This study endeavours to analyse the political evolution and society development of the USSR up till its furthermost European and Asian margins. The author’s viewpoint is pessimistic, especially when it comes to witness the almost inexistence of a civil society of any kind in this extremely wide political space. If some have been emerging, they remain in their infancy and have to struggle hard against waves of repressions launched by authoritarian regimes. The author also shows pessimistic on political élites that are considered by him heavily stamped with Soviet conditioned reflexes. Furthermore, a large part of his work analyses the new functioning of the states, with special attention for the rigid ethnic nationalisms on which they have been based. The author pleads for a greater commitment of the USA in the region, as he believes only sizeable assistance from his country will enable political change, at least in the nature of nationalisms. The latter are based on ethnic grounds and might as such become a highly explosive source of conflict between all the inextricably mixed societies, peoples and communities, who have already forgotten that not so long ago all of them lived peacefully together and shared the same citizenship and same ideological identity. Therefore the author advocates for a more open and public-spirited nationalism to maintain peace and harmony in this multiethnic environment. Having served for the State Department between 1963 and 1998, notably as an Ambassador in Poland and coordinator of U.S. assistance to Eastern Europe between 1993 and 1998, the author provides an interesting, passionate and vivid study enriched with personal and human stories that the author recalls from his travels and journeys in the region.

Bayram Balci, French Institute of Central Asian Studies, Tashkent
CER: II-7.1-574