Humanity, Ethnicity, Nationality

Conceptual and Comparative Perspectives on the USSR

Publication Date:

Journal: Theory and Society

Reissue Date:

Page start: 661

Page End: 687

Volume: 2

Edition: 20

At a superficial level, contemporary Soviet studies of ethnicity and nationalism bear more than passing similarity to their Western counterparts. They pose many of the same insistent, obvious questions: How do we explain the rise of ethnic conflict? Is it a “natural” social phenomenon, the inevitable corollary of collective identity in the active voice? Or just an aberration, an unfortunate blip in the normally untroubled history of multi-ethnic societies? How, more ambitiously, do we go about its resolution? And, in like vein: Wherein lie the origins of moder nationalism(s)? Are all late twentieth-century assertions of national consciousness attributable to the same causes? Exploring the rising tide of ethnic assertion in the former USSR in light of these questions, this essay suggests that it may be explained, at least in part, by bringing a post/colonial Africanist perspective to bear on early post-Soviet history.

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