There is an old story told in Russia and believed elsewhere. Once upon a time there was a vast country, but it lost its unity and was overrun by nomads who kept it captive for a quarter of a millennium. Slowly, however, its people gathered their strength, defeated the oppressors and shook off their yoke. Once free again, the country grew even bigger and more powerful. However, it later stumbled into a severe domestic crisis, lasting three decades and leading to a turmoil which in its turn invited its neighbours to invade and occupy it. The crisis was so severe, the internal divisions so deep and the foreigners so rapacious that the great country almost ceased to exist. Yet, its people organized themselves, raised an army, chased out the invaders and finally brought their house in order. For the following three centuries, the country expanded in all directions to become the biggest and one of the most powerful empires on earth. It, too, fell victim to internal divisions that its rulers were unable to manage, and again broke up amid the flames of a civil war and external military intervention. Miraculously but predictably, it was rescued again, restored to its former splendour and glory. Moreover, it rose to a position and standing it had never enjoyed before - that of one of only two poles in the international system. It is hardly surprising, then, that when that superpower collapsed under its own weight a little more than a decade ago, many Russians said, we will be back. And some foreigners feared, Russia will always be the same.