The Soviet Union is certainly not the only "multinational" country in this world [the time of writing is 1986]. In Asia, we have the case of India: twenty-two states, two large language-groups (Aryan and Dravidian), and 179 different spoken languages, thirteen of which are officially recognized as "constitutional languages". In Europe, to take another example, we have the case of Spain: with different ethnic groups and languages, such as Castilian, Catalan and Basque-to quote only the three major ones. Let us take another example from Africa. We all know about the tragedy of racism and apartheid in South Africa, a country where the population is subdivided into whites (speakers of English and Afrikaans), Indians and African blacks, the last further divided into at least four or five large ethnolinguistic groups. To a certain extent, we could also point to North America: Canada, which is partly "English" and partly "French" (not only in Quebec); and even the United States, where many different races and ethnic groups coexist, though they are not concentrated in specific regions or states.
However-though it may seem strange in what is often considered one of the most centralized states in the world-there are few countries indeed like the Soviet Union, where the internal subdivision into "nationalities" reflects the existence of radically different ethnic groups, whose history has followed separate (if not conflicting) paths for centuries and centuries, and whose languages belong to "groups" and "families" extremely remote from one another. From ethnic, cultural and linguistic points of