Constructing Grievance: Ethnic Nationalism in Russia’s Republics

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Constructing Grievance: Ethnic Nationalism in Russia's Republics
By Elise Giuliano
Cornell University Press, 2011
256 pp. $45.00

In studies of nationalism, the dogs that do not bark -- places where clear ethnic self-identification and frustrations do not lead to separatism or violence -- get short shrift. One such case is Tatarstan, one of 16 autonomous republics in Russia where nationalism swelled in the tumult following the collapse of the Soviet Union. But it soon faded, as it did in the few other areas like it, and Giuliano sets out to explain why. Her answer, after she collates a variety of political and economic data on the 16 regions, comes down to economics and political entrepreneurship. It is not structural socioeconomic conditions, as is often assumed, that fuel separatism, she finds, but the immediate fear of unemployment or lost opportunity, anxieties that nationalist leaders skillfully cast in a narrative favoring national independence. When the underlying fear eases, the nationalist mobilizers lose their appeal. The book provides a neat explanation for outcomes in the Russian case with obvious and important policy implications for those managing multiethnic societies, but it leaves one wondering how far it goes in explaining outcomes elsewhere.

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