This introductory paper opens a special issue of Nationalities Papers on the major issues facing theorists and practitioners working in the field of ethnic relations in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. The issue itself is the result of a three-year (2004-6) international project entitled “Releasing Indigenous Multiculturalism through Education” funded by the European Commission under the European Initiative on Democracy and Human Rights Programme. The introduction offers a very panoramic study of the management of ethnic diversity in the former USSR. It begins with an overview of the legacy of the Soviet nationality policy and of its diverse determinants (with insistence on an overall principle of ‘divide and rule’ principle, on the selective choice of the beneficiaries of the status of socialist ‘nations’, on the impact of mass resettlements and massive influx of Russians, and on the taxonomic role played by networks of humanities and social sciences research institutes, notably by the Institutes of Ethnography, later renamed institutes of Ethnology and Anthropology, modelled on the rigid hierarchy and centralism of the Communist Party itself). Questioning the paradigms develop by Western research on the Eastern European conflicts, the authors sheds light on the dichotomous view of Europe that lies at the core of many. At the same time, they highlight the eclecticism and ambiguity that has come to characterise the academic discourse of ethnicity and nationalism in post-Soviet countries.
The articles constituting the special file are: Hrytsenko Oleksandr, “Imagining the Community: Perspectives on Ukraine’s Ethno-Cultural Diversity,” 197-222, 2 maps (an examination of the approaches adopted by the Ukrainian state for managing its poly-ethnic population, with special attention for the pluralism in nation-building policies); Popov Anton, Kuznetsov Igor, “Ethnic Discrimination and the Discourse of ‘Indigenization’: The Regional Regime, ‘Indigenous Minority’ and Ethnic Minorities in Krasnodar Krai in Russia,” 223-52, 4 maps (addresses the problem of xenophobia in the Krasnodar region of southern Russia, with special attention to the ways in which the regional political élite manipulates post-Soviet academic discourse to serve its particular interests); Akkieva Svetlana, “The Caucasus: One or Many? A View from the Region,” 253-73, map (explores the ethno-cultural dynamic of the Caucasus, the author believing that stability could be achieved through the adherence of all Caucasians to the principle of coexistence. . .); Broers Laurence, “Filling the Void: Ethnic Politics and Nationalities Policy in Post-Conflict Georgia,” 275-304, 2 maps (analyses contrasting conceptualisations of ethnicity in official, academic and ‘popular’ discourses in Georgia); Clogg Rachel, “The Politics of Identity in Post-Soviet Abkhazia: Managing Diversity and Unresolved Conflict,” 305-29 (analyses the extent of institutional discrimination in Abkhazia).