With a territory that extends over 17 million square kilometers, from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok, the Russian Federation is a continental-sized state, the largest in the world. It borders to the west, from north to south, with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia and Azerbaijan; to the south with Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China. Furthermore, due to its sovereignty over Kaliningrad oblast, it also borders Lithuania and Poland. The geographical contiguity with Europe, the Caucasian regions, Central Asia and the Far East, as well as its historical-political evolution, have made Russia one of the most important players in the international system. It is a composite state with imperial characteristics, in which a strong center has always exercised control over weak and heterogeneous peripheries, often animated by independentist demands. In the second half of the nineteenth century, the Russian Empire came to compete with the British for dominance over the Middle East and South-Central Asia. The serious political and economic problems of a still predominantly agricultural state, combined with the vastness of the territory, were among the causes of the military defeats (in 1905 against Japan and in 1917 during the First World War) that would have contributed to the fall of the Tsar, the takeover of power by the Communists (Bolsheviks) in October 1917 and the establishment of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1922. The USSR soon transformed itself into a totalitarian state: it reorganized the management of power in the institutional form, but in fact retained many imperial features. An element of novelty compared to the tsarist era was the structuring on a federal basis, which, if it is true that it did not prevent the centralization of power by the Communist Party (PCUS), would have played a fundamental role in the dynamics of disintegration of the USSR. In the same period the communist ideology, with its egalitarian and revolutionary aspirations, spread and took root also in Europe, while inside the country forced industrialization and military rearmament endowed the USSR of stronger economic foundations than in the past and one of the strongest armies in the world. In 1945, at the end of the Second World War, the Red Army occupied about half of the European continent. The consequent rapid division of Europe and the world into two opposing ideological, economic and military blocs, hegemonized by what would be called ‘superpowers’ (USA and USSR), began a period of rivalry known as the Cold War, characterized by the constant nuclear threat (and mutual deterrence). The Soviet bloc was militarily organized around the Warsaw Pact (1955-91), which included the Soviet Union and many Eastern European states and which would last until the dissolution of the USSR. The end of the Soviet Union and bipolarism took place very quickly, between 1989 and 1991: to the economic collapse of the USSR its political fragmentation followed. The Soviet Union was formally dissolved in December 1991 and broke up into 14 new independent states including Europe (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova), Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia) and Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan) plus the Russian Federation. The satellite countries, on the other hand, withdrew from the Warsaw Pact. The transition from the centralized and planned Soviet economic system to an economy founded on free market principles caused severe imbalances, culminating in the financial collapse of the summer of 1998. The complexity of the transition – which was simultaneously ideological, political, economic and still unfinished – it has left contradictions and numerous problems on the field. Among others, GDP per capita is $ 23,700, but at least 18 million Russians live below the poverty line. The problems of instability at the borders persist, in particular those with the regions of the North Caucasus and, most recently, with Ukraine, following the crisis that broke out in November 2013 which led to the unilateral annexation of the Crimean peninsula to Russia and to military operations in the eastern and southern regions of the country.