On Ruins of Empire: Ethnicity and Nationalism in the Former Soviet Union

On Ruins of Empire: Ethnicity and Nationalism in the Former Soviet Union

On Ruins of Empire: Ethnicity and Nationalism in the Former Soviet Union

On Ruins of Empire: Ethnicity and Nationalism in the Former Soviet Union

Synopsis

This study, sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation and the London School of Economics and Political Science, analyzes the ethnopolitical situation in Russia and the other republics of the former Soviet Union, particularly the southern tier states. Respected Russian scholar Georgiy Mirsky provides an insider's look at the historical nature of the Russian and Soviet empires, the development of ethnic and nationalistic identities within those empires, and the present-day situation with regard to hot and cold ethnic conflicts within and around Russia. This important work will be of interest to scholars and policymakers in comparative politics, international relations, and Russian and Slavic studies.

Excerpt

The Soviet Union was a unique kind of empire, not only, nor even primarily, because people of the dominant nation -- Russia -- were by and large worse off economically than those of some of the southern republics. the main peculiarity of the ussr was the unusual character of the system of power in the multiethnic society. in the British and French empires, for instance, local chiefs and rulers in the colonies were given their share of governing, but they remained natives -- local bosses -- never belonging to the imperial elite of London or Paris. in the Soviet Union, however, republican leaders were an integral part of the overall ruling class; some of them even made it to the Politbureau. This can be explained both by the internationalist ideology of Communism, hypocritical as it was, and by pragmatic experience. All the major decisions, of course, were made in the Kremlin but local elites were given a substantial degree of autonomy. in this way, a strong and quite reliable network of local power centers was created that proved to be totally loyal to the paramount Party leadership. the system achieved a broad and solid foundation.

The native nomenclatura played a dual role: First, party and state officials were Communist apparatchiks just like their colleagues in Moscow; and second, they were traditional local bosses and patrons. Thus, their system of rule was vertical, and leaders always had a valuable feedback from the grass roots, allowing them to gauge the mood of the population. in Central Asia, for example, the republican or provincial party secretary, all-powerful in the Soviet system, also symbolized and took the place of the traditional clan and ethnic leader. He was a local chieftain and patron, a godfather figure lording it over an entrenched network that often resembled the Mafia. Loyalty to him was paramount, and . . .

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