Ethnic Russians were particularly sore that the collapse of the USSR left 25 million Russians living in areas that were now foreign countries. Of these 25 million, 11 million lived in Ukraine, almost 6 million in Kazakhstan, and most of the rest in other parts of Central Asia and the Baltic republics. In some areas, most notably Crimea and northern Kazakhstan, Russians made up large majorities. This created the dangerous potential for border conflicts and secessionist movements. Some conflicts erupted in the outlying areas of the former Soviet Union, particularly in the Caucasus region, Tajikistan, and Moldova. However, the Russian Federation accepted its post-Soviet borders.
In 1992 and 1993 Yeltsin’s opponents in the legislature, led by the legislature’s chairman, Ruslan Khasbulatov, and Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoy, denounced the government’s failure to support Russians in the “Near Abroad,” as Russians call the outlying areas of the former USSR.
In particular, they demanded that Russia support the secessionist movements in the Trans-Dniester region of Moldova and in the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. They condemned the refusal of the Latvian and Estonian governments to grant automatic citizenship to Russians who were permanent residents in these republics. This opposition forced Yeltsin to modify his policy somewhat. As a result Russia delayed agreement with Ukraine over arrangements for the former Soviet Black Sea Fleet (which was to be divided between Ukraine and Russia) and increased support for the Russian-speaking movement in the Trans-Dniester region. On the crucial issues, however, Yeltsin remained firm. Russian troops were withdrawn from the Baltic republics in 1993 and 1994. No encouragement was given to the Crimean secessionists, and in 1997 agreement was finally reached over the Black Sea Fleet and its base at Sevastopol’, Ukraine.
The accord granted Russia a 20-year lease to a separate bay for its portion of the fleet at Sevastopol’. That same year a Russo-Ukrainian friendship treaty was signed. The underlying reason for the government’s restrained policy was its awareness that challenging the post-Soviet borders would likely lead to instability and war, which would doom chances of economic recovery and ensure international isolation. Such challenges would also be deeply unpopular with the bulk of the Russian people, whose overriding wish was for peace and prosperity, and who were exhausted by decades of forced sacrifice in the Soviet era in the name of the state’s military power and international prestige. "Russia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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