The Russian political system remains subject to sudden radical change--this has been the basic logic of its political history since 1985. Only by understanding the processes and logics of that recent history of change can one understand the present and the (possibly radically different) future.

In December 1991 Boris Yeltsin, president of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (the USSR's largest republic, known as RSFSR), joined Stanislav Shushkevich of Belarus and Leonid Kravchuk of Ukraine in dissolving the Soviet Union and replacing it with the ill-defined Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The RSFSR was transformed into the Russian Federation, and the process of political transformation and state building was under way, and it continues apace.

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