Why Putin Wants to Restore the Russian Empire

Jakub Ferencik
4 min readJul 13, 2022

I have recently been listening to a long course on Russian history on Audible. The course put much of the context of why Putin wants to restore the Russian empire into perspective.

When people are trying to understand Putin they make one fundamental mistake. They use reason in a way we commonly do. “What’s the logic?” they ask. Well, we don’t function primarily via logic. And neither does Putin. We often justify views we have for reasons that have more to do with intuitions, upbringing, and culture.

Read about Peter the Great and Catherine the Great’s conquests into what they called Novorossia (new Russia — present day southern Ukraine and Crimea). Study the horrible Russian defeat in the Russo-Japanese war in 1904–05 and Nicholas II’s response to it. Read of Rasputin’s influence over the tsar and his wife. Lenin and the Bolsheviks, Stalin and the KGB, Krushchev at the cusp of nuclear war.

Putin aims to restore this Russia — a Russia that, in his view, is weakened by democracy.

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

When Putin said that the fall of the USSR was the greatest atrocity of the 20th century, many shrugged in disbelief. But Putin didn’t mince his words there.

He really thinks that the fall of the USSR was the greatest tragedy of the 20th century — not the Holocaust, not the two world wars, not the Spanish flu, etc.

Notably, the fall of the USSR was a tragedy for countless people. Many Russians found themselves in foreign lands, isolated, without any Russian municipalities to ask for assistance.

Millions were left in poverty and out of employment. The fall of the USSR was a tragedy — make no mistake. But it was not merely a tragedy.

The fall of the USSR was also an opportunity for freedom, democracy, and proper representation for the working class in ethnic lands that should have had decentralized authority in the first place.

The USSR’s centralized political system was its main downfall, in the end.

Leading up to the dissolution of the USSR, Ukraine’s largest catastrophe was the result of this centralized system. On closer inspection in 1986 in Chernobyl, we see that it was largely due to poor policies issued by the Kremlin that the powerplant…

Jakub Ferencik

Author of “Up in the Air” & “Beyond Reason” available on AMAZON | MA McGill Uni | Research assistant for EUROPEUM Prague | 700+ blog posts with 1+ mil. views