Abstract and Keywords
Although others had practised “affirmative action” for national minorities, the USSR was the first state to institutionalize it in the 1920s. The policy failed to create economic and political equality among Soviet nations and to end national animosities. Instead, as Russian nationalism revived under Stalin, the centre re-established its imperial authority over the non-Russian peoples. However, the USSR was not a traditional empire: though it was hostile to nationalism, the republics benefited (in unequal ways) from generous economic policies and from cultural development. By the 1960s, many elites had gained significant control in their own republics. But wider global changes threatened the USSR’s cohesion. While perhaps doomed by internal contradictions between a centralized state and party on the one hand, and federal structures and multiple nations on the other, the USSR’s collapse owed as much to the economy and to the relationship of the state to its rapidly changing population as it did to nationalism.
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