Greatness is an odd word because it signifies both quantity and quality. In the case of Russia, the two are easily confused. Even after the huge territorial losses incurred with the Soviet collapse, Russia still accounts for one-seventh of the Earth’s surface. Therefore, it has a geographical imperative to think big.
Russia is unlike Britain and France, which shrank back to their middle-sized home nations after losing their empires, making the transition to second-rateness with good grace. Russia’s loss of empire was more sudden, destructive and humiliating. Russia suffers from the malaise of lost greatness, the gigantic hangover that results when a historical bender comes to its inevitable bad end.