The chapter introduces the reader to the topic. It sets out the challenges that Russia faced when the USSR collapsed, as a truncated Russian state, surrounded by a series of politically and economically fragile newly independent states, that emerged in the territory of the former USSR. By analysing in detail Russia’s policies towards the newly independent states, and particularly towards the members of the CIS, from the end of the USSR in 1991 until the present day this book examines the kind of relationship Russia has been trying to establish with the former Soviet space. The book sets out to determine whether over the past 25 years Russian leaders have attempted to restore a sphere of influence or informal empire over the former Soviet republics – similarly to what the French did in sub-Saharan Africa after decolonisation – or whether instead Russia’s policies reflected a genuine desire to establish normal state-to-state relations with the new states. In order to examine the nature of Russia’s relations in the Near Abroad, the chapter introduces the notions of ‘symmetric’ relations, as defined by Spruyt; the concept of hegemony using the works of Layne, Deyermond, Jervis, Wilkinson and Krasner, and informal empire or neo-empire, relying on the theories of Kahler, Hobson and Sharman, and Dawisha. It also utilises the notion of post-imperium as defined by Trenin, to describe the nature of Russia’s relations in the former Soviet space. The chapter also describes the notion of legitimate state interests, while it also examines the motivations behind Russia’s policies and the nature of Russia’s actions and instruments when operating in the former Soviet Union – hard power, coercive diplomacy, imposition, soft coercion, soft power, voluntary contracting. Finally, this chapter makes reference to the various schools of international relations to describe the nature of Russia’s policies in the Near Abroad.