What remains 30 years after the end of the Soviet Union?
On 25 December 1991, the Soviet flag was taken down from the roof of the Kremlin and replaced by the tricolour flag of the Russian Federation. The end of the USSR followed the collapse of its economy, the secession of many states and an attempted coup against Gorbachev and his perestroika. Thirty years on, historians still disagree about the causes. Commentators take stock.
Thirty years of conflict
The region has not become more peaceful, the news website Brīvā Latvija says:
“Of 15 former republics, only five have managed to avoid war, a coup d'état or unrest. These are the three Baltic countries and, ironically, the two authoritarian regimes Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Mass protests in Belarus were brutally crushed last year. Russia faced both an internal conflict in Chechnya and wars in Georgia and Ukraine. Moldova was involved in the Russian-fuelled armed conflict in Transnistria. Armenia and Azerbaijan have repeatedly fought over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Tajikistan went through a civil war, Uzbekistan has seen widespread unrest, and Kyrgyzstan has repeatedly been plunged into political chaos.”
The fight for democracy never ends
Estonia's former president Toomas Hendrik Ilves warns in Eesti Ekspress against resting on the laurels of democratic achievements:
“The citizens of democratic states have been lulled by the victory of democracy since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The conviction that 'nothing can happen to us because we won' has led many to believe that the danger of authoritarianism lurks elsewhere. Yet we allow corruption and different rules to apply to those in power. ... It is the ironic truth that we need liberal democracy every day to preserve our rights and control over those in power, and yet we only see this need when it's too late.”
From Soviet power to rogue state
Putin's efforts to achieve a political balance with Nato cannot conceal the fact that he is chasing after the power and honour of the Soviet Union, writes Le Figaro:
“After the Soviet empire crumbled, he was left with only the weapons of the weak: attacking those smaller than himself, contesting borders, fomenting subliminal conflicts, supporting dictators, using mercenaries, covert interference, engaging in disinformation, sabotage and cyberwar. ... The balance of the two blocs has been replaced by the strategy of a thousand knife wounds - generally the privilege of terrorists and rogue states. Putin is paying back Russia's great historical humiliation with small change.”