From February to October 1992, Valery Tishkov served as Minister of Nationalities of the government of Russia. This book is his account of ethnicity, nationalism, and conflict in the territory of the former Soviet Union, focusing particularly on the Russian federation, and drawing on his personal political experience and inside knowledge of major events. He analyzes the demographic, ecological, and cultural backgrounds of ethnic tensions and conflict, and carefully measures grassroots ethnic attitudes and cultural interactions, which do not always correspond to intellectual and political statements and claims.

Ethnicity in the Soviet and Post-Soviet Context

Ethnicity in the Soviet and post-Soviet context

1.1 The Power of Primordialism

The Russian social science tradition, especially with respect to interpreting ethnicity, is heavily dominated by the primordial approach. Its adherents see ethnicity as an objective ‘given’, a sort of primordial characteristic of humanity. For primordialists there exist objective entities with inherent features such as territory, language, recognizable membership, and even a common mentality. In its extreme form, this approach sees ethnicity in sociobiological categories as a ‘comprehensive form of natural selection and kinship connections’, as a primordial instinctive impulse (Van den Berghe, 1981). Some hold that a recognition of group affiliation is included in the genetic code and is the product of early human evolution, when an ability to ...

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