Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a government unit to search for real estate abroad that belonged to the Soviet Union and even the Russian Empire, TASS state news agency reported on January 19.
Putin signed two decrees related to his order on January 18. One decree will allow for the allocation of funds for the search, the registration of property rights, and the “legal protection” of the property, per TASS. The other decree will provide funds for the maintenance and operations of the real estate.
The documents did not state how much money the Russian government is allocating for the purpose.
It’s unclear what Putin’s motivations are, but his order could cause unease in countries surrounding Russia amid discussions about the Russian leader’s imperial ambitions.
The Soviet Union was formed in 1922 and collapsed in 1991, after which its constituent republics — which includes Ukraine and the Baltic countries, among others — became independent states.
The Russian Empire collapsed in 1917 after nearly 200 years. It was one of the biggest empires in history and covered over 15% of the earth’s landmass at its peak. This includes Alaska, which Russia sold to the US in 1867 for $7.2 million.
The Institute for the Study of War, a US think tank, wrote in a January 19 report that the Kremlin’s intention may be to promote soft power in post-Soviet and neighboring states with the aim of destabilizing these regions internally.
Putin has called the collapse of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century” and said in 2021 that the event marked the demise of “historical Russia.”
In June 2022, Putin compared himself to Czar Peter the Great — the first emperor of Russia — to justify the invasion of Ukraine.