The break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991 was a geopolitical earthquake that redrew the map of Europe and Central Asia. In his state-of-the-nation address, in April 2005, Russia's President Vladimir Putin went so far as to describe it as the 'biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century'. His declaration caused a stir among the world's political scientists, sociologists, economists and even philosophers. Yet the full import of his words was lost on much of his foreign audience. 'For the Russian people', Putin continued, the collapse of the Soviet Union 'became a real drama'.