Ulster Logo
Link to facebook  Link to INCOREinfo on twitter  Link to INCORE rss feed    Linkedin link Linkedin link

The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1998, Vol. 1 No. 1 .

Ethnicity, Nationalism and Conflict in and after the Soviet Union: The Mind Aflame
Valery Tishkov.

(London: Sage, 1997) 334pp. Bibl. ISBN 0 7619 3184 9 Pb: 0 7619 5185 7

For forty-five years Europe was divided. While a new era has begun, and East and West now engage in constructive dialogue on issues of politics, economics and security, Europe remains a divided continent. The fault line no longer runs between communism and capitalism but between the varying perceptions of nationalism. There is a tendency in the West to view nationalism as a rather benign movement, with peoples wishing only to gain greater self-expression and autonomy. What we ascribe to be significant causes in conflicts in the former Yugoslavia or Chechnya are merely minor factors. Thus our endeavours to prescribe methods of dealing with the more violent tensions which arise are often futile and patronising.

Valery Tishkov manages to bridge the divide. In a style which is never dull and always informative, he outlines the limitations of the conceptual approaches to nationalism which have been adopted by academics in the East and the West. In the republics of the FSU the discourse has been informed by the emphasis which Marxism-Leninism placed on the unerring veracity of scientific methods. Tishkov's criticism is that pseudo-scholarly terms and categories which should never have been placed in any disciplinary discourse have permeated and undermined the work of a generation of academics. These same academics have risen to positions of power and influence within the governments of the post-Soviet republics. Their "considered opinions" are now used to construct and pursue the agendas of ever smaller "nations".

Tishkov traces how these events have come to pass by conducting a comprehensive review of the literature and by then placing the scholarly debate within the context of the political events of the late Soviet period. His role as a policy maker means that he does not sit removed from the events when pronouncing judgment. He clearly identifies the situations where mistakes were made, where recommendations could have been more cautious, and where it was impossible to make any other choice than the one which was made. The reader acquires a clear understanding of the events and their causes, as they were perceived at that time.

This is an impressive tome. One which should do more than simply adorn a scholar's shelf. It should be read and studied if the academic divide is to be narrowed.

Laura Richards Cleary, University of Stirling

Disclaimer: © INCORE 2010 Last Updated on Monday, 10-Aug-2015 12:20
contact usgoto the search page
go to the top of this page