The tiny states of Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia, having shed their Russian-dominated past and joined the EU and NATO, are looking to help their post-Soviet neighbors to do the same.
It doesn't matter if you're a business leader, a prime minister, royalty, or even the pope: Russian President Vladimir Putin keeps everyone waiting, sometimes for hours.
The oil-rich former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan has yet to hold an election that Western observers agree is fair, despite 20 years of democracy.
The crushing of an apparently legitimate election victory in South Ossetia, a key client state of Moscow, could bring a fresh wave of unwanted attention to Russia's own problematic democracy.
Russia's Kremlin-backed businesses are snapping up assets in former Eastern Europe, though governments are still wary.
Newly elected Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev has said his biggest challenge will be to unify the country, which has seen two revolutions and a string of questionable elections during the past decade.
Yulia Tymoshenko, the Ukrainian opposition leader, was sentenced to seven years in prison for 'criminal abuse' during her term as prime minister, though critics say the trial was politically motivated.