back on Moscow. Following the end of major fighting in the second Chechen war in April 2000, Chechen insurgent and terrorist activity continued into the 2010s. It began with the October 2002 and September 2004 school hostage-takings, that resulted in numerous fatalities. Subsequently, there were several bombings: in March 2010 in the Moscow Metro, in January 2011 at Moscow's Domodedovo airport, and in December 2013 at the Volgograd train station. The bombings were claimed by the Caucasus Emirate, a more radical affiliation of Chechen, Ingush, and Dagestani militants.


The key polities in Russia's far east are Sakhalin Province, Primorskiy Region, Khabarovsk Region, Kamchatka Region, and the Sakha Republic (also known as Yakutia), which comprise 1.6 million square miles. The first four territories are inhabited primarily by Russians; Sakha is home to the Yakuts. The combined population of the Russian regions is 3.6 million; that of Yakutia is 990,000. The former declined by 4.1 percent in the last decade, while the latter grew by 3.3 percent. These five territories have considerable mineral wealth. Financed and developed in the early 2000s by US and Japanese-led consortiums, Sakhalin has sizeable world-class oil and natural gas production and export facilities. Primorskiy Region has several ports that are key to Russia's Pacific trade. The port of Kozmino is the terminus for the Eastern Siberia—Pacific Ocean (ESPO) crude oil pipeline (nameplate capacity of 1.6 million barrels per day). During 2021 ESPO average daily transit was 720 thousand barrels per day. Kozmino's neighbouring port of Vostochny exports coals to Chinea, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. The bedrock of Yakutia's economy is mining. Almost 100 percent of Russia's diamond mining and processing takes place within the territory. In addition, the primary source of Russia's coal exports that are shipped through Kozmino is Yakutia. The combined annual output of gold in Yakutia and Khabarovsk is equal to 64 metric tons, or over 20 percent of Russia's total. Although the Yakuts are a minority in their own republic, they have experienced a national revival in recent decades, as their adoption of the indigenous name Sakha indicates. Khabarovsk, meanwhile, was at the centre of regular mass demonstrations between July 2020 and July 2021. Sparked by Moscow's dismissal of a popular governor, these protests testify to growing anti-Moscow feeling in the territory.


Of Russia's 85 political divisions, Tatarstan and Bashkortostan are two of the few that have a unique constitutional arrangement granting them considerable autonomy. Together, they have a population of almost eight million that has increased about 0.4 percent over the last decade. The republics are home to Russia's legacy crude oil production producing about 1 million barrels per day, or about 10 percent of Russia's total. Tatarstan alone has approximately 7.3 billion barrels in reserves, or 30 years of supply at current production rates. In addition to hydrocarbon production, the two regions are, in comparison to the rest of Russia, diversified economically, having strong manufacturing and agricultural sectors. The regions have access to several river systems as well as railways putting them at the crossroads of trade routes. Together they have a high net export trade balance with exports of €14.2bn and imports of $1.6bn. During the 1990s after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Tatarstan took steps through referendums and agreements with the Kremlin to achieve full sovereignty. When Russia acknowledged the sovereignty of Abkhazia and South Ossetia after Russia's August 2008 invasion of Georgia, Tatarstan declared itself independent and asked the United Nations and Russia for recognition. Both ignored the request.

If Russia's war against Ukraine leads to victory for Ukraine or a stalemated quagmire, the instability of the Putin regime will grow exponentially. Under such conditions, some of the Russian Federation's regions are likely to bolt, especially if the Kremlin remains preoccupied with the power struggle over Putin's crown.

Will the new states remain independent, or will they be ingathered by whoever replaces Putin? We don't know. All we can say with any degree of certainty is that reintegrating them into Russia will be a violent and bloody process that could as easily accelerate Russia's collapse as revive the federation.


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