With the breakdown in relations between Russia and Ukraine, the authoritarian structures that replaced the Soviet Union are close to collapse but the emergence of a new world order will be far from smooth
In 1991, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) vanished. The single party regime consisting of 15 republics had a significant influence on countries outside of USSR boundaries too. Central and Eastern European countries, except Albania and Yugoslavia, were part of the Soviet system.
The first popular uprising emerged in three small Baltic Republics: Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. These countries, which never wanted to be part of the USSR but were obliged after 1945, revolted. The Soviet government that was thought to have the ability to easily suppress the uprising subsequently collapsed through a military coup. But the supporters of the coup also failed against Gorbachov's resistance. The latter, whose aim was to keep the USSR alive, failed in his politics; and Yeltsin, who defended the separation of the Russian Federation from the USSR, replaced Gorbachov.
In a sense, Russia understood that the USSR could not stand any longer and it abandoned the system. However the substitute of the USSR system was not clear. The new structure built under the name of the Commonwealth of Independent States could never become operational.
After gaining independence, Baltic Republics became members of the European Union. The former socialist countries of Europe (aside from Albania and Yugoslavia) also adhered to the EU. Most of the former Soviet republics tried to apply a democratic structure, like Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The former Soviet system continued almost unchanged in the countries that restored independence. While the Baltic countries established democracy, their southern neighbour Belarus became a true totalitarian regime.
Due to its multi-cultural mosaic and ethnic diversity, the Russian Federation had to deal with domestic conflicts, sometimes turning into civil war. Chechnya was nearly burnt down and destroyed in its pursuit of independence. The struggle for democracy in the Central Asian Turkish Republics was over before it even started. Although these countries could develop to some extent thanks to their rich natural resources, they could not get rid of their authoritarian regimes. Over time, the ousting of the Yeltsin regime, Putin's accession to power and the important increase in natural gas and oil prices created an odd relationship between the former Soviet Republics and Russia.
Accordingly, the Kremlin was supporting the authoritarian regimes to stay in power in exchange for maintaining a say in the distribution of natural gas and oil, which were mainly located outside of Russian territory.
This odd system could be called an alternative "empire" for Russian to maintain political control over an immense region after the demise of the USSR. However, there are three main differences between the Soviet era and today: Firstly, the existing authoritarian systems, totalitarian in some cases, do not have an ideological framework. A primitive nationalism is basically all that the regime can offer as a substitute to a bygone ideology. Secondly, it is very difficult to contain the wave of civil freedom movements that sprang up with globalization and the revolution in information technology.
Thirdly, Russia is no longer isolated as was the case of the USSR, which operated in its own system. Russia is now part of the global capitalist system and represents a middlesized economy, hence much more vulnerable to the threats of financial sanctions.
The uprising in Ukraine and the counter invasion of Crimea cannot be handled with Soviet era tactics. As a matter a fact, the events thus can only be the cracking noises of the downfall of this post-USSR oligarchic empire. Therefore, it would not be unrealistic to assume that a long-standing period of instability could break out in the north