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East European Perspectives: July 9, 2003

9 July 2003, Volume 5, Number 14


By Taras Kuzio

The Russian "homeland" in the tsarist empire or USSR was the entire territory of the state. Only the non-Russian republics had two "homelands": their ethno-cultural republics and the Soviet state. The lack of institutions in the Russian SFSR helped to blur these differences between "Russia" and the USSR. As the Soviet state, not the Russian SFSR, was the homeland for Russians, the large numbers of Russians living outside the Russian SFSR were not considered a "diaspora."

Russians living everywhere in the Soviet state had an ethnic entry -- "Russian" -- on their internal passports, but they were more likely to feel Soviet than Russian. In the Transdniester, eastern Ukraine, Belarus, and northern Kazakhstan, the continued persistence of a Soviet identity is testimony to this.

In Belarus under President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, an amalgam of Soviet Belarusian, Russophile, and pan-eastern Slavic identities merge and compete with one another. Russia has a differing understanding of these same identities, making it difficult for both to implement their long-delayed union. In the fall of 2002, Russia, frustrated by the lack of progress after seven years in union with Belarus, suggested that both countries hold a simultaneous referendum on unification. Lukashenka categorically disagreed with the Russian view of "union," amounting to becoming a part of the Russian Federation (Kuzio, 2002).

In the Transdniester, the Russian-speaking Ukrainian and Russian minorities in the region support a similar Lukashenka-type ideology of Soviet and pan-eastern Slavic ideas. Transdniestrian hopes for a Soviet revival have proved illusory. At the same time, recent progress toward Moldova's federalization could allow the breakaway region to maintain its separate identity within a communist Moldova that is firmly entrenched within the Russian sphere of influence.

The imperial nature of Russian identity contrasts with that of the Serbs, whose identity emerged after centuries as a nation occupied by a foreign power that was non-Slavic and non-Christian. The analogy would be if Muscovites had failed to overthrow Tatar rule and had instead also developed a Russian identity under a foreign and Muslim occupation. No tsarist empire would have existed, and Russia would likely have also clamored for an independent nation-state.

Serbian identity aspired to create a nation-state by dismantling the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. Many White Russians flocked to the Bolshevik cause in 1919-21 (especially during the Bolshevik-Polish war) because they wished to preserve the tsarist empire in the guise of the USSR. Stalin opposed the granting of republican status to ethnic groups within the USSR, and preferred a unitary state.

Anti-imperial tendencies among Serbs and Poles, who wished to re-create their independent states, did not mean they themselves did not harbor imperialist views. A "Greater Serbia" that incorporates at a minimum all Serbs and at a maximum the southern Slavs who would be slated for assimilation, was a long-standing Serbian goal from the 19th century on (Anzulovic, 1999).

Unification of all Serbs in an independent nation-state was the goal of Serbian nationalism. This goal encouraged nationalists and democrats to back a policy of attempting to preserve Yugoslavia by force in the 1980s and 1990s. Serbian grievances against the Croat Tito and the Yugoslav state were channeled into ethnic nationalism, not democratization, as reflected in the overwhelming election of Milosevic as Serbian president in 1991.

In the late Soviet era, Boris Yeltsin did the opposite, by leading the drive against the Soviet center and unelected Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. Yeltsin, after being elected Russian president, drew on the democratic tradition of dissent in Russia, which was anticommunist. The language Yeltsin and his democratic supporters used was anti-imperialist, and the fate of the Russian diaspora was not an issue for them.

The Russian SFSR was the first republic to declare sovereignty in June 1990. But the new Russian identity stopped here, as it was difficult to see how "Russia" could be fully divorced from the USSR (or later the CIS). Thus the Russian SFSR was the only Soviet republic never to declare independence from the USSR, and the Russian Federation celebrates its 1990 declaration of sovereignty as its annual "independence day." Only non-Russian republics declared sovereignty in 1990, followed by independence in 1991.

President Yeltsin and the democratic movement supported Russian sovereignty within a loose Soviet confederation, in which the center would be removed or would be very weak. Their main focus was on economic reform, democratization, and the dismantling of communist rule. When the Russian SFSR declared sovereignty in 1990, "almost no one was thinking in terms of actual independent statehood for the RSFSR" (McAuley, 1997, p. 31). For the Russians, "their power and authority was bound up with the party; and hence the Union" (McAuley, 1997, p. 37). A Soviet confederation in which Russia would still be dominant due to its size and resources, was what Yeltsin sought to propose to the non-Russians after the failed August 1991 coup. But they turned it down (Kuzio, 1999).

As already indicated, in the interwar period Serbia saw Yugoslavia as a "Greater Serbia." Poland also wished to return to its 18th-century borders (i.e., Greater Poland) that would have included large parts of Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania. Minority policies in both interwar Yugoslavia and Poland were poor and democratic institutions weak. These and other factors helped encourage the rise of the extreme right in Croatia (Ustasa) and among Ukrainians (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists), who sought to resolve their predicament with the help of the Nazis by setting up their own independent, homogenized nation-states. Only in Croatia, however, did the Nazis allow a puppet regime to be installed (no puppet regimes were created in Ukraine or Russia).

Long after the "civilized divorce" from the USSR was completed, the CIS continues to remain in place as a psychological prop for many states and an "old boys club" for former communist and KGB officials now in power as state leaders. The Russians continue to prefer to blur the distinction between the Russian Federation and the CIS (as they did between the Russian SFSR and the USSR).

Although President Vladimir Putin no longer believes the USSR can be revived, he, like most Russians, still sees the CIS as the un-foreign "Near Abroad" (unlike the "Far Abroad" outside the CIS). Russia continues to oppose the demarcation of "internal" CIS borders, as this would divide the CIS into independent nation-states and overcome the fuzzy division between Russia and other CIS members. With demarcation, the "Near Abroad" would cease to exist and would become similar to the "Far Abroad."

Of the eight CIS states that it borders, Russia has consequently signed border treaties only with Lithuania and Ukraine. Over a decade after the USSR disintegrated, Soviet passports can still be used to cross the Ukrainian-Russian border. Russia is to allow non-Russian citizens from the remainder of the CIS to join its armed forces.

The anti-imperial outlook of Serbian national identity and nationalism was therefore different from that of the Russian national idea, which was universalist and imperialist. In both interwar Yugoslavia and communist Yugoslavia, Serbian identity continued to independently develop. In the USSR, Russian nation building was thwarted, which hindered the development of a Russian non-Soviet national identity. In the 1930s, Russian identity was incorporated into Soviet ideology as the "leading nation" and "elder brother" of the USSR.

Serbia And Russia Within Yugoslavia And USSR
In communist Yugoslavia, there was no possibility of Serbian nationalism being officially promoted until 1987-89 under Slobodan Milosevic (who prior to this date had shown no nationalist inclinations). In the USSR, Russian nationalism became an organic component of Soviet ideology from the mid-1930s in what Agursky (1987) defines as "National Bolshevism."

In the 1920s, the Soviet state was hostile to Russian nationalism and chauvinism, which it perceived as a threat. At that time, it promoted "indigenization," ("korenizatsiya"), which allowed local national communists to take control of the non-Russian republics, such as Ukraine, where indigenization became "Ukrainianization." The Soviet state saw itself as hostile to its tsarist imperial predecessor and wished to increase communist support among the non-Russian in republics, where the Bolshevik party was weak.

The Soviet experiment with indigenization ended in the 1930s. In 1934, the Soviet state re-incorporated many of the tenets of tsarist historiography when dealing with the non-Russians. From the mid 1930s, and particularly after World War II, Soviet communism and Russian imperial nationalism were integrated together. Tsarist colonialism was no longer condemned, the Russians were proclaimed the "elder brother" and leading Soviet nation, and tsarist imperialists and colonizers became once again heroes. This "blurred the differences between Russian empire and Soviet Socialist Union" (Brandenberger, 2001, p. 278).

In Yugoslavia, by contrast, prewar Serbian leaders were always vilified until Milosevic's rise to power. Hostility to Serbian nationalism was continued until the mid-1980s. Consequently, Serbs felt they had suffered the most during World War II and had then been humiliated by Tito in Yugoslavia. Communist Yugoslavia saw both Serbian and Croatian nationalism as its greatest threats.

In the 1920s, Russian chauvinism was seen as a "greater danger" than non-Russian nationalism, a thesis that lasted from 1923 until 1932 (Martin, 2001). In the 1930s, however, the main threat-perception was switched from Russian to non-Russian nationalism, such as that of Ukrainians.

Indigenization in communist Yugoslavia encouraged the growth of a separate Macedonian nation to ensure it could not be claimed by Serbia, on the one hand, nor allow Bulgaria to harbor territorial claims, on the other. After the 1974 constitution and reform of the federal system, the Serbian province of Kosova was de facto turned over to the majority Albanian minority, who took control of key state institutions and the police.

Institutions Matter
Institutions are central to understanding the different trajectories of Russian and Serbian nationalism. During periods of crisis in both Yugoslavia and the USSR, there were always calls for greater decentralization and republican autonomy, which were combined with outbursts of nationalism.

The USSR and Yugoslavia after the 1974 constitution were very different states. Yugoslavia was a de facto confederation, where the republics were able to "act as nearly independent political and economic units" (Bunce, 1997, p. 356). The Yugoslav republics even exercised control to some degree over the militaries on their territories. The Yugoslav League of Communists held the country together, but after Tito's death in 1980 the party went into decline. In the USSR, the military was far less involved in the political process than it always had been in Yugoslavia.

In the USSR, the merging of Russian and Soviet identities had its institutional aspect in the absence of institutions for the Russian SFSR. The Russian SFSR lacked basic institutions that could have mobilized ethnic Russian nationalism such as its own Academy of Sciences, KGB, Communist Party, Writers Union, and Komsomol. As Vujacic (1996, pp. 779-780) points out, one reason for this was that the Russian SFSR, which has no historical legitimacy, "was somewhat of a residual category, a kind of Russian nation-state by default."

Within Yugoslavia, on the other hand, the Serbian republic had all of the institutions that the Russian SFSR did not possess. These became vitally important in the 1980s in mobilizing Serbian nationalism.

Institutions can facilitate the mobilization of nationalism, as seen in a comparison of the Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. In the Crimea, the Ukrainian authorities made a strategic miscalculation when they allowed the region to have its own presidency, believing that Crimean Supreme Soviet Chairman Mykola Bagrov would be elected in the January 1994 Crimean presidential elections. Instead, separatist Yuriy Meshkov was elected, and his increasing conflict with Kyiv prompted the Ukrainian authorities to disband the institution in March 1995. In eastern Ukraine, no regional autonomous institutions were permitted, a factor that discouraged autonomous trends that were already weak.

The existence of Serbian institutions in Yugoslavia separated Serbian and Yugoslav identities as well as created "the structural preconditions for nationalist (as opposed to purely statist) political mobilization" (Vujacic, 1996, p. 783). Milosevic took over the Serbian Communist Party, and its institutions and media, and his ideological platform was developed by the Serbian Academy of Sciences and other Serbian intellectual bodies.

In 1990-91, Russian nationalist opposition to Yeltsin and his democratic allies, on the one hand, and to Gorbachev on the other hand, found it difficult to mobilize support in a country where the Communist Party and security forces were already disintegrating and where they had no republican institutions. In Serbia, where there had been a tradition of backing hard-line policies, reform was not prioritized by most political forces in the 1980s and 1990s.

Only in 1990, a year before the USSR disintegrated, did the Russian SFSR set up its own Communist Party, Academy of Sciences, and Writers Union. These quickly became dominated by Russian nationalists who were "empire savers," rather than separatists in favor of an independent Russian state. Their allies were the hard-line Stalinist wing of the Communist Party, which staged a failed coup in August 1991 to forestall the signing of a new Union Treaty that planned to give more power to the republics.

After the failed August 1991 coup, Soviet institutions were also taken over by the Russian SFSR. The nationalization of Soviet institutions had a direct impact upon Russia's view of the outside world and the CIS. It contributed to a "distinctive culture and style in policymaking" (Malcolm, 1996, p. 105). Incorporating Soviet institutions into the Russian Federation served to continue to blur the differences between Soviet and Russian identity and strengthened the influence of Soviet political culture within Russia.

Serbian And Russian Nationalism
Neither Serbian nor Russian opposition groups clamored for the independence of their republics from the USSR. The reasons for this similarity, though, were different.

The Yugoslav communist and military leadership was largely from Serbian communities in Bosnia and Croatia. These Serbian communities "participated en masse in Tito's partisan movement, playing an important role in the reintegration of Yugoslavia in the aftermath of a devastating civil war" (Vujacic, 1996, p. 780). The large number of Serbs from Bosnia and Croatia over-represented in the party and security forces meant "they had a vested 'ideal' and 'material' interest in the preservation of Yugoslavia, or by default, a Greater Serbia" (Vujacic, 1996, p. 786).

The role of "Western Serbs" in Yugoslav and Serbian politics has no analogy in the Russian case. Russians from the Russian minority did become Soviet leaders, notably Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev from Ukraine. But they were always more Soviet in their identities than Russian.

Serbs saw the continuation of Yugoslavia as the only guarantee of the safety of the large Serbian minorities lying outside Serbia. The unification of the South Slavs after 1918 facilitated the incorporation of all Serbs within one state -- Yugoslavia. This unification was a paramount objective of the Orthodox Church and most political parties. It allowed the revival of the Serbian Patriarchate in 1920 (Ramet, 1996, p. 167). The Serbian national question was the factor that prevented the rise of a democratic opposition to Milosevic in Serbia. Instead, "the opposition tried to beat Milosevic on the national question, but without having an alternative program" (Sekelj, 2000, p. 61). The democratic opposition in Serbia "constantly tried to take over Milosevic's precedence on the national cause."(Sekelj, 2000, p. 60).

The diaspora played a large role in Serbian politics, unlike in the Russian case. As Serbs struggled, often violently, for a separate nation-state, the cost, especially in human suffering, became part of the shared myths of a "valiant, little Serbia." The final outcome -- independent statehood -- could then be glorified.

In World War II, Serbian suffering was no worse than that experienced by Russians and other Soviet peoples at the hands of Nazis. Nevertheless, the two produced different outcomes. The Serbs felt that they had defeated the Nazis and their puppet Croat and Slovene allies. Victory was understood as a Serbian ethnic victory, even though the Communist Partisans portrayed the victory in multiethnic terms.

In the former USSR, the "Great Patriotic War" was developed as a pan-Soviet myth, although the victory was supposedly led by the Russian "elder brother." In both states, the anticommunist Serbian Cetniks and the Russian Vlasov Army were attacked as "Nazi collaborators," and both of their leaders were executed. But only in Serbia have center-right and nationalist groups, such as Seselj's SRS and Draskovic's SPO, backed the revival and rehabilitation of the Cetnik traditions. In the Russian Federation, the fusion of Russian nationalism and Soviet internationalism has not led to calls for the rehabilitation of the Vlasov movement.

Russian nationalist groups never called for the secession of the Russian SFSR from the USSR. Instead, they were either co-opted by the Soviet regime (i.e., the All-Russian Social-Christian Union), or created by it (i.e., Vladimir Zhirinovskii's Liberal Democratic Party [LDPR]). Zhirinovskii's LDPR has continued to play the role of a "loyal nationalist opposition" in post-Soviet Russia, in the same manner that the Serbian Radical Party played that role under Milosevic. Russian nationalist groups backed the continuation of the USSR and preferred a Russian-dominated multinational state to an independent nation-state. As Suny (2001, p. 56) points out, "The imperial tended to thwart, if not subvert, the national, just as the national worked to erode the stability and legitimacy of the state."

Russian nationalism as a force demanding the "dismemberment of the multinational Soviet state" was a myth, Motyl argues (1990, p. 163). No Russian dissident groups �-from either the democrat or nationalist wings -- backed the secession of the Russian SFSR from the USSR. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn backed such a step but demanded that Ukraine and Belarus be part of the new "Russian" state. In other words, "Russian," as in the tsarist era, was understood as eastern Slavic. In a sample of 802 prisoners of conscience in the Soviet era, only 36 were Russian nationalists, five fewer than the number of Latvians (Motyl, 1990, p. 165). Half of these Russian nationalists were from the All-Russian Social-Christian Union. The Russian nationalists complained that the USSR was not Russian enough. Non-Russians complained it was too Russian, and that it had russified them.

In the non-Russian republics of the USSR, the dissident movement was democratic, like its Russian colleagues, but also nationalist (unlike in Russia). Non-Russian national democrats supported at a minimum the decentralization of the USSR, greater republican rights, and an end to russification. At a maximum, they backed the transformation of the USSR into a loose confederation or independent statehood. After the USSR disintegrated, reform was the priority of Russia's leaders, while nation- and state building was prioritized in most of the non-Russian successor states (McAuley, 1997, p. 27).

The "other" for the non-Russian national democrats was Russia or Russians (Kuzio, 2001); the "other" for Russian dissidents was Stalinism; and for the Russian nationalists, the "others" were the Jews and Masons, who were allegedly plotting against Russia. Anti-Semitism was therefore a common feature of Russian nationalism, something not found at that time among non-Russian national democrats, who were often allied to Zionist prisoners of conscience in the Gulag (see Kheifets, 1984).

The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), like Milosevic's SPS, combines nationalism and communism. For KPRF leader Gennadii Zyuganov, the national idea is more important than Marxism. Although both the KPRF and the SPS espouse nationalism, the former is state- and great power-based while the latter is ethnically driven.

Communist parties in the remainder of the CIS are anti-nationalist and closer to authentic Stalinist and Marxist parties. The KPRF supports a revived USSR based on a return to the pre-Gorbachev Soviet federation. Meanwhile, communist parties in the remainder of the CIS see a revived USSR as a loose confederation of sovereign states (Urban, 1999). The latter position resembles Gorbachev's after the failed August 1991 coup. It is similar to that of the non-Serbian republics in Yugoslavia, which supported the 1974 constitution, whereas the Serbs preferred a highly centralized state.

The combination of post-Soviet Russian great-power nationalism and communism inherits the same ideological mix that made up Soviet communism from the 1930s. The 1999 KPRF program describes the party as a "patriotic movement," linking nationalism with the geographic expansion of the Soviet state, not just the Russian Federation (see the electoral "Platform of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation," 1999). The association of dominant groups with the larger state is "accompanied by a rejection of narrower particularist goals and aspirations" (Vujacic 1996, p. 774).

The KPRF calls for the eastern Slavs to be united in a "single union state." This should be a prelude to the gathering of "the fraternal peoples under the sky of a common homeland" ("Platform of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation," 1999). Although the revival of the Soviet state is still paid lip service by non-Russian communist parties, they differ fundamentally from the KPRF in three areas. First, the KPRF and Russian nationalists believe that Ukrainians and Belarusians are "Russians," something non-Russian communists and even Sovietophiles (such as Lukasenka) refuse to accept. Second, communist parties in the non-Russian republics are antinationalist. The national-communist wing left the non-Russian communist parties in 1989-91 and in the 1990s went on to create centrist or social-democratic political parties. Third, non-Russian communists or Sovietophiles do not agree with their countries being absorbed into the Russian Federation, and instead back a confederal union of sovereign states.

Apart from Zhirinovskii's "loyal-nationalist" Liberals, other Russian nationalist parties have not been successful in Russian elections. In contrast, statist parties and views did get the upper hand over reformist parties by the mid-1990s in the Russian Federation (Molchanov, 2000). Such views became the basis for Putin's campaign for a strong "derzhava" (state) and the platform of his "party of power," the Yedinstvo party, in the 1999 elections.

On the eve of Putin's ascendancy to power, 81 percent of Russians were in favor of Russia asserting itself as a "great power" (Snyder, 2000, p. 249). Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said that all parties in Russia had declared themselves to be "patriotic." Had they not done so, he said, they "would not obtain any recognition on the part of the nation" (interview with "Krymskaya pravda," 3 August 1999).

Could Russia become a "great power" without the CIS being within its sphere of influence? The Russian elites think not. If Russia wishes to assert itself as a "great power," they believe, it has to negate nation building in favor of empire building in the CIS. Russia's demands for the CIS to be recognized as its exclusive sphere of influence are an attempt to carve out a neo-imperial role for itself in the post-Soviet era.

The growth in Russian statism is also paralleled by the rise in Soviet nostalgia. The Russian Federation has had difficulties introducing new national symbols. In a January 1998 vote, only a quarter of the State Duma backed the new flag, coat of arms, and anthem. The majority wished to maintain the Soviet anthem. Meanwhile, those in the Russian autonomous republics, such as Tatarstan, see the Russian double-headed eagle as imperialist.

In April 1997, the KPRF moved an amendment to return the Soviet flag and anthem. The proposal obtained 239 votes with only 90 against, but fell short of the 300 votes necessary for constitutional changes. As late as 2000, only 11 percent of Russians knew the lyrics of the Russian anthem, whereas 79 percent could sing the Soviet one. As Kolsto (2000, p. 245) points out, these symbols do not draw upon Russian ethno-cultural identity. The Russian Federation, unlike Serbia, "lacks any generally agreed-on symbols and state attributes on which to pin this loyalty" (Kolsto, 2000, p. 246).

Putin overcame Boris Yeltsin's inability to resolve Russia's national symbols by reviving the Soviet-era anthem with new lyrics. In a State Duma vote in December 2000, only nine months after he came to power, 378 voted to reinstate the Soviet anthem, with only a small minority of 53 opposing the move (Whittell, 2000).

The tricolor flag and tsarist coat of arms have been maintained alongside the revived Soviet anthem with new lyrics. The Russian military has also reinstated Soviet Red Army insignia. Russia's national symbols therefore reflect the fusion of Russian, tsarist, and Soviet identities that make up Russian identity.

Why has Russian ethnic nationalism proven weak compared to Russian statism? If we define nationalism as desiring to possess an independent state, then, as Motyl (1990) has pointed out, Russian nationalism in the tsarist empire and USSR was a myth. The use of "Russian nationalism" is "inaccurate and misleading," as we are really talking more about "imperialism" (Rowley, 2000, p. 23). The Russians have remained proud of their multinational empire, which has become "an integral part of the Russian tradition" (Hosking, 1998, p. 453). Russification was selectively applied to the population of tsarist Russian population and was not part of a strategy to build a homogenized nation-state. The White Armies in the Russian civil war did not seek a Russian nation-state but to rebuild the tsarist empire in a more "democratic" manner and opposed proposals for a Ukraine to be federally tied to Russia (let alone Ukrainian independence) (Procyk, 1995). Russian Liberals "could not abandon the idea of a centralised Russian empire" (Rowley, 2000, p. 27). Furthermore, "there was no political party �- or even a single individual -� calling for the Russian heartland to let go of its empire and to create a government of, by and for Russians" (Rowley, 2000, p. 28).

The Russian elites did not propagate nationalist demands. They saw the world in universalist terms through religion, imperialism, Soviet internationalism, or Marxism, which "ruled out nationalism" (Rowley, 2000, p. 33). According to Rowley (2000, p. 36), Yeltsin was the first Russian leader to act as a "nationalist," as he defined the Russian SFSR as a separate entity from the USSR. This is to some extent true, although Russia never declared independence from the USSR.

Lieven (1999) has therefore concluded that Russian nationalism is "weak." There are no mass Russian nationalist organizations among Russian minorities, no effective Russian nationalist paramilitaries; Russian nationalist parties have not been successful in elections; and the state has not provided consistent support to Russian nationalists.

The reasons for this weakness are identified by Lieven (1999) as the lack of a deep identity and cultural traditions, absence of institutions facilitating mobilization, the weakness of civil society and religion, and the identification of Russian identity with the state, not with the ethnic nation. In Serbia, the situation in all of these areas was different.

Soviet ideology, not Russian nationalism, created the Transdniester separatist enclave, which opposed demands by the Moldovan Popular Front for Moldova's reunification with Romania. "The social base of this right-wing coalition consisted of young male volunteers from the Transdniestrian diaspora, declasse policemen and officers, fascists recruited from working-class 'toughs,' neo-Stalinist pensioners, and the lumpen proletariat" (Vujacic, 1996, p. 771).

Although some of these social strata were also present among Milosevic's supporters, the ideology was different in the two cases (pan-eastern Slavism/Soviet revivalism for the Transdniester, and Serbian ethnic nationalism for Milosevic). In addition, the peasantry backed the Serbian Socialists and nationalists, whereas in the Transdniester the ethnic Moldovan peasantry has not given its support to the separatists. Within Russia, the peasantry has not supported nationalist groups, preferring instead leftist parties.

In the Baltic states, few Russians joined the Internationalist fronts. In Ukraine, the granting of minority rights, the lack of a memory of past atrocities (for which most Ukrainians -- at least in the eastern part of the country -- blamed communism and Stalinism rather than ethnic Russians), and the absence of conflict all served to maintain good relations with Russia. In the Crimea, separatism was unsuccessful "because it failed to generate either unity among the Russian elites in Crimea or mass mobilization in the population" (Lieven, 1999, p. 60).

After 1992, Russian officers swore the oath of allegiance to Ukraine. This "contrasts with the behavior of the majority of Serbian officers in Croatia and Bosnia, almost none of whom endorsed the new states." Many of these officers formed the core of the Bosnian Serb army. Russian officers did not feel threatened in Ukraine (Vujacic, 1996, p. 767).

In the former USSR, the weakness of civil society, the existence of amorphous identities, lack of mutual trust, and atomization of the population all served to dampen the ability to mobilize. All three eastern Slavs had an "embryonic notion of nationalism and a very murky definition of the 'other'" (Prizel, 2001, p. 57), which made it difficult to create populist movements.

(The author is a resident fellow at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies and adjunct professor at the Department of Political Science, University of Toronto.)


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