In This Review

Nationalist Mobilization and the Collapse of the Soviet State
Nationalist Mobilization and the Collapse of the Soviet State
By Mark R. Beissinger
Cambridge University Press, 2002, 503 pp

In another important addition to Russian studies, Beissinger does more than simply trace the rise of nationalism within the republics of the Soviet Union, including Russia, by subjecting more than 6,000 public demonstrations from 1987 to 1991 to careful statistical analysis. He also shows how the process escalated, spread, and flowed together until it became a tide dictating political choices and historical outcomes. The Soviet Union's demise, he argues, was not inevitable, but through the force of events it became so. Indeed, by superbly reconstructing the state of play in 1989-90, he demonstrates that the state was doomed long before the August 1991 coup. But his complex account of how the political environment, institutions, and events interacted to produce the "tide" does not leave much room for the wisdom and folly of leaders. Could the collapse of the Soviet Union have been prevented? By 1989 or 1990, probably not. A year or two earlier? The answer is not here.