Nation-Building and Ethnic Integration in Post-Soviet Societies: An Investigation of Latvia and Kazakstan


Several bipolar states of the world, such as Rwanda, Burundi, and Sri Lanka, have experienced savage bloodshed and even to the total collapse of state order. By contrast, Latvia and Kazakhstan have so far to a remarkably high degree been spared the kind of communal violence which has erupted in many other Soviet successor states. This book gives an in-depth analysis of ethnopolitics in Latvia and Kazakhstan and explores the reasons for this tranquil outcome. Of all the states of the former Soviet Union, it is in Latvia and in Kazakstan that the titular nation represents the lowest share of the total population: as of 1997, approximately 57% in Latvia and 50% in Kazakstan. In such a situation it is difficult to see how the "national" or "titular" culture (Latvian, Kazak) can serve as a consolidating element in the nation-building project. Quite the contrary: any ethnic-based nation-building, one would assume, could easily lead to increased tension between members of the titular group and "outsiders." And yet, in both these states nation-building is following the same general post-Soviet pattern: the traditions and symbols of the titular nations form the basis, while the remainder of the population, however strong it may be, gets treated as ethnic minorities'. While the means employed differ somewhat, it seems fair to say that Latvian nation-building is geared towards the latvification of the Latvian state and in Kazakstan kazakification is a desired goal. But is this at all possible? Is half of the population supposed to be "integrated" into the other half--and, if so, what will be the result? Obviously, the answer to these questions need not be the same in both counties. Latvia is a small European country, the size of Ireland, while Kazakstan, straddling the European-Asian boundary, covers a territory as large as Western Europe. However, precisely the combination of important similarities and dissimilarities between the two cases is what makes a comparison of Latvia and Kazakstan a fruitful endeavor.

Additional information

Includes content by:
  • Pål Kolstø
  • Aina Antane
  • Boris Tsilevich
  • Jørn Holm-Hansen
  • Irina Malkova
Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Boulder, CO
Publication year:
  • 1999