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.

Ethno-Politics in a Time of Transition
Ethno-politics in a time of transition
3.1 Introduction

The ‘triumph of nations’ is indeed a beguiling phrase – coined by Hélène Carrère d'Encausse (1993) – to signify the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It is now commonplace in literature on the perestroika era to argue that Mikhail Gorbachev committed a serious error of judgement in underestimating the national question and initiating his liberal reforms without foreseeing the explosion of ethnic problems that was to follow.

In considering the ‘triumph of nations’ notion in my own research analysis and participatory experience, however, I have encountered serious difficulties. The first problem concerns defining ‘nations’ as real groups or even (relational) communicative systems. Drawing on the immensely rich discourse on ‘the wrath of nations’ (to ...

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