Strictly speaking, Russia has never existed between Europe and Asia, even geographically. It has always been an east European nation which from the sixteenth century acquired huge territories in northern Asia - at about the same time as the west European empires were gaining their vast colonies in South and North America, Asia and Africa. The Russian Empire and the Soviet Union evolved as authoritarian, militarized powers owing to the dialectics of external confrontation and internal oppression. Many European states had experienced similar regimes at various periods of their history, but this model came to be mostly associated with 'Asian' development (which is scarcely justified when considering India, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan for instance). For various complex historical reasons, the system survived in Russia until the mid-1980s when it underwent a drastic transformation, with farreaching and controversial consequences for Russia's domestic and foreign policies.