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World Politics

Vol. 65, No. 2

April 2013

Separatist Conflict in the Former Soviet Union and Beyond: How Different Was Communism?
By Benjamin Smith

Recent research on separatist nationalism has focused on the most common location of new states in the international system—the postcommunist world. While providing the largest number of cases for exploration, the arguably unique features of the Soviet system may have effects that do not easily translate to other parts of the world. This article reviews a recent set of books that highlights this question, focusing on the legacies of Soviet ethnofederalism in catalyzing secession, separatist war, and nation-state crisis. These books share in common a tendency to deemphasize the historical lineages of separatist nationalism and to focus more proximately on institutions. The article builds on the discussion of recent research by engaging two separate cross-national data sets to explore the role of ethnofederal institutions and of historical legacies. It concludes by arguing for a return to historically situated studies of center-minority conflicts and for greater engagement across regional lines of expertise.

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