These two books are nearly identical in their purpose, form, and argument. Both mean to explain the divergent international economic strategies of the post-Soviet states. Both have as their foil dominant theories in international political economy; both choose nationalism and national identity as the better explanation for these states' choices; both settle on nearly the same cases to represent the universe. Abdelal provides the more subtle and lucid discussion of contending theories (realism, liberalism, and institutionalism on the one side, national identity on the other). Tsygankov offers a more detailed account of the economic decisions that prompted Latvia to escape Russian influence while Belarus embraced it (and Ukraine tried to do both). Abdelal ends by skillfully comparing his three core examples with other end-of-empire episodes in nineteenth-century Europe and postwar Asia and Africa; Tsygankov compares his three with the remaining post-Soviet states. Abdelal makes the battle over national identity (or its absence) the core dynamic in his story; Tsygankov focuses on each country's prior experience with independence. But each implicitly incorporates the other's primary emphasis in his analysis. Both demonstrate the inadequacy of mainstream political-economy theory and the relevance of national-identity politics in understanding the choices of the post-Soviet states. Abdelal's book, in particular, moves theory along. In both cases, however, theory's advance comes at the expense of a richer explanation that does justice to the complex interaction of political and geostrategic factors shaping outcomes.
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