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Russia's Post-Soviet Journey

From Europe to Eurasia

During a rehearsal for a Victory Day parade, Moscow, May 2012. Denis Sinyakov / REUTERS

When the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, the hope among those Russians who welcomed its demise was that the newly created Russian Federation would return to Europe. Russia's victorious liberals and democrats dreamed of a market economy and Western political freedoms, while the bulk of the population longed for well-stocked supermarkets and the post-imperial, post-ideological stability of countries such as Germany and Sweden.

A quarter-century later, after a tumultuous economic and political transition, Russia has, in fact, moved away from Europe. Russian leaders regard their country as a self-sustained civilization related to Europe yet clearly separate from it. This worldview calls into question not just the legacies of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin and the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, both of whom looked at Europe as a model for Russia's own development, but also much of the Europeanizing Peter the Great's, as well. The key to understanding this shift lies

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