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Nationalism and identity in the former Soviet Union

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2000-12-2
Light, Margot
Nationalism is useful in consolidating state identity and bolstering state-building, but in the form of ethnic nationalism, it can undermine the integrity of the state. This paper examines the effect of non-Russian and Russian nationalism in the former Soviet Union. It finds that although Russian nationalism evokes more fear outside Russia than non-Russian nationalism, the violent conflicts in the former Soviet Union have been caused by the latter rather than the former. Non-Russian nationalism also threatens the integrity of the Russian Federation. The author concludes that although the Soviet Union was unique, the political use of nationalism anywhere following rapid change and economic dislocation can rapidly turn nationalism from a positive means of self-identification to a virulent ethnic exclusion of others which leads to conflict.