National Identity and Ethnicity in Russia and the New States of Eurasia

National Identity and Ethnicity in Russia and the New States of Eurasia

National Identity and Ethnicity in Russia and the New States of Eurasia

National Identity and Ethnicity in Russia and the New States of Eurasia

Synopsis

The failures of the nationality policy are now apparent, but its long-term impact is not yet clear. What kinds of nation-building strategies will the newly independent states pursue? Against the background of the Yugoslav experience, this question is of tremendous moment for regional peace and stability across the Eurasian continent.

The contributors include Gregory and Alec Guroff, Nikolai Rudensky, and Elizabeth Teague on Russia; Ilya Prizel on Ukraine; Jan Zaprudnik on Belarus; Algimantas Prazauskas and Walter Clemens on the Baltic; Martha Olcott, Robert J. Kaiser, and James Critchlow on Central Asia; and Gueorgui Otyrba on the Caucasus.

Excerpt

The fall of the USSR did not bring about the "end of history" in its former space. If anything, history is being made there anew. The collapse of the Soviet Union has opened the historical stage to a whole host of new actors, new participants, who are determined to shape their own destinies--and the destinies of others. This in turn has forced traditional players to face problems never dreamt of, and has given us an unprecedented opportunity to observe phenomena well known from other historical situations but now taking place in a setting never seen before--a postcommunist world.

There exists a vast literature on ethnicity, nation formation, and nationalism in "capitalist" societies. The world has less empirical knowledge, and even less theory, about the same kinds of phenomena in communist and especially postcommunist societies. How do nations constitute themselves after the collapse of a polity that defined itself in terms of the universal, internationalist ideology of Marxism-Leninism? How will the new international politics, the new system of international relations, affect the formation of national identities within new states? How will internal processes express themselves in turn in the international sphere? What will be the place and the role of ethnicity as compared with the role of political and social institutions and values in shaping the new identities of the new states? Will they take language and the ethnos as the defining, decisive marker of nationhood, or will they seek to substitute for ethnicity some other criteria of nationhood? Will they be able to transform their present political systems, which at best are "proto-democracies," into working and stable democracies?

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