Thomas Wood
4 min readMay 21



Estonian President Alar Karis insists that there will not be a “chaotic breakup” of Russia — but that is only because he is thinking in terms of a regional breakup.


Karis: “There appears no imminent palace coup or mass uprising that will unseat Putin and forge a new, contrite Russian path. Western analysts and Russian nationalist propagandists alike are nonetheless speculating over a potential chaotic breakup of Russia in the event of a decisive defeat in Ukraine.

Karis said he does not expect such a scenario. ‘It’s difficult to expect. The resources are not in Moscow or St. Petersburg, they’re in Siberia,’ he said, noting that no successor state could afford to lose access to such lucrative assets. ‘It won’t happen, it simply won’t happen.’”

This is looking at the matter in the wrong way. Just consider that the collapse of the Russian imperial army in 1917 led to an extraordinarily violent “chaotic breakup” of the Russian empire *during the Russian Civil War*, though for the most part, the antagonists were not focussed on regional issues.

These days, ultranationalists like Girkin (Strelkov) are not necessarily predicting a regional breakup of the Russian Federation. To judge from their public comments, what they are predicting is a violent upheaval and conflict similar to the Russian Civil War (1917–20) if the Russian military collapses in Ukraine.

Recall that the February revolution in 1917 led to violent political struggles, but the Russian Civil War was not based on or around the pursuit of regional interests.

True, there were times when the White, anti-Bolshevik generals and their forces were based in different regions (Ukraine, Siberia), and there were some separatist forces in the field, too (interestingly, including Ukraine) but the real struggle was not over regional independence or separatism. No, the Whites and the Bolsheviks were fighting for the whole of Russia.

That is the kind of struggle that I think ultranationalists are foreseeing for Russia if the Russian military fails in Ukraine.

Furthermore, it is clearly a mistake to think that the “chaotic upheaval,” if it comes, will only involve ultranationalists versus more moderate nationalist factions in the Russian Federation, or even struggles amongst the different ultranationalist factions.

There is already a lot of partisan activity in Russia that the Kremlin is denouncing as “terrorist.” It involves sabotage by drones and other means of oil depots, ammo dumps, and transportation hubs; and the torching of military recruitment buildings. Whoever the partisans are who are behind this activity, we can be sure that they are not just anti-Putin: they are also anti-war.

As retired general Mark Hertling pointed out the other day, we only hear of pro-war critics of Putin because pro-war criticism is the only criticism that Putin allows in the country. But there is surely more anti-war than ultranationalist, pro-war sentiment in Russia. Why? Because the war in Ukraine has been a disaster for Russia. Can any rational person believe that the solution is more war — and an even bigger war at that?

Russia cannot defeat the West in Ukraine, because it lacks the military, financial, and industrial resources to do so (just do the math) — and it is likely that there are a lot more critics of the war in Russia who see it this way than there are ultranationalists.

We are likely to start hearing a lot more from these anti-war partisans very soon if the Ukrainian counteroffensive is as successful as it looks like it is going to be.


There are indeed some Western analysts who are talking about the possible regional breakup of the Russian Federation.

Several weeks ago I saw a clip from an interview of Putin where he was asked about this. His reply was, “Oh yes. They [left unspecified] are already talking about this, predicting a Urals Russia, a Yakutia Russia etc.”

I have been able to identify where much of this talk is coming from. I found it in an interview with Nikolai Patrushev, the Secretary of the Security Council of the RF. Patrushev is arguably the second most powerful person in the Kremlin. In this interview (I used Google Translate),


I noticed that Patrushev referred to a book, “Failed State: A Guide to the Disintegration of Russia” by Janusz Bugaisky.

I looked it up. Bugajski or Bugaisky is a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation in the Beltway, and his book has in fact been getting quite a lot of attention. (It can be downloaded for free as a pdf file here: https://tinyurl.com/2ojrmvro

It’s an interesting book, but for a number of compelling reasons, Russia is not going to fragment regionally in the way Bugajski suggests. (Karis gives one of the compelling reasons.)

But Putin and others in the Kremlin like Patrushev do have to worry about dissident regionalism. That is mainly because Russia is a vast and very diverse country, making it relatively easy for pockets of civil and armed resistance to emerge in the regions. (Several of the regions are already bankrupt.) But that doesn’t mean that those organizing the resistance in the regions will be aiming for separatism or independence.

For more on how the Russians are obsessing about this, see:
https://tinyurl.com/2mmerdzu (I used Google Translate).



Thomas Wood

The Resistance. Vote Blue: True Blue American. We look forward, they look back. We’re progressive, they’re regressive. @twoodiac