Nationalism and the End of the Soviet Empire
One of the results expected by Russian Communists following the Bolshevik revolution was the emergence of a new sense of national consciousness that would outweigh the older, ethnic-national identities among the populations of the empire. Lenin encouraged a nonethnic sense of national identity through allegiance to the party and the union, and his successors promoted the same idea for over 70 years. However, Soviet leaders misjudged the strength of nationalism among the USSR's minority populations, and even among ethnic Russians. Consequently they were unprepared when the forces of nationalism pulled apart their vast multiethnic empire in the 1980s.
During the Afghan War the Kremlin leadership was surprised by the poor performance of Turkic Muslim conscripts from the Central Asian republics, because military service was traditionally regarded as one of the most effective agents of Russification in the Soviet system (second only to public education). Individuals from a non-Russian background who wanted to become professional soldiers had to acquire fluency in the Russian language and adopt (or adapt themselves to) ethnic Russian social customs. The fact that some units sent to assist in the pacification of Afghanistan preferred to spend time with their own ethnic comrades and coreligionists was evidence that 70 years of Soviet political control and Communist indoctrination policies directed from Moscow had not overcome ethnic consciousness and religious sentiment among the minority Muslim populations.