An Ethnohistorical Dictionary of the Russian and Soviet Empires

An Ethnohistorical Dictionary of the Russian and Soviet Empires

An Ethnohistorical Dictionary of the Russian and Soviet Empires

An Ethnohistorical Dictionary of the Russian and Soviet Empires

Synopsis

In 1991, the centrifugal forces of ethnic nationalism destroyed the Soviet Union. Religious and ethnic issues will be the defining principles of political life in East Europe, Transcaucasia, and Central Asia for the next decade. Yet when most Americans and Europeans read, for instance, of the Ossetians and Ingush, they have no idea who these peoples are or why they are fighting. This volume will provide a ready reference for students, researchers, and librarians who are trying to sort out the political and social struggles in that part of the world. Focusing on ethnolinguistic groups rather than peoples with purely religious orientations, Olson provides entries on over 450 ethnic groups, with appropriate cross-references. Each entry concludes with references, and the volume includes a selected bibliography of English-language titles. The volume also includes a chronology, several appendixes providing statistical information, and an appendix essay on Islam in Russia and the Soviet Union.

Excerpt

The photograph said it all. On November 6, 1992, the international wire services distributed a photograph of civil unrest in the Transcaucasian region of Russia. The photograph displayed a squad of armed Ossetian militiamen advancing carefully into an Ingush village where armed Ingush militiamen had been harassing them. The Ossetian homeland is located in the North Ossetian Autonomous Republic of Russia, as well as across the border in the Georgian Republic; the Ingush live in the western part of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Republic in Russia, which borders Ossetia. Their argument is an old one. The Ingush are Sunni Muslims while most Ossetians are Eastern Orthodox. During World War II, Josef Stalin accused the Ingush of cooperating with the German invaders, and, in 1944, he relocated almost all of them to Central Asia and Siberia. The Ingush were later rehabilitated, but when they returned from their internal exile in the 1960s, they found that Ossetians had occupied former Ingush land. Today, the Ingush are laying claim to half of the North Ossetian capital of Viadikavkaz. They also argue that the Prigorodny region of North Ossetia is their historic homeland. Ossetians do not accept that claim, and, throughout 1992, there was sporadic fighting in the region between Ossetian and Ingush militiamen. Several hundred people were killed in the fighting during 1992.

The vast majority of Americans and Europeans who saw the photograph in their newspapers and read the caption did not have the vaguest idea of who the Ossetians and Ingush were and why they were fighting. Ossetia and Ingushetia were by no means the only places in the former Soviet Union where mystifying ethnic squabbles surfaced as the country disintegrated. Uzbeks and Kazakhs battled in Uzbekistan, while Armenians and Azerbaijanis killed each other over the Nagorno-Karabakh. Ossetians fought with Georgians, while Jews and Gypsies worried that old ethnic hatreds would soon lead to the holocausts of the past. Uzbeks went after the Meskhetians, and all over the former Soviet Union local ethnic groups reacted against the presence of ethnic Russians. Crimean Tatars, after nearly fifty years of exile, are returning to the Crimean Peninsula, but ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Russians are resisting the relocation. Ethnic . . .

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