An excellent four-part documentary film about recent Russian history called Moscow’s Empire.


It has been only 26 years since the Soviet Union dissolved, which is a blip in the overall timeline of history. Absent context, little can be understood with respect to what this span really means.

Conceding from the outset that this four-part documentary film is very Eurocentric — it includes nothing about what has been happening east of the Urals and in the various -stans — it remains a valuable overview of the past two and a half decades of Russian history.

Moscow’s Empire (Deutsche Welle)

The four-part documentary Moscow’s Empire shows how the former Soviet nations faced an anarchic decade marked by military conflicts and the search for new national identities and a new self-awareness.

In the late 1970s the Soviet empire began to crumble. After the fall of the Iron Curtain it fell apart completely in 1991 – bankrupt, traumatized and humiliated on the world stage. The former Soviet nations then faced an anarchic decade marked by military conflicts and the search for new national identities and a new self-awareness.

The end of a decade of upheavals saw the rise of a ”new tsar” at the helm in Russia, determined to guide the ”old” empire” back to former global power. After becoming president in 2000, Vladimir Putin began undoing the internal chaos that had beset the country, while at the same time restricting newly won freedoms. His leadership style was authoritarian and arguably autocratic. Moscow became an increasingly confident player on the international stage, aiming to limit on western influence.

The war in Georgia, and above all the recent conflict in eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea exacerbated the divide between East and West. A new Cold War appears to have emerged, returning conditions to the 1980s. The four-part documentary Moscow’s Empire looks for answers to these developments, and provides a variety of perspectives on life in the former Soviet block countries – from the people who have experienced events at first hand and in some cases shaped them.

Following are the four parts.





Part four of the documentary ends with Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March, 2014, and the subsequent imposition of sanctions by the USA and EU. Nothing is said about Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was shot down over eastern Ukraine (presumably by Russian irregulars) on July 17, 2014.

Fighting has continued in Ukraine since then, and of course there is an ongoing investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 American election. This article from August is an update in the vein of Deutsche Welle’s fine documentary film.

The punishment continues: America’s new economic sanctions may hurt Russia’s recovery (The Economist)

But whether they will change Vladimir Putin’s behaviour is another matter

 … As Mr Putin looks towards his fourth term (he is expected to win next year’s election), Russians are more concerned with their wallets than with Crimea. Growth this year is projected to be 2% or less. For the elite, the prospect of long-term stagnation and endless standoff with the West raises questions about the country’s direction. “The sense of an historic dead-end evokes panic,” writes Vladimir Frolov, a Russian analyst. Sanctions will not cause Mr Putin to reverse course, but they do make it harder for him to drive his way out.