Scholarly article on topic 'Beyond Russia, becoming local: Trajectories of adaption to the fall of the Soviet Union among ethnic Russians in the former Soviet Republics'

Beyond Russia, becoming local: Trajectories of adaption to the fall of the Soviet Union among ethnic Russians in the former Soviet Republics Academic research paper on "Political Science"

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Abstract When the Soviet Union began to unravel in the late 1980s, many observers expected that the 25 million ethnic Russians who lived in the non-Russian republics represented an important group of people who could be mobilized by ‘empire-savers’ to stem this process. Russians who would end up as minorities in new nationalizing states, had little if anything to gain from state disintegration. They were also highly resourceful in terms of education and occupational positions. The sinister role which ethnic Serbs played in Slobodan Milosevic’s schemes to salvage the Yugoslav state boded ill, as did the bloody war waged by France in Algeria in protection of the pied-noirs in the 1950s. As it turned out, the Russians in the non-Russian republics for the most part remained remarkably passive, and this contributed in no small degree to the tranquil transition to a new political map in Eurasia. This article is an attempt to explain this counterintuitive outcome. I revisit a typology of identity trajectories for the Russian diaspora which I developed in the mid-1990s and conclude that its basic insights remain valid. At that time I had argued that Russians outside the RSFSR had already for some time been going through a process of dissociation from the Russian core group. They were adopting some cultural traits from the local population without undergoing any kind of assimilation. While there were important regional varieties as well as generational differences within each Russophone community, as a general rule it could be said that they had developed an identity of their own, or more precisely: one local identity for each republic. In this way Russian ethnic solidarity was weakened and the mobilizational potential of the diaspora issue for political purposes was diminished. Empirical research carried out by myself and others over the last 15 years, including large-scale opinion polls, seem to confirm these assumptions. After the break-up of the unitary state the distance between the identity trajectories of the various Russian-speaking post-Soviet communities have gradually grown wider, for a number of reasons. Those Russians who were least willing or able to adapt to the new political circumstances have in many cases returned to Russia, making it even more important for those who remain to learn the local language and find their cultural-political niche in their country of residence as a national minority.

Academic research paper on topic "Beyond Russia, becoming local: Trajectories of adaption to the fall of the Soviet Union among ethnic Russians in the former Soviet Republics"

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Beyond Russia, becoming local: Trajectories of adaption to the fall of the Soviet Union among ethnic Russians in the former Soviet Republics

Pal Kolst0

Department of Literature, Area Studies and European Languages, University of Oslo, Norway


Article history: When the Soviet Union began to unravel in the late 1980s, many observers expected that

Received 1 July 2010 the 25 million ethnic Russians who lived in the non-Russian republics represented an

Accepted 12 December 2010 important group of people who could be mobilized by 'empire-savers' to stem this process.

Russians who would end up as minorities in new nationalizing states, had little if anything to gain from state disintegration. They were also highly resourceful in terms of education and occupational positions. The sinister role which ethnic Serbs played in Slobodan Milosevic's schemes to salvage the Yugoslav state boded ill, as did the bloody war waged by France in Algeria in protection of the pied-noirs in the 1950s.

As it turned out, the Russians in the non-Russian republics for the most part remained remarkably passive, and this contributed in no small degree to the tranquil transition to a new political map in Eurasia. This article is an attempt to explain this counterintuitive outcome. I revisit a typology of identity trajectories for the Russian diaspora which I developed in the mid-1990s and conclude that its basic insights remain valid. At that time I had argued that Russians outside the RSFSR had already for some time been going through a process of dissociation from the Russian core group. They were adopting some cultural traits from the local population without undergoing any kind of assimilation. While there were important regional varieties as well as generational differences within each Russophone community, as a general rule it could be said that they had developed an identity of their own, or more precisely: one local identity for each republic. In this way Russian ethnic solidarity was weakened and the mobilizational potential of the diaspora issue for political purposes was diminished.

Empirical research carried out by myself and others over the last 15 years, including large-scale opinion polls, seem to confirm these assumptions. After the break-up of the unitary state the distance between the identity trajectories of the various Russian-speaking post-Soviet communities have gradually grown wider, for a number of reasons. Those Russians who were least willing or able to adapt to the new political circumstances have in many cases returned to Russia, making it even more important for those who remain to learn the local language and find their cultural-political niche in their country of residence as a national minority.

Copyright © 2011, Asia-Pacific Research Center, Hanyang University. Produced and distributed by Elsevier Limited. All rights reserved.

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When I began teaching Russian area studies at the University of Oslo in 1990, the so-called 'new Russian diaspora' had suddenly become a hotly disputed topic on the political as well as on the academic agenda. Until that time hardly anyone had paid much attention to the fact that millions of ethnic Russians - 25 millions to be more exact -were living within the USSR but outside the Russian

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republic, the RSFSR. The Soviet Union, while formally a federation, was perceived as a strongly centralized state, and most Sovietologists concentrated on political developments in Moscow, if not to say: in the Kremlin. Secondly, ethnic issues were generally not regarded as politically important, and attracted few students. Finally, to the extent that the ethnic make-up of the USSR was taken note of at all, most observers found it quite natural that ethnic Russians were living all over the country. The USSR functioned as a single job market, and it was only to be expected that people moved around from one republic to another.

It is a moot issue to what extent ethnicity really was an independent source of change behind the processes that led up to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The reform policies of the Gorbachev administration were initiated from above, with little pressure from below, and primarily for economic reasons. The new leaders in the Kremlin had an acute sense that their country was falling ever further behind the most advanced Western countries in economic development, and concluded that they had to introduce a measure of political liberalism in order to reinvigorate Soviet society. In some republics the new scope for political initiative from below was used by local politicians to press for more republican power. Soon also activists outside the party seized upon ethnicity as a means to mobilize the population against the communist system. In a country like Poland, the communist regime had been challenged by a massive popular movement organized as a labor union, the SolidarnoSc, with strong backing from the national church, Polish Catholicism. In the Soviet Union, on the other hand, the labor unions were completely docile and could not play any similar role as a vessel for opposition, and the church had no tradition of independent action. In this country, the only potential collective identity that could be activated for political purposes was ethnicity. Unlike religion, ethnicity had not been suppressed in the Soviet Union, on the contrary it had been pervasively institutionalized, on two levels: Individually, as all Soviet citizens carried with them at all times their internal passport in which their personal, ascriptive ethnicity or 'nationality' was marked in the so-called 5th point; on the collective level, as the entire state was organized as a gigantic federation of ethnically defined republics (Slezkine, 1994; Suny, 1993). During perestroika, these two levels were politicized simultaneously and combined in a highly combustive mix: the new political entrepreneurs demanded independence for their republics with an ethnic justification: Ukraine was cast as the homeland of ethnic Ukrainians, Latvia as the homeland of Latvians, and so on. The correspondence between the republican structure and the ethnic map of the Soviet Union, however, was, as we all know, far from perfect. Not only millions of ethnic Russians, but also multitudes of other Soviet citizens lived outside their putative 'homeland'. In the new ethnicized political climate these people were increasingly regarded as literally 'out of place'.

As these developments were unfolding in the Soviet Union, similar processes took place in Yugoslavia, another communist federation that exhibited many of the same features as the USSR: also in Yugoslavia, ethnicity was the defining feature of the federation, in fact, the Yugoslav

communists had taken over the ethnofederal idea from the Soviets at the time when Tito and Stalin were still on good terms. And importantly, in Yugoslavia, just as much as in the USSR, a substantial portion of the population lived outside the republic that was named after 'their' ethnic group. Also in Yugoslavia the geographical dispersion of the largest ethnic group, in this case the Serbs, represented a particularly important obstacle to a peaceful dismemberment of the unitary state into ethnically defined components: the Serbs lived in large numbers outside Serbia - in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Montenegro - as well as in the two ethnic units that were formally parts of the Serb republic, Kosovo and Vojvodina. The Serb population in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo soon got caught up in a frenzy of ethnic violence: in wars that erupted in these republics in the 1990s somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 people were killed. In these wars the status and situation of the local Serbs was one of the major bones of contention.

The Yugoslav carnage sent shockwaves throughout the world and the parallels between the internal Serbian diaspora in Yugoslavia and the internal Russian diaspora in USSR were not lost on political pundits. Alarmists feared that a blow-up of the Soviet Union could lead to a Yugoslav scenario writ large. Another sinister parallel was the dissolution of the French colonial empire: France had not accepted imperial decline peacefully, and the most protracted killings took place precisely in Algeria, the colony in which the highest number of French settlers were living. Still other worrying examples are the way the diaspora issue was used by the post-Trianon regime in Hungary in the interwar period and by Nazi Germany in the political games leading up to World War II.

As it happened, however, the breakup of the Soviet Union entailed remarkably little violence. It was an 'implosion' rather than an explosion. To be sure, there was bloodshed and even full-sized civil wars in some republics - Tajikistan and Azerbaijan/Armenia were the worst cases, with tens of thousands of casualties each place. We ought to recognize, however, that compared to what was taking place in Yugoslavia at the time, this was far less than what could have occurred in the Soviet Union, and we ought to be thankful for that. This outcome was far from obvious at the time and requires an explanation.

The answer clearly must be sought in several independent circumstances. On the level of national politics, there was a crucial difference in the role played by the leaders of the two largest republics, Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia and Boris Yeltsin in Russia. Milosevic pursued an actively confrontational course vis-à-vis the other Yugoslav republics while Boris Yeltsin for his part sought alliances with the other republican leaders in the USSR. The behavior of the Russian leader was perfectly rational under the circumstances: Yeltsin's main political foe was Gorbachev, the president of the Soviet Union, and in the power struggle between these two men it was a smart move of Yeltsin to align himself with non-Russian leaders who had an interest in eliminating Gorbachev's power base, the USSR (Dunlop, 1993). In Yugoslavia, on the other hand, there was no counterpart to Gorbachev against whom Milosevic had to struggle, and all the destructive energies of the Serbian president were spent on confrontations with the non-Serbs.

But what about the position of the internal diaspora of the dominant ethnic group in the two countries, the Serbs outside Serbia and the Russians outside Russia? With a few exceptions, the Russian diasporians did not mobilize but remained rather passive. Indicatively, the most violent conflicts during the dissolution of the Soviet Union took place precisely in those republics where very few Russians were living, such as Tajikistan and Armenia/Azerbaijan, and the local Russians were not involved. Only in one instance were ethnic Russians involved in a civil war, in Moldova in 1992 (Kolst0, Edemsky, et al., 1993).

During perestroika Soviet loyalists in some republics organized so-called 'inter-fronts' to fight for the preservation of the Soviet unitary state. This was a countermove to the establishment of so-called 'popular fronts' that fought first for the cultural rights of the titular nation and later also for political sovereignty for the republics. While some local Russians sympathized with the popular fronts and a few titulars supported the interfronts, it is fair to say that the standoff between these two types of movements pitted Russophones and titulars against each other. This was a battle which the Russophones lost resoundingly. Their rallies were pitifully small compared to the massive gatherings which the popular fronts could muster. A remarkable feature of interfronts rallies was also the high average age among the participants (Kolst0,1995,113), It seems almost as if the only Soviet loyalists in the republics who were willing to take to the streets to protest against the wave of titular nationalism, were the pensioners.

To be sure, some local activists among the Russians in the non-Russian republics did organize peacefully in the early 1990s, by starting Russian obshchiny, cultural centers, and so on. When I and other researchers who were interested in the plight of the Russian diasporians at that time travelled to the various republics, we naturally visited these centers, talked to their leaders, and read their newsletters. Sometimes these centers gave the impression of being quite vibrant and active, with articulate and energetic leaders. Very often, however, this impression was misleading. In a population of some hundred thousand Russians, or even millions, a handful of activists were not able to make much of an impact. As it turned out, these centers in many cases consisted of many chiefs and few Indians. The vast majority of the local Russians often had not heard of their self-appointed spokespersons, and if they had, they remained indifferent to their activities. Thus, for instance in a study of the Russophone cultural center Lad in Kazakhstan, Sebastien Peyrouse found that the imperial orientation of the self-appointed Russophone leaders found little resonance in the Russophone population in Kazakhstan at large. 'The discursive radicalism of the associations representing the Russians in Kazakhstan is thus correlated with the reality of their mediocre influence on Russophone populations' (Peyrouse, 2008,119).

This Russian tranquility is quite remarkable since there were many good reasons why we should anticipate mobilization, and I will point to some of them. The first is the resource factor. Many students of political mobilization have pointed to the availability of resources as a critical factor behind collective action (for instance Tarrow, 1994). In general terms the Russians living in the non-Russian

republics must indeed be characterized as highly resourceful. On the average they had a level of education well above the level of the local indigenous population. This was true in particular with regard to Moldova, Central Asia, and the Slavic republics, but not so much in the Baltics and Transcaucasia (see Table 1. It should be noted that this table probably underreports Russian education somewhat since it registered only students studying in the republics. Ethnic Russians to a higher degree than non-Russians tended to go to Russia - Moscow and Leningrad - for their studies.)

Ethnic Russians in the republics were highly urbanized and clustered primarily in the capital and other large cities. They were more often employed in white collar jobs and in general belonged to what one might loosely call 'the intelligentsia', in particular the technical intelligentsia (Kaiser, 1994, chapter 5). The percentage among them who worked in prestigious and influential positions was clearly higher than among Russians in the RSFSR, which suggests that geographical and social mobility often go together (see Table 2). This is a phenomenon often observed also among other diaspora groups as well (Chua, 2003; Cohen, 1997).

One important resource, which Michelle Commercio has recently drawn attention to, is access to informal networks (Commercio, 2010). This factor, however, was unevenly distributed among the various Russian diaspora communities and this, Commercio believes, may explain why Russians in some republics mobilized politically during and after perestroika to a higher degree than in other republics. In casu, she compares Latvia and Kyrgyzstan and finds that

Table 1

Ratio of indigenous and Russian students within union republics 1959/60 and 1969/70.

Republic Nationality Students per 1000

conationals in rep. 1959/ 1969/1960 1970

12.4 17.3

8.0 14.5

10.7 14.3

9.4 22.6 11.0 19.0

6.8 21.9

6.1 12.2 19.2 36.4

5.1 10.1

15.0 19.1

8.1 15.1

17.6 29.3

16.6 23.6

13.2 14.6

10.2 20.8

10.6 23.7

7.9 13.4 14.9 19.9

9.0 13.6

17.8 26.7

9.5 17.2 24.0 29.7

9.8 17.8

10.2 19.8

11.2 18.9

8.6 15.4

Source: Karklins (1984, p. 284).

RSFSR Estonia








































Table 2

Work profile of ethnic Russians in the non-Russian republics, 1989, in percentages.

Republic Intellectual work Physical work outside agriculture Agricultural work

1 2 1 2 1 2

Estonia 34.5 -7 -4 63.4 +18 +9 2.1 -78 -66

Latvia 37.8 +12 +5 57.9 +7 0 4.3 -64 -31

Lithuania 40.9 +22 +14 56.3 +1 -3 2.8 -75 -55

Belarus 47.9 +64 +33 48.6 -16 -16 3.5 -73 -44

Moldova 44.4 +128 +24 51.7 -4 -11 3.9 -85 -37

Ukraine 38.6 +31 +8 57.3 0 -1 4.1 -70 -34

Georgia 44.5 +15 +24 51.7 +26 +11 3.8 -81 -39

Azerbaijan 45.5 +61 +27 52.1 +5 -10 2.4 -89 -61

Armenia 53.9 +47 +50 43.1 -23 -26 3.0 -66 -52

Turkmenistan 50.0 +60 +39 48.6 +72 -16 1.4 -93 -77

Tajikistan 47.8 +132 +33 50.2 +22 -13 2.0 -95 -68

Uzbekistan 47.8 +94 +33 51.0 +16 -12 4.4 -72 -29

Kyrgyzstan 38.7 +43 +8 56.9 +17 -2 4.4 -72 -29

Kazakhstan 35.6 +10 -1 58.8 +26 +2 5.6 -73 -10

1 = Different from titulars in republic, in percentage.

2 = Different from Russians in Russia, in percentage.Source: Arutunian (1992, pp. 93-4).

Russians in the former republic had denser and more powerful networks to draw on than in the latter. Access to power in Central Asia was gained through tightly knit kinship networks from which the Europeans were excluded. These traditional networks were not disrupted under the Soviet system; on the contrary, in many places they thrived and blossomed. The Brezhnev regime largely accepted that political power in the Asian republics remained concentrated in the hands of the titular nationality, as long as the local leadership did not challenge the central power structures in Moscow.

2. Furthermore, the grievances which the Russian dia-sporians experienced would lead us to expect mobilization in defense of their rights. Many theories of ethnic conflict take as their starting point that people rebel when they are aggrieved (for instance Gurr, 1993, pp. 61-88). Even if there are important differences among the various republics it is fair to say that the Russians most places have had ample ground to feel discriminated against. In Estonia and Latvia they were denied the right to obtain original citizenship such as the titular population was granted. They had to apply for citizenship on a par with recent immigrants, and fulfill relatively stringent criteria as regards residence, proficiency in the state language, etc. Moreover, also in some states where the Russians do enjoy full voting rights they are not automatically guaranteed political representation in proportion to their share of the total population. After independence the titular nationality has to an increasing degree monopolized political positions.

In many new states, particularly in Transcaucasia and Central Asia, Russians have also gradually been squeezed out of their top level jobs in administration, technical professions and other white color professions. The Russians seem to resent this kind of discrimination more than political marginalization, as it hits them where it hurts most - in professional opportunities, income levels, and standards of living. Also in the Baltics the 'locals' are gradually monopolizing entire sectors of the labor market, particularly jobs in the state bureaucracy (Kolst0, 2008).

2. Identity as a mobilizational factor

In their book Ethnic Conflict in World Politics Ted Gurr and Barbara Harff point to group discrimination as one major trigger behind ethnic mobilization. In their view, however, discrimination is not a sufficient factor; it has to be combined with group cohesion in order to unleash collective action. Discrimination leads to resentment and anger, but not necessarily to mobilization, they assert. If the group that is discriminated against share a high degree of common ethnic identity, the likelihood increases that their reaction will take the form of a collective action. Conversely, if group cohesion is lacking, the likelihood that mobilization will take place is considerably reduced (Gurr & Harff, 1994). This leads us to the crucial question of identity. There are good reasons to believe that this variable is an important factor that may explain the low degree of collective action among Russians in the non-Russian republics.

Russians in the Soviet Union, and in the tsarist empire before that, seem to have had a rather weak sense of ethnic identity. This is not to say that they were devoid of any collective identity altogether. Russian nationalism has no doubt been a phenomenon in the past, and continues to exist today. Historically, however, this nationalism did not focus primarily on ethnicity or culture. To be sure, ethno-cultural Russian nationalism did and does exist - Alexander Solzhenitsyn may be regarded as an important spokesperson of this tendency - but it has not been dominant. Much more common is state-oriented nationalism. A typical attitude among Russian nationalists was and is pride in the huge state which had been established on the vast Eurasian continent and of which they were citizens. The fact that this is a multiethnic state does not bother them much, rather, it is seen as quite natural (Hosking, 1997; Szporluk, 1989).

This has several important consequences. It meant that during the perestroika it was possible to mobilize Russians in support of the threatened unitary Soviet state - in the interfronts - even if these movements, as pointed out above, were far more modest and torpid than the comparable movements in support of centrifugal non-Russian

nationalism. The flip side of this strong focus on state and territory in collective Russian identity is that Russian ethnic consciousness has remained generally weak. Like other Soviet citizens, also ethnic Russians had their natsionalnost' written into their passport and other ID documents, but this, it seems, did not bring about the same strong ethnic attachment as in most other groups. In order to explain why this was so, Rogers Brubaker draws a parallel to the USA. Also in the USA ethnicity is an important identity marker, but not equally strong for all groups. 'Whiteness' is in a sense the quality of being unmarked, of not being 'ethnic' at all. The same was the case with Russianness in the USSR. 'Russianness was a zero-value, an unthematized background condition,' Brubaker argues (Brubaker, 1996, p. 49) There are good reasons to regard 'Russians' in the Soviet Union as a category rather than as a group, if we by the term 'group' imply cohesion, solidarity, and a sense of common identity.

Brubaker does, however, believe that Russians who lived in the republics were more conscious of their nationality than Russians in the RSFSR. This was a reaction to the increased assertiveness on the part of the titular nationalities, he maintains (Brubaker, 1996, p. 49). But even if many Russians in the republics did have a keen feeling of being different from the local population this does not mean that they necessarily identified with the entire Russian group as a collectivity. As I travelled around in the non-Russian republics in the 1990s, I often had the chance to discuss identity questions with Russian activists and community leaders in the non-Russian republics. When I asked if they believed that local Russians were in any way different from Russians in the Russian Federation, I was struck by the uniformity of their answers. Almost without exception they would insist that 'of course' they were different, it could be no question about it. Their answers also revealed that they had a very positive self-perception when they compared themselves to Russians in the core group. The qualities which they ascribed to Russians in their own republic were generally better than what they associated with Russians in general: They believed that they had higher personal standards; were more conscientious and hardworking; less given to drinking; and had more stable marriages (Kolst0, 1999, 2002). When asked to explain why this was the case, they often pointed to the wholesome influence of the indigenous people among whom they were living. Thus, for instance, Russians in Estonia would claim that they were highly disciplined and hardworking because they had been imbued with the Estonians' Protestant work ethic. At the same time, Russians in Estonia did not claim to be particularly faithful spouses, having instead the same high divorce rates as Estonians. In Central Asia, by contrast, the local Russians were more proud of their marital fidelity and bragged less about their conscientiousness at work: allegedly, the traditional values of the local Muslim communities had rubbed off on them.

Similar responses also the Russian researcher Nadezhda Lebedeva received from Russian diaspora members whom she interviewed in 1994-1995 (Lebedeva, 1995, pp. 45-7, 190, 220, passim). Lebedeva also found that according to local Russians in Kazakhstan, the titular nation had adopted quite a few Russian habits and mores, and not only positive ones. Quite often Kazakhstani Russians believed that the

ethnic Kazakh had been affected by a Russian way of life by taking over such character traits as lower moral standards, bureaucatism, slovenliness, impudence, and a habit of heavy drinking (Lebedeva, 1995, 43).

We are of course talking here about stereotypes, but as the so-called Thomas theorem goes, 'If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences'. And the skeptical attitudes of the diaspora Russians towards Russians in the core group were to a large extent reciprocated by Russians in Russia. Russians from the republics who moved back to Russia frequently reported that they received a less than cordial welcome. As one leader of a local 'Slavic Diaspora' organization in southern Kyrgyzstan complained in 1993: 'More often than not those who think that they have arrived in their historical homeland, find that they are regarded as aliens' (Uleev, 1993, p. 3).

We should, however, avoid dichotomizing descriptions of the Russian ethnic group as consisting of two parts only -a core and a periphery - as if each of these two parts had a high degree of cohesion internally. That does not seem to be the case. In my discussions with Russian activists in the non-Russian republics I have been struck by their lack of knowledge about, and even interest in, the plight of their co-ethnics in the other republics. Their frame of reference is the country in which they are living. This is true both of those who make an effort to adapt and of activists who complain bitterly about discrimination and feel thoroughly alienated from the political regime in their country of residence. Life in the neighboring countries seems to be quite literally foreign to them. As one leading Russian expert on the Russian diaspora, Igor Zevelev, has remarked, 'a characteristic trait of the Russian diasporas is their fragmentation and weak mobilization. There are no noticeable horizontal links between them. They are distinguishable by size, life style, and level of integration into the local society. They do not have a common enemy or common dreams for the future.' (Zevelev, 2008, p. 6).

An important line of division within the Russian diaspora communities runs between old-timers and recent arrivals. While some Russians have been born in the republics, as had in some cases even their parents, others came as adults, in order to study, serve there in the military or - most commonly - in search of work. The latecomers became in many ways less integrated into the local culture and society. One clear sign of this was their lack of familiarity with the local language. Few Russians in the republics knew the titular language well, but those who had lived there all or most of their life could often make themselves understood in the shops or at the bazaar. This was far less common among the recent immigrants. Those Russians who did not learn the local language were not consigned to a Russian-language ghetto, since they could always expect to be understood when they spoke Russian. Even so, they cut themselves off from the local culture in a way that more adaptable Russians did not.

3. After the break-up, new trajectories

I believe that the blurred and diffuse group identity of ethnic Russians in the Soviet Union was one important factor behind the peaceful outcome of the processes that

led to the collapse of the unitary state. In a study of Russians beyond Russia from 1995, Neil Melvin concluded that 'even in the late 1980s Russians remained ethnically unconsolidated' (Melvin, 1995, p. 125). If this was a correct description of the situation prior to and during perestroika, how has the situation evolved since that time? More specifically, are the Russians adapting, mentally and socially, to the new political realities, or may we see a backlash of a new nostalgia for the good old days under the Communist regime, the time before the nationalizing policies in the new states commenced?

In an article in Ethnic and Racial studies in 1996 I developed a typology of possible identity trajectories of the Russians in the former Soviet republics (see Table 3). It could be interesting to revisit this article today and see if we now can give any more specific answers.

As you will see, in this matrix I operated with four possible political loyalties along the vertical axis and three cultural identities or self-understandings on the horizontal axis. Some boxes were empty since they represent highly unlikely or even self-contradictory outcomes. Thus, for instance, if a person assimilates culturally into the nationalizing state of reference, he or she is not likely to hang on to a political loyalty to the external homeland, Russia.

Let us now go through the various identity options by moving down the political axis.

1. Continued attachment to the former Soviet Union was certainly strong among many Russians in the first years after the dissolution of the unitary state, among dia-sporians as well as among people in Russia. This attitude revealed itself for instance in the resolution in the State Duma in March 1996 which denounced the dissolution of the Soviet Union with 250 votes against 98 (Kolst0, 2000, p. 204). This attachment, however, is bound to be weakened over time. Over the last 20 years a whole new generation has grown up who has no personal recollections of the Soviet state. Most people realize that restitution of this state is a completely lost case. In 1998 Natalia Kosmarskaia found that 25-30 per cent of Russians in Kyrgyzstan still identified with 'the Soviet people' as the community of people they belonged to (Kosmarskaia, 2006, pp. 377-8). Some will regard this as much, others as little, but the important point which Kosmarskaia makes is that Soviet nostalgia does not influence people's actions in the way the alternative options do: it is a purely emotional background factor. When people have to make choices, alternatives which actually exist have a kind of ontological upper hand over hypothetical alternatives.

2. In contrast to the USSR the Russian Federation does indeed exist, and political allegiance to Russia is a real alternative for Russian diasporians. Several factors ensure that Russia also today exerts a considerable pull on Russians in the other post-Soviet republics. First and foremost, Russian media continues to enjoy a strong position in most of the Soviet successor states. Popular Russian newspapers like Komsomol'skaia Pravda and Argumenty i fakty can be bought virtually all over the former Soviet space. These newspapers are edited in Moscow, but printed in the republican capitals. As was the case before the breakup of the USSR they also have some locally edited pages focusing on matters in the republics in which they are sold. In any case, they function as an important source of information about the 'external homeland'.

Even more important than the print media is television. For most people in most countries TV is their main source of information and entertainment, and the former Soviet Union is no exception in this regard. It is probably true that most Russians in the new states today are just as up-dated on Russian politics as on politics in their state of residence, if not more. By watching Russian soap operas, reality TV, and talk shows they also become in a sense a part of a Russian virtual space. As Michael Billig (1995) has emphasized, our ideas about who we are, are strongly influenced by the lexicon and images used in the media. When the anchor man on the evening news says 'here' or 'we have', the viewers do not have to be told where 'here' is, or who 'we' are: it is 'in our country' and 'our nation'. In that way, Russian TV viewers in the new states are in a sense subconsciously sucked into a Russia-centered universe.

There are, however, clear limits to this mechanism of identification. When the meteorologist on Russian TV stands in front of a map of Russia and announces that 'we' will have nice weather tomorrow, the Russians in Moldova or Kazakhstan know that the city they live in, is not on that map. They are not included in the large 'we' which the meteorologist invites the viewers to participate in. Potentially, therefore, the psychological processes Billig has identified may lead to an alienation process in a diaspora situation. This is just a hypothesis which hopefully someone one day will test out empirically.

An important factor which weakens the Russia option for the Russians in the non-Russian states is the diaspora policy pursued by the Russian Federation. This claim may seem surprising since the general view is that Russia has been rather aggressive in its defense of the Russians in the other former Soviet republics, in particular in Estonia and

Table 3

Possible Russian diaspora identities.

Political loyalty Cultural selfunderstanding

A External homeland B New C Nationalizing state of residence

1 Historical boundaries (reconstitution of the USSR) 2. External Homeland (Russia) 3. New state of its own 4. Nationalizing state of residence Traditional Soviet Irredentism Integrating national minority New Cossacks (maximum programme) New Cossacks (minimum programme) The Dniester Syndrome Integrating new Diaspora Assimilation

Source: Kolst0 (1996).

Latvia. This is indeed true, Russia does insist that the country has a right and a duty to pose as the protector of all Russians in the so-called 'near abroad'. In official parlance these people are called sootechestvenniki or 'compatriots', even if they, strictly speaking, do not share a common 'fatherland' with Russians in Russia, except in those cases when they have taken up Russian citizenship. The Russian law 'On Relations with Sootechestvenniki Abroad' was adopted in 1999 and, with some amendments, still remain in force (Poccaackaa venepaxaa, 2009). This law loudly declares that 'Sootechestvenniki who reside abroad are entitled to support from the Russian Federation in the realization of their civil, political, social, economic, and cultural rights'. Specifically, the diaspora groups may expect to receive diplomatic support when their rights are violated, as well as financial support for cultural and educational institutions and facilities.

In 1995, Neil Melvin (1995, p. 127) argued that in part through the efforts of politicians and activists in Russia 'large sections of the Russian-speaking settler communities have, for the first time, begun to think of themselves as members of the Russian nation and of the Russian Federation as their homeland'. Most observers, however, interpret the effects of the Russian diaspora policy differently. Russian saber rattling vis-à-vis those former Soviet republics that discriminate against the local Russians has not been followed up by militant policies of any kind. A recent analysis of Russian foreign policy concludes that 'as before, Russian diaspora policy has a most diffuse character' (Kortunov, 2009, p. 233). Michelle Commercio (2010, p. 19) claims that 'Russia has made noise on a sporadic basis about the treatment of its compatriots in the "near abroad" but has done very little to alleviate grievances.' The means that have been set aside for diaspora support have often been miserly. In the 1990s this could perhaps be explained by Russia's dire financial situation, but in spite of the establishment of special programs in support of the diaspora in 2006 and 2007, this remiss policy has basically continued also under Putin and Medvedev. According to Igor Zevelev, this is because 'Moscow has always regarded the rights and interests of the Russian and other Russian-speaking minorities not as a goal in itself, but as a means to achieve a leadership role in the territory of the former Soviet Union' (Zevelev, 2008). Whenever protection of the diaspora has conflicted with other, more important objectives, the diaspora has been sacrificed on the altar of realpolitik.

3. We may then turn to the third political alternative, to create a new Russian-dominated state outside Russia, comparable to the two Serb quasi-states in the former Yugoslavia, Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Republika Srpska Krajina in Croatia. In the former USSR this scenario has been realized only in one instance, the Dniester Republic in Moldova. The circumstances that led up to the establishment of this de facto state were in many respects unique and non-replicable elsewhere. The decisive factor that made it possible was the presence of the 14th Soviet Army on the Dniester left bank which intervened actively on the side of the separatists in the short civil war in Moldova in 1992 (Kolsto, Edemsky, et al., 1993).

It is debatable to what degree the Dniester leaders really want to have a state of their own or whether they would

prefer to be included in the Russian Federation as an exclave similar to Kaliningrad. The Dniester elites seem to be divided, but in an article which I coauthored in 1998 (Kolst0 & Malgin, 1998) we argued that the local population in the Dniester republic indeed does have a strong sense of a distinct Dniestrian identity which sustains the idea of a separate state project outside Russia.

4. Finally, we reach the fourth and last of the political options open to the Russian diasporians, which is loyalty towards the state they are living in, their nationalizing state of residence. When I developed my typology in 1996 I regarded this as the most likely option, and now, 15 year later, I stick to my gun.1 Before I move on to a discussion about which of the three cultural self-identifications this political option is most likely to be combined with I will give my reasons why I believe the trend is moving toward increasing political localization.

My first argument is related to the sudden near collapse of traffic communications among the former Soviet republics after perestroika. In the Soviet Union, long distance travel was remarkably cheap. The limiting factor was not so much prices as access to attractive tickets, which you could get through your work place, personal contacts (blat), or in other ways. In most cases people who wanted to visit friends or relatives in another republic, could find ways to do so. And very many did have relatives in other republics. It was not uncommon to have been born in Kazakhstan, where the parents were still living, having moved to Estonia in search of a job, while grandparents, siblings, and uncles lived in Tajikistan, Ukraine, and Moldova, respectively. As long as the Soviet Union existed these were all places which one could visit perhaps once every two or three years, but under perestroika they became all of a sudden off limits. In some cases visa acquisition and bureaucratic red tape was the problem, but more importantly, people no longer could afford these travels. The prices of air tickets soared uncontrollably while salaries remained the same, and money had to be spent on the bare necessities of life. To a much larger degree than before, the Russian diasporians were literally stuck in their place of residence.

Another important factor behind the localization of the Russian diaspora communities is outmigration. Those Russians in the former Soviet republics who have traveled to Russia after the breakup of the Soviet Union, have often bought a one-way ticket only. The outmigration of Russians from the republics has not been as large as some observers expected (for instance Dunlop, 1994), but was nevertheless quite significant, with total figures in the range of 3-4 million people. Importantly, the outflow has been uneven: very high from some republics and low from others. The highest figures are registered in the Caucasian republics, where the Russian populations were rather small already in the 1980s (between 40 per cent and 70 per cent outmigration). In addition, approximately a quarter of the

1 In 1995 and 1996 Edwin Poppe and Louk Hagendoorn carried out large-scale opinion surveys in five post-Soviet republics on 'types of identification among Russians in "the Near Abroad'. Their findings, they concluded, were 'similar to the expectations put forward by Kolst0 in his identity-trajectory model.' (Poppe & Hagendoorn, 200 , 69).

population in Central Asia, and10 per cent to 15 per cent in the Baltic republics, but only 1-3 per cent in the two Slavic republics, Ukraine and Belarus, have emigrated (see Tables 4 and 5).

(The figures cover only the years 1990-2000, but that was the period when the largest migration took place. As you will see from the tables, migration tapers off in the late 1990s.)

What I am most interested in here is not migration as such but how the outmigration has affected the situation of those who stay behind. Two trends seem to be important. The first is that those who arrived last tend also to be the ones who left first. They had not struck 'roots' in the local environment, and often had stronger networks of friends, family, and job connections to draw on 'back home' And for them, the expression 'back home' did in fact make sense. A result of this is that those who remained were usually those who were already best integrated in the new states and willing to accept the new cultural and political realities.

Secondly, the returnees, as a rule, were those who were able to find a new job elsewhere. This was much easier for qualified people with a high level of education than for

Table 4

Net migration of ethnic Russians to and from the new abroad by republic, 1990-1996 (in thousands).

Republic 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996

Estonia 2.8 3.6 18.7 10.6 8.2 6.2 4.1

Latvia 3.5 5.2 19.7 19.4 19.3 10.7 5.9

Lithuania 5.1 4.5 10.2 13.4 5.4 2.2 8.4

Belarus 5.6 -2.0 -4.6 1.2 13.3 9.2 3.4

Moldova 3.0 4.9 11.5 3.7 7.0 7.8 7.3

Ukraine -4.9 -24.7 -12.3 38.5 101.0 64.8 61.7

Armenia 3.6 3.3 5.6 6.4 4.6 2.4 1.6

Georgia 42.9 17.6 35.1 22.9 19.0 14.2 9.1

Azerbaijan 9.5 18.0 29.6 33.8 24.2 15.7 12.3

Kazakhstan 36.3 25.6 82.4 104.4 234.3 143.7 98.2

Kyrgyzstan 16.1 15.5 41.4 66.4 42.9 13.4 7.3

Tajikistan 31.7 14.4 47.1 40.9 25.8 22.3 15.1

Turkmenistan 4.4 4.7 10.9 6.7 13.0 12.2 14.0

Uzbekistan 40.2 27.9 65.2 50.7 93.5 64.2 23.0

Total 199.8 118.5 360.5 419.0 611.5 389.0 271.4

Source: Kolsto (2005, p. 237).

manual laborers. As a result, the social structure of the Russian diaspora population changed, from being top-heavy, with a significant intelligentsia, to become more proletarian. Up to a point this trend runs at cross purposes with the one I discussed above since the blue collar workers among the Russians were often less able, or willing, to study the local language and learn about the local culture than were Russians with higher education.

Generally speaking, a number of circumstances force the Russian diasporians to learn the local language and acquire a basic knowledge of the country and society they live in. As their numbers shrink, they are no longer able to keep up self-contained communities outside the titular environment to the same degree as before. In several countries they will also be barred from many jobs unless they show a willingness to integrate. The younger generations who have spent most of their life - or all of it - in this country, will lead the way and perhaps pull their parents with them.

In 1996-1998 I led a research team that studied ethnic integration in two post-Soviet states, Latvia and Kazakhstan. In that connection we conducted large-scale opinion surveys in these two countries, in which we asked inter alia, 'Which country do you regard as your homeland?' In both Latvia and Kazakhstan the country of residence came up on top, with 'USSR' as the second most popular option, and 'Russia' trailing far behind with only 11-13 percent support (see Tables 6 and 7).

Table 6

Which country do you regard as your homeland? - ethnic breakdown. kazakhstan.

Kazakhs Russians

73.1 39.9 13.3 35.7

12.2 9.5 1.1 13.0 0.3 0.2

- 0.2 376 409

Source: Kolsto (1999, p. 239).




Don't know Absolute figures

Table 5

Net migration of ethnic Russians to and from the new abroad by republic, 1997-2000 (in thousands), continued.

Republic 1997 1998 1999 2000 Total. 1990-2000 Percentage of 1989 population in republic

Estonia 2.2 1.0 .2 .3 57.9 12.1

Latvia 4.0 2.4 1.1 1.0 92.2 10.1

Lithuania .5 .5 .2 .4 50.8 14.8

Belarus .4 -2.2 -3.7 -1.6 19 1.4

Moldova 4.2 3.1 2.5 4.7 59.7 10.6

Ukraine 46.7 35.2 13.9 20.9 340.8 3.0

Armenia 1.0 .8 .5 .6 30.4 70.9

Georgia 5.5 4.4 3.2 2.9 176.8 51.5

Azerbaijan 7.6 4.4 2.2 1.8 159.1 40.6

Kazakhstan 150.5 130.5 79.2 76.7 1161.8 18.7

Kyrgyzstan 4.8 3.2 4.4 9.8 225.2 24.6

Tajikistan 9.8 7.4 4.2 3.6 222.3 57.3

Turkmenistan 9.8 5.8 4.4 4.0 89.9 26.9

Uzbekistan 19.7 23.0 22.7 22.7 452.8 27.4

Total 266.7 219.5 135.0 147.8 3134.8

Source: Kolsto (2005, p. 237).

Table 7

Which country do you regard as your homeland? - ethnic breakdown. latvia.

Latvians Russians

Latvia 88.7 41.1

USSR 0.5 17.8

LSSR 7.1 21.5

Russia 0.2 11.4

Other 1.1 1.0

None 0.4 2.4

Don't know 2.0 4.7

Absolute figures 550 297

Source: Kolsto (1999, p. 239).

the figures down by ethnicity we got the following results (Tables 8 and 9):

Table 8

Do Russians in Kazakhstan differ from Russians in Russia? - ethnic breakdown.

Kazakhs Russians Ukrainians Germans Koreans

significantly 31.6 27.9 22.9 29.3 33.3

somewhat 17.3 21.3 29.2 19.5 6.7

no different 26.9 33.0 25.0 19.5 20.0

Don't know 24.2 17.8 22.9 31.7 40.0

Absolute figures 376 409 48 41 15

Source: Kolsto (1999, p. 260).

If we can conclude that the local Russians will gradually move their territorial and political allegiance to their state of residence, we may then turn to a discussion of how their cultural self-understanding will develop. Will they retain a cultural identity as being 'Russian', and if yes, what precisely does that mean? Will they be 'Russian' like Russians elsewhere, or develop an identity of their own? As I have argued above, already in the Soviet period the Russians outside the Russian republic tended to see themselves as somehow different from Russians in the core group. There is no reason to believe that after the breakup of the unitary state this trend will be stopped or reversed. As Natalia Kosmarskaia, one of the most perceptive observers of the Russian diaspora has observed, the fact that the Russians in Central Asia and the Baltics felt different from Russians in Russia during the Soviet period did not carry any consequences. 'With the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, this situation changed radically. The sociopolitical cataclysms that followed in its wake - radical changes in the economic situation, the mass migration, and so on - became a potent stimulus for the Russian-speakers towards a deeper and more conscious perception of their separateness.' (Kosmarskaia, 2006, p. 405, emphasis in the original).

In our 1997 survey in Latvia and Kazakhstan we also asked, 'Do Russians in [your country] differ from Russians in Russia?' Total figures for both countries are presented in Fig. 1 below.

As you will see, more than two thirds of those who offered an opinion chose one of the two options 'significantly different' or 'somewhat different'. When we broke

Table 9

Do Russians in Latvia differ from Russians in Russia? - ethnic breakdown.

Latvians Russians Ukrainians Belarusians Poles Jews

Significantly 35.2 41.6 25.0 24.4 31.7 28.6

Somewhat 34.8 35.1 50.0 37.8 19.5 50.0

No 8.7 11.1 25.0 22.2 19.5 21.4

Don't know 21.3 12.2 0.0 15.6 29.3 0.0

Absolute 549 296 16 45 41 14


Source: Kolsto (1999, p. 260).

What exactly did the perceived peculiarities of the local Russian culture consist in? We suggested a large number of possible answers:

1. more active and industrious

2. more cultured and better educated

3. more internationalist

4. more hard-working and diligent

5. less given to drinking

6. more individualistic

7. less drawn into conflicts

8. more open and gregarious

9. more hospitable

10. more tolerant toward the views and opinions of others

11. less attached to national traditions and customs

In Kazakhstan the responses from the titulars and the Russians were remarkably similar. The Latvian breakdown by ethnicity, however, yielded somewhat different results (Tables 10 and 11).

difficult to answer

Fig. 1. Perceptions of Russians in the republics as different from/similar to russians in russia.

Table 10

Perceived peculiarities of Russian culture in Kazakhstan. Kazakh and Russian ranking lists. '1' as 'agree completely', '4' as 'disagree completely'.

Kazakhs Russians

More internationalist 1.8 More internationalist 1.7

More hardworking, diligent 1.8 More hospitable 1.7

More open and gregarious 1.9 More tolerant 1.7

More active and industrious 2.0 More hardworking, diligent 1.8

More cultured and educated 2.0 More open and gregarious 1.8

Less drawn into conflicts 2.0 Less drawn into conflicts 2.1

More hospitable 2.0 Less given to drinking 2.1

More tolerant 2.0 Less attached to traditions 2.1

Less given to drinking 2.2 More active and industrious 2.2

Less attached to traditions 2.2 More cultured and educated 2.2

More individualistic 2.4 More individualistic 2.6

Table 11

Perceived peculiarities of Russian culture in Latvia. Latvian and Russian ranking lists. '1' as 'agree completely', '4' as 'disagree completely'.

Latvians Russians

More active and industrious 2.07 More tolerant 1.87

More internationalist 2.32 More hard-working, diligent 1.96 More open and gregarious 2.39 More cultured and educated 1.96 Less attached to traditions 2.43 More active and industrious 2.12 More hard-working, diligent 2.58 Less drawn into conflicts 2.12 More hospitable 2.63 More hospitable 2.14

More individualistic 2.64 More open and gregarious 2.25

More cultured and educated 2.69 Less attached to traditions 2.37 More tolerant 2.84 More internationalist 2.39

Less drawn into conflicts 2.91 More individualistic 2.61

Less given to drinking 3.06 Less given to drinking 2.65

Source: Kolst0 (1999, pp. 262-3).

Ethnic Latvians tended to see fewer differences between Russians in Russia and Russians in Latvia. They were less willing to give local Russians credit for higher diligence, hospitality, individualism, and culture compared to Russians in Russia, and they definitely did not think that 'their' Russians were more cultured, tolerant, and sober or less conflictual than other Russians. Thus, we can draw the conclusion that in both countries the local Russians saw themselves as both different from, and better than, Russians in Russia, but only in Kazakhstan did this self-image correspond to any significant degree with the image of them which the titular population held.

In a study of cultural adaption of Russian immigrants to Russia from CIS countries Valentina Gritsenko found that both the immigrants themselves and the population in the Russian region where they settled down, distinguished sharply between old-timers and the new arrivals.

One might think that it would be absurd for Russian migrants to regard a Russian environment as an alien cultural milieu. However, this seems to reflect a certain socio-cultural distance between the locals and the migrants which [is] a result of the acculturation into the culture of the titular ethnic group which the Russian migrants underwent [in the republic they had been living in before they returned] (Gritsenko, 1999, 56).

Gritsenko found that in the Russian regions, negative evaluations of the newcomers dominated among the indigenous Russians over positive evaluations by a factor of 50 over 32; this critical attitude was more than reciprocated by the Russian migrants: when the newly arrived Russians described the local Russians among whom they were now living, negative statements were three times as prevalent as positive statements. Quite unexpectedly for Gritsenko, she also found that when the Russian migrants were asked to describe the non-Russians in the republic they had just left, they tended to respect them far more than they respected Russians in Russia. Positive stereotype opinions of the titular nationality they had hitherto been living among dominated over negative stereotypes by a factor of 70 to 18 (Gritsenko, 1999, p. 57).

One important factor that has contributed to a process of dissociation of the Russians in the republics from the Russian core group is the gradual amalgamation of the various non-titular, post-Soviet diaspora groups. Not only Russians, but

also other Slavs such as Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Poles live in the same new states and indeed in the same neighborhoods. These people have very much of the same educational and social profile as the local Russians, and consort and intermarry with them. Even if some of the non-Russian dia-sporians retain a measure of proficiency also in their own historical language, their everyday language of converse is Russian and in most places they are as a matter of course included into a category of 'Russian-speakers'. In Central Asia, where the contrast between 'Europeans' and 'Asians' is seen as strong, also ethnic Germans, and in fact also Volga Tatars are habitually included into this common Russian-speaking category (Kolst0, 1999, pp. 29-40). At the same time, this ethnocultural amalgamation has not been a simple one-way process in which the non-Russian Russian-speakers have been simply swamped by their Russian neighbors. The non-Russian diasporians have added some nuances to what is becoming a new Russophone palette (Laitin, 1998).

The Russian scholar Sergei Savoskul does not, as I do, believe that Russians in the non-Russian republics group in the Soviet period developed any sense of being different from Russians at the center. Savoskul argues that at that time the Russians were not prepared to become a diaspora since there was no need for such an identity. In the new ethnopolitical situation after the demise of the Soviet Union, however, this has changed fundamentally, he believes. In 2001 Savoskul wrote that

In the majority of the post-Soviet states the last ten years of sovereign development have somewhat hastened the process of turning the Russian populations in the countries of the new abroad into new Russian diasporas. During this period they have become convinced that they no longer have behind them the formerly mighty metropolitan state, nor will they have it in the future. The Russian population is firmly set on remaining in their respective countries of residence, and have begun to develop the habits and attitudes of a 'diasporian' orientation (Savoskul, 2001, p. 19).

Before we can finish our analysis, we must also consider the last and final of the identity options of the Russian dia-sporians, which is assimilation. Many Russians who moved to Western Europe and North America in the 20th century have lost their collective identity as ethnic Russians in the course of a generation or two. They have married outside the Russian community, have forgotten their native tongue and in general become not only well integrated into their host countries but been absorbed into it. They regard themselves no longer as Russians living in France or the USA, but as Frenchmen and Americans of Russian extraction. To what degree can we expect the same to happen with Russians in the 'new abroad'? This is the basic research question behind David Laitin's monumental study Identity in Formation (Laitin, 1998). Laitin accepts Ernest Gellner's famous description of how minorities in multinational states assimilate into metropolitan society (Gellner, 1983). According to Gellner, while some peasant sons and daughters from a minority culture in a multiethnic state - allegorically called 'Ruritanians' - will become Ruritanian nationalists, most will accept and adopt the dominant 'Megalomanian' culture.

But what will happen when a multinational state breaks up, such as happened to the Soviet Union? Laitin asks. Can these processes be reversed? In other words, may Megalomanians (^Russians) be turned into Ruritanians and adopt the culture of the former minority which has now become the state-bearing nation in a new state? This intriguing question Laitin approaches from a number of theoretical and empirical angles and with field studies in four republics, Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. I cannot here go through his often very sophisticated arguments but jump right to the conclusion: in Kazakhstan he thinks the answer is 'no' - the socio-cultural distance between the Russian-speakers and the titulars is too large. The Russian who do not emigrate will continue to live as small isolated communities. In Latvia and Estonia the answer is 'yes' - the Baltic cultures are so prestigious and the Baltic standard of living is so high that it will exert an irresistible pull on the Russians. Finally, in Ukraine Laitin predicts consociationalism, meaning a continued coexistence of two high cultures (Laitin, 1998, pp. 353-61).

I think it is still too early in the day to pass a verdict on Laitin's scenarios. If he is right, it means that the adaptation processes among the Russians who suddenly and unexpectedly ended up as national minorities in nationalizing non-Russians states are going even faster than most observers would predict. But even if he should be wrong, we can still safely conclude that also in the unlikely situation that an irredentist political party should come to power in Moscow with a programme for the restitution of the collapsed state (in one form or another) there will be scant support for such policies among those who are often regarded as the main victims of this state collapse, the beached Russian communities in the Soviet successor states.


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