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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1999, Vol. 2 No. 1 .


The Search for Stability in Russia and the Former Soviet Bloc
Edited by David Carlton & Paul Ingram

(Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 1997 )
215pp. Index. Hb.: 39.50; ISBN 1-85521-897-6.



The reviewed book is a collection of essays by leading Western and Russian scholars and commentators. Although the contributions vary in their theoretical depth, practical insight and writing style, together they make a rather coherent and interesting book focused on the painful search for stability in post-Communist countries of the Former USSR and Eastern Europe. Topics range from broad theoretical analysis of regime transition to discussion of the current state of science in Russia. One of the popular themes is the rise of ethnic nationalism. Some chapters deal exclusively with this phenomenon. A number of chapters examine the external factors of stability and conflict resolution. While most of the essays concentrate on processes at the institutional level, Rita Rogers' essay deals primarily with the psychological and human aspects of adaptation to post-Communist realities.

The chapters in the book complement each other through originality of perspectives and arguments. In other cases theoretical assumptions by one of the authors are elaborated by another contributor. Sondra and Stephen Koff refer, for example, to a major disagreement over the issue of comparability of regime transitions in Eastern Europe and Russia. Georgi Arbatov believes there are strong reasons which allow to regard all post-communist countries in Eastern Europe and FSU as an entity, united by some similarities and common problems. His argument that economic reform has not destabilized any of these countries but nor has it enhanced their stability looks even more provocative and debatable in the context of current economic crisis in Russia.

Chapters 11 and 12 present two rather different perspectives on the role of NATO in post-Cold War security arrangements in Europe. Alexander Nikitin is critical of NATO activities and sceptical about its peacekeeping potential. Lamberto Zannier, on the other hand, praises NATO's adaptation to the new political and security environment.

Discussion of ethnic issues is of particular interest. Andrus Park distinguishes three broad categories responsible for the upsurge of nationalism and ethnic tensions : general (universal), pre-communist and specific communist-related causes . One of his conclusions is that nationalism can be constructive and can contribute to democracy. Alexei Vasilyev explains ethnic nationalism as a phenomenon growing from political immaturity, lack of democratic traditions and application of Bolshevist methods.

Unfortunately, the book contains some errors and inaccuracies, such as confusion over the status of Nakhichevan (pp 172-173). Overall the reviewed book is a very informative, comprehensive and entertaining work of considerable theoretical and practical value. It is particularly relevant in the context of new instabilities caused by the Russian financial crisis of August 1998.


Rouben Azizian, University of Auckland



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