Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Imperial Temptations: Ethnics Abroad

Imperial Temptations: Ethnics Abroad

Prominent among the many ethnic minority problems that may threaten the stability of the post-Soviet international system are those involving the twenty-five million ethnic Russians residing beyond the borders of the Russian Federation in the newly independent republics. The fate of these Russians will have important consequences for both Russia’s domestic politics and for its relations with the other republics. Events since the collapse of the USSR have already demonstrated that the mistreatment, real or perceived, of Russians in the non-Russian republics produces significant pressures in Moscow for interventionist and neo-imperial policies. Moreover, serious threats to the stability of the post-Soviet order may arise from the appearance of significant secessionist movements supported by Russians in the non-Russian republics. The development of such movements remains a distinct possibility in areas where ethnic Russians form the overwhelming majority of the population, such as the Crimea, the Narva region of Estonia, and Northern Kazakhstan. Overall, the prospects for political stability in the emerging post-Soviet order are likely to depend significantly on the political situation of the Russian communities in the non-Russian republics.

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