Ethnic Conflict in the Post-Soviet World: Case Studies and Analysis

By Leokadia Drobizheva; Rose Gottemoeller et al. | Go to book overview
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Russian Ethnonationalism


Ethnic communities throughout the world are increasingly making clear their demands, their interests, and their readiness to act in the name of these interests. This is particularly true in the republics that were formerly part of the Soviet Union. These republics are experiencing a wave of ethnic renaissances and ethnically based nationalism among the titular nationality groups, minority nationality groups, and the numerically, politically, and economically dominant Russian population.

The modem rebirth of ethnic nationalism has prompted a reevaluation of the concepts of nation, nationality, and nationalism in many parts of the world. I use nation, nationality, and ethnic group as virtually synonymous and, using Gellner's definition, define them as ethnically based communities that possess common ideas, values, and interests—that is, the characteristics of ethnic consciousness. 1

The concept of ethnic consciousness includes both the notion of self-identification and popular perceptions concerning the ethnic or national characteristics that relate to one's own and different groups. Ideas about a group's origin, history, language, culture, traditions, standards of behavior, customs, and arts all play a role in the formation of these stereotypes and form the basis of the image of a collective "we." Additionally, areas of traditional habitation, territorial extent, and a history of national sovereignty can influence the development of ethnic consciousness. The positive emotional aspects of ethnic consciousness include pride in a group's achievements and a strong interest in and connection with its past; the negative aspects can include hostility to nongroup members, chauvinism, and racism.

In this chapter I focus on the development of Russian ethnic identification and consciousness and the politicization of that consciousness in ethnic nationalism. Although most of the developments discussed in this chapter occurred within the framework of what is now the Russian Federation, it is important to note at the outset that 25 million Russians live outside the borders of the Russian Federation, in areas that were once part of the former Soviet Union but now constitute the "near abroad." 2


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