Russia and Its New Diasporas

February 2001
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On the morning after the Soviet Union’s collapse, millions of ethnic Russians living on the fringes of the former Russian Republic suddenly awakened to find themselves in foreign countries—newly independent non-Russian successor states that most Russians now refer to as the "near abroad."

Igor Zevelev here examines the political significance of these ethnic Russian "diaspora" communities and their implications for the future of Eurasian security. The "Russian Question" centers on Russia’s identity and its territorial reach: Is Russia confined to its post-Soviet territorial border, or do Russians in the "near abroad" lend support to the nationalist proposition that Russia extends beyond this "artificial" demarcation?

As Russian politicians and intellectuals reassess the "Russian Question" in the post-Soviet era, these ethnic Russian communities—mostly in Ukraine, Belarus, and northern Kazakhstan—serve not only as a significant factor in Russia’s quest for a national identity, but also as a political conduit for Russian influence. In addition to his thoughtful and insightful exploration of nationalism and national identity throughout Russia’s history, Zevelev skillfully dissects the multifaceted nature of the Russian Federation’s official policies toward these ethnic Russian communities.

Igor Zevelev

Igor Zevelev is currently professor of Russian studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, and chief researcher at the Russian Academy of Science's Institute of World Economy and International Relations in Moscow. He was a fellow at the United States Institute of Peace during 1997–98.

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