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Working paper

Nationalism in the USSR: A historical and comparative perspective

The late 1980s and early 1990s were characterized by the sudden rise of nationalist movements in almost all Soviet ethnic regions. It is argued that the rise of political nationalism since the late 1980s can be explained by development of cultural nationalism in the previous decades, as an unintended outcome of communist nationalities policy. Soviet political and cultural nationalism is studied in historical and comparative perspective. All ethnic regions are examined throughout entire history of the Soviet Union (49 regions, 1917-91), using the structural equation modeling approach. This paper aims to make at least three contributions in the field. Firstly, it is a methodological contribution for studying nationalism: a ‘quantification of history’ approach. Quantitative values are assigned to historical trends and events. Having constructed variables from historical data, I use conventional statistical methods like SEM. Secondly, this paper contributes to the theoretical debate about the role of cultural autonomy in multiethnic states. The results rethink the notion of ‘cultural autonomy’ as solution of interethnic conflict. Cultural nationalism matters, it indirectly reinforces political nationalism. In both cases concessions in the cultural domain has not stopped the growth of political nationalism in the late 1980-s. Finally, the paper statistically proves that the break between early Soviet and Stalinist nationalities policy explains the entire Soviet nationalities policy. In fact, the late Soviet nationalities policy was inherited from the Stalin’s rule period. This finding revealed in other studies now gets statistical evidence