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9 Ab Imperio, 1/2000 TO THE READER For decades, the majority of Western scholars of the Soviet Union paid scant attention to that state’s multi-ethnic character and to the problems stemming from this. For such scholars, the re-emergence in the latter 1980s of publicly voiced nationalist aspirations and of inter-ethnic strife in the Baltic region, Transcaucasus, and Central Asia was a rude awakening – as much as it was for Gorbachev himself. The complete disintegration of the federation in 1991 into its fifteen major components, each with its dominant titular nation, made the national factor impossible any longer to ignore. The Russian Empire had, of course, collapsed in an analogous manner along ethnic lines during the 1917-21 Revolution. Most of the old empire was rapidly restored, however, in a form that, although structurally very different from that of the tsarist era, was quite as much ruled from the center as it always had been. This fact encouraged all but a relative handful of Western scholars to ignore for decades the imperial, multi-ethnic nature of both the tsarist state and its Communist successor. The collapse of the latter has changed all this. The last decade has witnessed an explosion of scholarly interest and work on the theoretical, historical, and current policy aspects of national identity, nation-formation, and nationalism. Ab Imperio’s goal is to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and information on questions related to nations and nationalism, past and present , on the territories of the former Soviet Union and the Russian Empire – a 10 Seymour Becker, To the Reader forum for Western scholars and for those of the states newly established or reestablished on those territories. Both groups can clearly benefit from such an exchange. There is no precedent for a journal of this type, but a great need for it. Seymour BECKER Member of the Editorial Board ...


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