A number of people have challenged my (and the official Kremlin translators’) choice of “a major” for “krupneyshey” in Putin’s famous sentence “Above all, we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century.” I stand by what I said: he did not say that there was no worse geopolitical disaster in the century. Neither did he mean that he wanted the empire back.
1. Meaning of the word “krupneyshey”. I take my authority from Pekhlivanova and Lebedeva: “Russian Grammar in Illustrations”; Moscow 1994; p 161. Here it is stated “To say that an object possesses some quality in extraordinary degree, without comparing it to other objects, the Russian uses a special adjectival form ending in -eyshiy (or -ayshiy, after zh, ch, sh, shch). A footnote tells us “These forms are used more frequently in bookish speech”.
To express the meaning “the object possesses the quality in the highest degree as compared to other objects” the modifier samyy is used.
A photograph of that page of the book is visible at my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/patrick.armstrong.1048?fref=nf
English does not have such an adjectival form: it has the quality (big) the comparative (bigger) the superlative (biggest). I would therefore suggest that the really correct translation would have been "one of the bigger" or even “one of the biggest”. But, according to my source, it would be absolutely wrong to call it the “biggest/largest/maximal” (which means number one, none bigger).