Possible identity trajectories for Russians in the former Soviet republic.
Pal Kolsto, 
Department of East European and Oriental Studies
University of Oslo


The collapse of the unitary Soviet state has plunged its  former citizens 
into  a profound identity crisis. Particularly hard hit are the twentyfive 
million Russians living in the non-Russian successor states. Formerly 
members of the dominant nationality of a multinational state they have 
been  turned into a new Russian diaspora.  Whether they in time  should 
come to look upon themselves as Latvians (Ukrainians, Georgians, etc.) 
of Russian extraction or as Russians who happen to be living in Latvia, 
Ukraine, Georgia, etc. will clearly influence political  relations both 
within and among the Soviet successor states. 
Identity formation is a prolonged process and influenced by a number 
of factors. The author attempts to outline a typology of possible identity 
trajectories of the Russian diaspora and  discusses a number of influence 
factors which are deemed important to the identity formation. These 
factors work very differently in the various non-Russian successor 
states, and it is therefore no reason to believe that all Russians living 
outside the Russian Federation will develop the same identity. There is, 
however, good reason to expect that  in the final outcome a very large 
number  of them will develop an identity which sets them apart  from 
the Russian core group. 

Like any other identity, ethnic identity is a malleable quality (Keyes 
1982; de Vos and Romanucci-Ross 1982). The speed, direction, depth, 
and extension of this change will depend upon a number of factors. 
These factors may be cultural, for instance exposure to new ethnic 
groups through migration, or result from changes in the economic 
structure of society (industrialization, etc.) (Gellner 1983). 
Post-Soviet society is characterized by rapid and deep changes all across 
the board, political, economic, and cultural. The reified world of 'Soviet 
reality' (sovetskaia deistvitel'nost') has collapsed as a deck of cards. This 
event affects most aspects of the identity of the former Soviet citizens - 
political, ideological, religious, ethnic, etc. This article will focus on two 
aspects of identity development, political and ethnic: which state and 
which ethnic culture will become the foci of identity? In order to keep 
these two identity axes terminologically apart, I will employ the terms 
'loyalty' for the political axis and 'selfunderstanding' for the cultural 
axis. Both loyalty and selfunderstanding are intended as synonyms for 
The identity crisis affects the ethnic groups of the former USSR to 
different degrees. Two groups are hit particularly hard: politically, the 
Russians (as the former dominant nation of a defunct state), and 
culturally, the various diaspora groups, since the unitary Soviet state is 
today being replaced by nationalizing states in which they stick out as 
cultural anomalies. The twentyfive million Russians living outside the 
Russian Federation, 'the new Russian diaspora', straddle both these 
categories, and might be said to have received the blow of the post-
Soviet identity crisis two-fold. This group is the subject of this article. 
Due to their high numbers, their habitat in territories which in the 
Soviet system were deemed to be in some sense the 'property' of other 
major ethnic groups (the titular nations of the non-Russian Union 
republics), and the fact that they were generally (if not necessarily 
correctly) associated with the central Union leadership and even seen as 
its collective agents, the Russians outside the RSFSR were central to any 
study of ethnic relations in the USSR. Many students of Soviet 
nationality problems were interested in how the presence of the 
Russians influenced the sentiments, attitudes, and behaviour of the non-
Russians (Carrre d'Encausse 1979; Karklins 1986). The reverse 
relationship was less studied. In May 1978, however, Columbia 
University organized a colloquium on 'Ethnic Russia Today: Undergoing 
an Identity Crisis?' (Allworth 1980). Two of the participants dealt with 
the prospective identity development of the Russian diaspora.1 
Intriguingly, they reached almost opposite conclusions. William Boris 
Kory remarked that 
in spite of being a minority group and despite great distances from the 
Russian heartland, the ethnic Russian migrants retain their language and 
ethnic identity.(...) The ethnic identity of the Russian population does not 
seem to diminish with the increased distance from the Russian 
heartland (Kory 1980, pp. 288, 290).
Matthews Pavlovich, on the other hand, suggested that the Russian 
diaspora was in the process of acquiring an identity of its own, different 
from the identity of the central Russians. 
The wide demographic dispersion from the traditional core of Russia to 
the other Soviet union republics (...) has created two distinct Russian 
groups: the core and the periphery - conditions which will ultimately 
weaken Russian ethnic cohesion and probably alter the future of both 
groups. (...) The Russian settlers were ultimately forced to adapt to the 
environments and traditions dominant at their new place of residence, 
which further separated them from the core group (Pavlovich 1980, p. 
Pavlovich's hypothesis ran counter to the more common assumption that 
members of an ethnic group who come into close contact with 
neighbouring groups develop an especially strong sense of attachment to 
their nation. According to a generally accepted theory, national identity 
is to a large degree acquired through a 'We-They' contrast. As the core 
group is less frequently confronted with 'them', it also has a less distinct 
identity as being 'us' (Allworth 1980, pp. 306-7). Raymond Pearson, for 
one, has unequivocally stated that '"border dwellers" are more sensitive 
about national identity and loyalty through day-to-day proximity to the 
state frontier, develop firmer commitments through awareness of the 
alternatives and are most subject to neuroses about territorial 
adjustments and therefore national security' (Pearson 1983, p. 20). 
Pearson goes one step beyond Kory by claiming that in the periphery 
national identity is not only not altered or loosened, but strengthened. 
Whether for lack of empirical fuel or for lack of methodological clarity, 
the Western debate on the Russian diaspora identity  in the late 1970s 
petered out, or rather: never really took off. Today, I believe, it is high 
time to resurrect it. After the breakup of the Soviet unitary state some 
of its methodological problems will be easier to come to terms with. As a 
new political map has been superimposed on the demographic map of 
the former Soviet Union, the line between the core and the diaspora has 
become drawn as with a scalpel. In the political sense at least it is now 
possible to claim that Russians living on one side of a state border 
belong to the core group, while their ethnic brethren a stone's throw 
away on the other side belong to the diaspora. Although this new 
political arrangement may not immediately be reflected on the mental 
level, it is reasonable to suspect that in the long run it will significantly 
affect the selfunderstanding of the people involved. 
The new political map affects not only the methodology of the research, 
but also its urgency. In 1978 the distinction between a Russian core 
group and a diaspora group was a purely analytical tool in an academic 
discussion and concerned scholars only. Today, this is a question of 
immediate relevance for policy makers as well. If the diaspora Russians 
in, say, Latvia should come to see themselves as 'Latvians of Russian 
extraction' this will affect the political discourse and political stability in 
the region quite differently than if they should consider themselves as 
'Russians who happen to be living in Latvia' (Aasland 1994a). 
In the 1970s and '80s some Western research was conducted on the 
topic of 'comparative diasporas' (Sheffer 1986). However, very few of its 
insights are applicable to the study of the Russian minority communities 
in the former Soviet republics since 'diasporas' in this research were 
defined as migrant communities far removed from their homelands 
rather than as stranded groups of contracted multinational states such 
as have been created in Eastern Europe in the twentieth century - the 
Hungarian, Serbian and Russian diasporas. John Armstrong explicitly 
excluded from his definition of  diasporas groups that are not 'averse to 
political attachment to its great society ' (Armstrong 1976, p. 395). Only 
very recently have post-imperial diasporas become an object of serious 
comparative and theoretical analysis. (Brubaker 1993a; Brubaker 
1993b), but this research has so far not been primarily concerned with 
the identity aspect. 
My present contribution to this debate will not be in the form of any 
large-scale sociological survey, but is much more modest. First, I will 
present a list of possible identities for the Russian diaspora. Second, I 
will consider some of the more important factors which might be 
expected to influence the formation and change of identity among 
diaspora Russians. Third, I will venture some conjectures about possible 
identity trajectories in the various regions of the former Soviet Union by 
applying the identity types and influence factors laid out in part I and 
part II. Finally, some material evidence in support of my hypotheses 
will be adduced. This evidence will be gleaned from opinion polls 
conducted by other researchers as well as from  interviews of diaspora 
leaders which I have made myself.
There is of course no reason to believe that all members of 'the new 
Russian diaspora' will act and react in a uniform manner. On the 
contrary, the very term 'the Russian diaspora' may be highly 
problematic since the definite mode, singular, obfuscates the magnitude 
of the differences within the group. We should be on the look-out for 
varieties within the diaspora just as much as for patterns of regularities. 
Within the framework of an article the pictures of the various diaspora 
communities will inevitably be drawn with a broad brush. For more 
details and nuances I refer the reader to my book on the subject 
(Kolstoe 1995).
Any attempt to forecast the identity trajectories of the Russian diaspora 
in the various regions of the former Soviet Union will necessarily be 
somewhat speculative. Identity formation is a protracted process, 
spanning decades and generations. One should be very cautious about 
mechanical extrapolation of present day trends into the future. From 
other parts of the world we know that third generation immigrants 
often reject the cultural preferences of their parents and sometimes 
consciously attempt to recapture parts of their grandparents' identity 
(rediscover their 'roots'). Also, since man is not a socially programmable 
machine, many individual case stories will no doubt differ significantly 
from probability calculated outcomes. 

II Identity types of post-imperial diasporas
What, then, are the 'identity options'2 open to the diaspora Russians 
(provided that they remain a diaspora , that is to say, that they are not 
reunited with the core group by migration or by  the reestablishment of 
the unitary state)? Culturally, the Russian diaspora may be said to be 
confronted with the choice of three identities: identification with the 
dominant culture in the external homeland (= Russia); development of a 
new but still basically Russian selfunderstanding, and identification with 
the dominant culture in the state of residence (= the new nationalizing 
state). Politically, the options may be seen as fourfold: loyalty towards 
the historical boundaries of the Russian state up to and including 
attempts to resurrect it; loyalty towards the present and much reduced 
Russian state, the Russian Federation; aspirations for the creation of a 
new nation-state; and finally loyalty towards the nationalizing state of 
residence. Hypothetically this gives us twelve positions. However, some 
of them are so unlikely to be found in real life that they may be 
discounted. The eight remaining positions plotted into the matrix below 
all reflect attitudes and identities which I have been met with among 
members of the Russian minority communities in the Soviet successor 
states.3 While the above typology in a sense is tailored to the special 
situation of the Russian diaspora, I believe that in principle it is 
applicable to other  post-imperial diaspora groups as well. 


The horizontal axis of the matrix describes a continuum of positions 
stretching from minimal change to the left towards complete cultural 
reidentification to the right. In addition to the three positions given 
numerous nuances and intermediate types are conceivable. The vertical 
axis, on the other hand, describes a more discontinuous set of choices. 
While also political loyalties may be vague and blurred, the individual 
will eventually have to make a choice between the political entities 
available to him as to which one he will pledge his allegiance. He may 
postpone the identity choice or hide behind a posture of 'dual loyalty' 
but he cannot ride two horses indefinitely. In a military conflict a 
soldier cannot fight on the side of two warring parties at the same time. 
Another difference between political loyalty and cultural 
selfunderstanding concerns the speed of alteration. Political loyalties can 
change much faster than do cultural selfunderstandings. The radical 
changes leading up to the demise of the Soviet Union is a prime example 
of the fabulous speed political reorientations may acquire in exceptional 
In real life many diaspora Russians will probably find it hard to give a 
clear-cut answer whenever they are asked to describe their cultural 
selfunderstanding or their political loyalty. Their responses will often 
depend upon the context in which the question is posed. If the frame of 
reference is (the dominant culture in) the state of residence they might 
describe themselves as simply 'Russian'. However, if the context is (the 
dominant culture in) the external homeland they might tend to 
accentuate the peculiar traits which set them apart them from the 
Russian core group. 

CULTURAL OPTION (A). Identifying culturally with the External 
In the Soviet Union every person was ascribed a dual identity: political, 
as citizen of the Soviet Union, and ethnic, as member of a particular 
nationality (natsional'nost'). This duality was reflected in the internal 
passports where 'citizenship' and 'nationality' were recorded separately 
(Zaslavsky 1982). Thus, the Soviet citizens living outside their 'own' 
republic were not only allowed but also obliged to identify ethnically 
with the core group. Those Russian diasporians who fall under cultural 
option A in our matrix have internalized the official nationality ascribed 
to them.
(A1) Political loyalty towards historical boundaries: traditional Soviet. To 
be sure, the 'historical boundaries' of Russia have changed considerably 
over time, one of the distinguishing features of the Russian empire being 
the constant expansion of its territory (Kappeler 1992). For our purposes 
(A1) shall mean loyalty towards the Soviet state within the borders it 
possessed at the time of its dissolution. We are concerned with political 
loyalty in the territorial sense only, not in the ideological sense. This 
means that anti-Communist Russians who identify with and want to 
have restored the tsarist Russian empire also fall into this position.4 
(A2) Irredentism. Russians in non-Russian Soviet successor states may 
accept the breakup of the Soviet Union as irreversible, but nonetheless 
fail to adopt an identity as citizens of the new nationalizing states. 
Instead of the USSR their territorial focus of identity is 'Russia' in the 
narrow sense, the Russian Federation, which is regarded as a Russian 
nation-state. Russian 'diasporians' living in areas adjacent to Russia 
might demand border revisions in order to end up on the 'right' (= the 
Russian) side of the border.
(A3) Integrating national minority. The Russians may adopt a political 
identity as citizens of the successor states, but retain a cultural identity 
as Russians. This option could be labelled 'integrating minority'. Western 
Europe offers several examples of such groups: the Swedes in Finland, 
the Germans of Alsace, Danes in Northern Germany, Germans in 
Southern Denmark, etc. In this variant the diaspora Russians will tend to 
participate actively in the social and political system in the state of 
residence, using their 'voice' to fight for causes which may secure their 
continued existence as a distinct group. 

CULTURAL OPTION (B). New Russian selfunderstanding. 
The Russian diasporians may retain an identity as Russians, but 
nonetheless see themselves as Russians of a special kind. Having lived 
for generations in a culturally alien environment they have adopted 
quite a few of the habits, customs, and ways of life prevalent in the 
region (Arutiunian and Drobizheva 1992; Susokolov 1992). Politically, 
this identity may go hand in hand with loyalty towards the external 
homeland; with a desire to gain a statehood of their own; as well as with 
loyalty towards the state of residence.
(B1 and B2) 'New Cossacks'. These identity positions are very similar to 
that of the Cossacks. The Cossacks are a Russian-speaking, ethno-social 
group which was formed in the ethnic borderland in the southern parts 
of the Russian empire in the 16th to the 19th centuries. Historically they 
represent a mixture of several ethnic groups, but culturally they have 
greatest affinity to the Russian ethnos. Nonetheless, they have 
developed a number of peculiar traditions as regards social organization, 
trades and crafts, idioms, etc. This is reflected in their 
selfunderstanding. They keenly feel that they are different from 
ordinary Russians, although they may have difficulty explaining what 
this difference actually consists in.5 A structurally similar identity is 
adopted by parts of the present-day Russian settlers in the Russian 
ethnic periphery.6
The Cossack concept of the Russian state is usually of the imperial kind 
and is identified with Tsarist Russia. However, some latter-day Cossacks, 
inside and outside Russia, are orienting themselves towards the new, 
modern Russian state as their focus of identity. The same seems to be 
the case with the 'new Cossacks'. Often they do not make any explicit 
distinction between the two Russian state concept which indeed may 
reflect their 'maximum' and 'minimum' programs, respectively. 
(B3) The Dniester Syndrome. Russians with an identity of their own 
might also see the creation of a new, independent state as a natural 
corollary of their cultural distinctiveness. Recent years have seen at 
least two attempts to establish new national statelets involving diaspora 
Russians: the Dniester Moldovan Republic (DMR) and the Republic of 
Crimea. Both of them have an unsettled international status and 
somewhat unclear political aspirations. Political leaders of both insist 
that the  Slavic population in the area, while having strong historical, 
cultural and emotional links to Russia, also has developed an identity of 
its own.7
 The would-be new state on the eastern bank of Dniester broke away 
from the Moldovan Republic in September 1990 and in the summer of 
1992 defended its secession in a limited war against Moldovan forces. 
With the backing of Russian army units stationed in the area DMR is 
today for all practical purposes a separate political unit, seeking 
international recognition and membership in the CIS (Kolst¿ et al 1993). 
Crimea, with a two thirds Russian population, was in 1991 granted 
status as an autonomous republic within the Republic of Ukraine but 
important segments of the political community on the peninsula strive 
for more. Many observers have been left with the impression that the  
endeavours to create an independent Republic of Crimea is more a 
means than an end, the end being reunification with Russia (either in 
the larger, tsarist or the smaller, modern version). The many separatist 
movements of Crimea seem to have a much clearer idea as to which 
state they do not want to belong to (Ukraine) than as to what they want 
to put in its place. 
(B4) 'Integrating new diaspora'. Importantly, a sense of cultural 
distinctiveness among the Russian diaspora does not have to be 
translated into political demands. On the contrary, there is reason to 
believe that diaspora Russians with a sense of being dissimilar to the 
Russian core group will more easily accept the post-Soviet political 
arrangement than will Russians with a selfunderstanding 
indistinguishable from the core group. The former will tend to develop 
an 'integrating new diaspora' identity. 

(C3) Assimilation. In most cases adoption of the dominant culture of the 
state of residence will mean inculturization into the titular nationality, 
this is: assimilation. Usually change of mother tongue will be the most 
important ingredient in an assimilation process. Assimilated diasporians 
will not only learn the language of the titular nationality, but, within a 
generation or so, they will forget their former mother tongue. 
To the extent that Russians will be assimilated into the titular group, 
they may continue to have a hazy memory of the distant origin of their 
forebears, but for all practical purposes they will shed their identity as 
being ethnic Russians. Their identity situation will be comparable to the 
situation of most European immigrant groups in the USA, whose only 
links to their cultural past may be a quaint surname and a dusted 
photo-collection somewhere in the attic. Most Russians in the United 
States, as well as in Western Europe, belong to this category. 

II Factors influencing identity formation 
The identity choices of the diaspora Russians will be strongly influenced 
by a number of circumstances. Some of them affect the entire group 
within a given area, while some vary from individual to individual 
within the community. The most important of them, as I see it, are 
enumerated below. The list is offered not as a stringent set of 
independent variables, the specific weight of which can be measured 
statistically and from which the identity type of the different diaspora 
groups can be deduced. Rather it should be seen as a heuristic check list 
which we ought to have in the back of our mind when we turn to the 
empirical evidence.
(1) Geographic distance to Russia. If the external homeland is just across 
the border, the identity links between it and the diaspora are less likely 
to be severed than in the cases when it is far away. In the latter case it 
is more reasonable to expect that the local diaspora groups will develop 
an identity of its own or adopt the local culture.
(2) Cultural distance to the surrounding environment. I expect that in 
cases when the local culture is (perceived as) markedly different from 
Russian culture, rapprochement is less likely than when the two are 
(perceived as) varieties of the same basic type. Examples of the first 
kind would be the Central Asian (Turkic/Iranian, Muslim) cultures, 
while the most obvious examples of the latter are the Ukrainian and 
Belorussian (East Slav, mostly Orthodox) cultures. 
(3) Numbers and compactness. The larger the Russian community is 
within a given area, the greater is the chance that it will hang on to a 
distinct identity. Small diaspora groups are 'endanger species'. However, 
if small groups are sufficiently compact, they might still be able to 
withstand assimilation. Conversely, if a diaspora group is scattered over 
vast areas and lives intermingled with other ethnic groups it will more 
easily adopt its basic characteristics, including language. 
(4) Rootedness. It is reasonable to expect that the longer the Russians 
have lived in a given area, the more closely they identify with it. 
Newcomers will not feel the same degree of territorial attachment. Not 
only inhabitants of centuries-old Russian settlements may have a strong 
sense of rootedness, it can be felt also by third or second generation 
(5) The absence/presence of burning issues other than the national one. 
The human mind does not seem able to be preoccupied with more than 
a limited number of concerns simultaneously, and the importance of the 
ethnic issue is relative to the importance of other issues. For instance, in 
periods of economic depression and abruptly falling standards of living 
socio-economic issues demand a lot of attention. Confronted with the 
struggle for the daily bread the members of ethnic minorities may not 
have time or capacity to fight for less pressing needs such as cultural 
rights. Instead, they might align themselves and identify with their 
work-mates, and as a result their class identity might be strengthened. 
However, if wealth and social positions in society are unevenly 
distributed among the various ethnic groups, and/or the economic policy 
of the state is deliberately geared towards an uneven distribution of 
wealth along ethnic lines, the ethnic issue will not only resurface but 
even be reinforced by economic factors (Horowitz 1985, pp. 20-1). 
(6) Bilingualism/monolingualism. I expect Russians with no or scarce 
knowledge of the language of the titular nation in the country of 
residence to be more prone to hang on to a restitutionist or irredentist 
Russian identity, while bilinguals more easily will adapt to the dominant 
Proficiency in the titular language varies tremendously among the 
various Russian diaspora groups, from 0.8 per cent to thirtyseven per 
cent claiming fluency  in 1989 census (See table 3).  However, 'fluency' 
was poorly defined by the Soviet census authorities, and probably cover 
a wide variety of proficiency levels (Guboglo 1992; Kozlov and Kozlov 
In many of the new nationalizing states the language laws and the 
requirements for proficiency in the native language is the main issue in 
the confrontations between the titular nation and the minorities. In 
most cases when the distinction between speakers and non-speakers of 
the state language is very much stressed in the political debate this will 
reinforce the contrast between the indigenous population and the 
(7) The identity development of other ethnic minorities. Many members 
of the non-Russian diaspora groups are linguistically russified. In the 
post-Soviet discourse the term 'russified' is frequently used in a 
derogatory sense, signifying lack of ethnic identity. Russified non-
Russians, however, can be seen as a group in the process of changing 
their ethnic identity. While people sharing a common language don't per 
se constitute an ethnic group, they may over time be transformed into 
one. If we think of ethnic groups as groups sharing common cultural 
traits and common interests, the Russified non-Russians on the one hand 
and the Russian diaspora group on the other in a given area may in time 
coalesce into a common group, a distinct 'Russian-speaking post-Soviet 
diaspora'. (If this really takes place, a more elegant appellation will no 
doubt be found for it.) 
(8) Endogamy/exogamy. In the Soviet Union children in ethnically 
mixed families were the only persons confronted with an identity 
choice. When they reached the age of sixteen they had to choose the 
nationality of one of the parents. ('mixed' or 'new' identity was not an 
option.) When either the mother or the father was a member of the 
titular nationality in the republic of residence, the children tended to 
choose her or his nationality (Kozlov 1982, pp. 216-8; Karklins 1986, p. 
154-5). For instance, the offspring of a mixed Latvian-Russian couple 
living in Russia usually chose a Russian identity, in Latvia, a Latvian one 
(some other factors also played a certain role, such as the sex of the 
Latvian vs. the Russian parent). Such marriages, then, favoured the 
assimilation of the persons involved into the titular nation. It is every 
reason to believe that this will continue to be the case also in post-
Soviet societies. 
In the Soviet Union marriages between Russians and members of the 
titular nationality in the non-Russian republics was the most common 
kind of interethnic marriages (Komarova 1980, p. 33). In 1989, they 
amounted to 11.8 per cent of all interethnic marriages in Central Asia, 
twentyfour per cent in Kazakhstan, 22.9 per cent in Moldova, thirtytwo 
per cent in the Baltics, 25.1 to 53.7 per cent  in Transcaucasia and 
fiftyseven per cent and 74.7 per cent  in  the East Slavic republics (Pain 
1992). Rogers Brubaker finds it problematic to subsume Russians in 
such crosscultural families under the common denominator 'Russian', 
plain and simple (Brubaker 1993a).
A large number of mixed marriages were also concluded between 
Russian diasporians and members of other diaspora groups. When a 
Russian in a non-Russian republic married a Ukrainian, a Belorussian, or  
a  Jew, a frequent occurrence, their children usually chose the Russian 
nationality (Susokolov 1992). Under post-Soviet realities a high 
percentage of such marriages in a Soviet successor state will promote 
the development of a common 'Russophone' or 'new Russian' identity. 
Exogamy frequency is clearly linked to factor (1): cultural distance. The 
shorter this distance, the greater the number of mixed marriages. Also, 
if the cultural distance to the dominant culture is very large, this may 
lead to greater amalgamation among kindred national minorities in the 
state (Horowitz 1985, p. 40). In addition, large ethnic groups are usually 
more relaxed on the issue of ethnically mixed marriages than are 
smaller ones. 
(9) The presence of elites among the local Russians. I expect that 
diaspora groups with weak elite structures will be less able to articulate 
common interests and sustain a common identity than are groups 
possessing elites able to take leadership roles in the ethnic community.8 
Elite formation is usually linked to levels of modernization and 
urbanization. Compared to most other post-Soviet nationalities Russians 
have high levels of formal education and with the exception of the Jews, 
the Russians are also the most urbanized post-Soviet people. If this is 
true in general, it is even more so in the case of diaspora Russians. The 
great bulk of them live in large cities, sometimes constituting a majority 
or near-majority (Lewis et al 1976). However, while the Russian 
diaspora communities do have numerically strong intellectual elites, 
their professional structure  is  usually heavily tilted towards 
technology and the exact sciences. Engineers are often less concerned 
with the maintenance of ethnic culture than are members of the cultural 
intelligentsia. This may make them less inclined to accept leadership 
positions in ethnic cultural societies. 
(10) The policy of the nationalizing state. State authorities in the 
nationalizing states have a number of policy options vis-a-vis the 
national minorities in general and towards the Russian group in 
particular, ranging from attempts at deliberate extinction of the 
minorities (genocide, expulsion, or forced assimilation), via minority 
protection, to apartheid (deliberate perpetuation of insurmountable 
differences among the ethnic groups). One would perhaps assume that 
the paramount concern of any state authority is to secure the political 
loyalty of all members of the community towards the state. In other 
words, they should be expected to focus their attention on the vertical 
axis of our matrix. The cultural selfunderstanding of the residents would 
have been of little importance, were it not for the fact that these two 
dimensions of identity are regularly seen as being intimately linked to 
each other. The loyalty of cultural minorities is not taken for granted in 
the same way as the loyalty of the dominant group is. 
The identity trajectory of a given minority group may of course develop 
quite differently from the direction  in which the state authorities want 
to push it. For instance a heavy-handed assimilation policy may produce 
a backlash of political disloyalty and restitutionist sentiment.
 (11) The policy of the external homeland towards the diaspora. The 
policy options of the Russian Federation range from total 
disinterestedness via insistence on minority rights for the Russians in 
the 'near abroad' to military intervention for their protection. Total 
disinterestedness will make the diaspora less inclined to choose the 
external homeland as the focus of their identity. Conversely, if Russia 
acts as if the diaspora Russians were still 'citizens of Russia', a large 
number of diaspora Russians will continue to see themselves under this 
caption (A2).
(12) The attitudes of the Russians in the Russian Federation. Ethnic 
cohesion is of course a two-way street, demanding active involvement of 
both parties, the core group and the diaspora. If the Russians in the 
Russian Federation show a large degree of indifference to the plight of 
their ethnic brethren outside Russia, the diaspora is more likely to 
develop an identity of their own. On the other hand, frequent visits of 
Russian nationalist agitators in a region  may reinforce a feeling of 
shared destiny. 
The Moscow-based Congress of Russian Communities,  which serves as 
one of the main conduits between  the  Russian public and Russian 
diaspora organizations, propagates activist and restitutionist attitudes 
(Declaration 1994). The Russian public, however, seems to be divided 
over the issue. In a 1991 poll 39.5 per cent  believed that Russia should 
act as guarantor of the rights of Russians in the near abroad, while 22.3 
per cent  felt that those who live on the territory of other republics 
should solve their own problems (Rossiiskaia gazeta 24 October 1991).
(13) Migratory currents. A replenishment of the Russian diaspora 
communities by fresh immigrants coming from Russia will contribute to 
the sustenance of strong cultural and political links to Russia and to the 
Russian core group. If the migratory currents are reversed and large 
numbers of Russians begin to leave, this will stimulate integration 
among those who stay behind, for two reasons. The emigrants will 
usually be the ones who are least willing or able to adapt, and secondly, 
after their departure the remaining diaspora community will become 
smaller (Susokolov 1992). 
However, limited and large-scale out-migration will affect the structure 
of the diaspora communities differently. Well-educated elites will more 
easily find new jobs elsewhere than will people with little formal 
education. Medium size pull-factor migration therefore will tend to 
create diaspora groups with many Indians and few chieftains, less able 
to sustain a distinct identity.9 Large-scale push-factor migration which 
takes on the character of mass flight, on the other hand, will leave 
behind a socially more diversified diaspora community. 
The flows of Russian outmigration to the non-Russian regions of the 
USSR peaked in the late 1950s and were reversed in the 1970s. 
Declining birthrates among Russians meant that they no longer had any 
population surplus to export. At the same time, the need for qualified 
Russian labour in the non-Russian republics was steadily diminishing as 
the titular nationalities in the non-Russians republics caught up in the 
modernization process. The Baltic states represented an exception to this 
pattern. Large-scale Russian migration to this region continued in spite 
of the high modernizational level of the Balts (Anderson and Silver 
After 1991 in-migration of Russian to the Soviet Successor states has 
continued to go down, partly as a result of migration quotas introduced 
by the new state authorities. At the same time outmigration has 
increased, reaching e.g. fiftyone thousands in Latvia in 1992 and 
fortyseven thousands in Kyrgyzstan in first six months of the same year, 
(all ethnic groups) (Bungs 1993; Slavianskie vesti [Bishkek] 1992 no. 

III Probable identity developments, region-wise. 

The Baltics. The Russian communities in the Baltic states are generally 
characterized by high shares of the total population and low degrees of 
rootedness. While there were sizable Russian minorities in the interwar 
Baltic states, particularly in Latvia, most present-day Baltic Russians 
nevertheless are post-war immigrants. They comprise as much as thirty 
per cent and thirtyfour per cent of the total population of Estonia and 
Latvia, respectively. Together with other Slavs and Russified former 
Soviet citizens they make up hefty thirtynine per cent and fortyeight 
per cent. In some districts in the eastern parts of the countries they 
account for ninety-ninetysix per cent (Estonia) and sixty per cent 
(Latvia) of the total population. Russia is just across the border. In 
combination, these factors favour the retention of a traditional Russian 
identity and continued strong links to the external homeland. To the 
degree that the various Russian-speaking groups converge the outcome 
will be a common 'new identity'. 
Compared to other Russian diaspora groups in the former Soviet Union 
the Baltic-Russian communities have a pronounced proletarian profile. 
Industrial workers predominate and also most of the intelligentsia is 
engaged in material production. While workers certainly also may 
become political leaders, one would expect this social structure to 
complicate the articulation of common goals and the upkeep of 
traditional Russian values. Nevertheless, Baltic Russians have formed a 
larger number of organizations to cultivate and express their interests 
than have Russians in most other areas. 
Balts often claim that a cultural chasm separates them from the Russian 
immigrants to their republics while the Russians tend to emphasize the 
important common elements in Baltic and Russian cultures 
(Europeanness, Christian religion, high degrees of modernization, etc.) 
(Lieven 1993, pp. 185-7). The Baltics is probably the only region in the 
former Soviet Union where many local Russians are apt to see the 
indigenous civilization as equal or even superior to their own (Abyzov 
1992; Gudkov 1993). Their intense appreciation of the high Baltic 
standard of living also gives them a strong incentive to emulate the 
'Baltic way of life'. A 'Balticization' of Russian settlers in the area was in 
fact detected already in the 1970s (Kazlas 1977, p. 241). Many of them 
claim that they are more hard-working and punctual than Russians at 
home, and attribute these traits to the healthy influence of the 
Protestant work ethic of the titular nationalities. As a result of new, 
strict Baltic migration policies in-migration of new arrivals from Russia 
has practically stopped. These factors should, in contrast to the ones 
discussed above, favour a development towards the bottom of the 
identity matrix. 
Political authorities in Estonia and Latvia have little trust in the loyalty 
of the local Russians. They have expressed fears that the bifurcation of 
their societies will be perpetuated indefinitely unless harsh pressure is 
applied upon the Russians to integrate. Estonia and Latvia are the only 
post-Soviet states which have not granted the resident Russian 
population of post-war immigrants status as original citizens (Kolst¿ 
1993b). This has created strong reactions in the Russian communities as 
well as in Russia. Probably more than any other factor the Latvian and 
Estonian citizenship legislation has contributed to the hardening of 
attitudes on the diaspora question in Russia, among policy makers as 
well as in the public (Kolstoe 1995). Baltic legislative practices, touted as 
a means to secure accelerated integration of the Russians into society, 
may well have the opposite effect, and push parts of the Russians 
towards non-cooperation and non-adaptation. 
In Lithuania, the situation is different. The Russians are fewer (less than 
ten per cent) and their proficiency in the titular language is higher than 
in any other former Soviet republic (thirtyseven per cent). The country 
does not have a common border with mainland Russia.10 Generally 
speaking, members of the dominant nationality do not perceive the 
Russians as a threat to their cultural survival or political independence. 
All post-war immigrants have been granted automatic citizenship. The 
pull towards socio-political integration and perhaps even towards 
acculturalization seems to be fairly strong. 
There is an abundance of material on the identity formation of Baltic 
Russians, both statements of Baltic Russian diaspora leaders and opinion 
surveys. Most indicate a tendency both towards the establishment of 
distinct Baltic-Russian cultures and a certain resilience of traditional 
Soviet attitudes. 
Natalia Kasatkina, cochairwoman of the Russian Cultural Centre in 
Lithuania, describes the Russians in her country as a 'subethnos with its 
own destiny' (Kasatkina 1994, p. 112). The leader of the Latvian Society 
for Russian Culture, Iurii Abyzov, on the other hand, strongly 
emphasizes the pro-imperial, pro-Soviet sentiments among Russians in 
his country. Having overheard bragging statements like 'I came here as 
a boy, riding on the top of a tank', he concludes gloomily: 'In general we 
should remember that an empire always draws to its outlying areas far 
from its best human material.' (Abyzov 1992) Statements like this one 
are rare among Russian diaspora spokesmen and it seems to reflect the 
bifurcation between an old, prewar community of Latvian Russians, 
whom Abyzov represents, and the large groups of postwar immigrants. 
In a pioneering study in 1992 Aadne Aasland was struck by the strong 
diversity of Latvian Russian identities. While many Russians were well 
integrated into Latvian society, 'imperial identity is quite widespread 
among certain sub-groups of the Russian population' (Aasland 1994a; 
Aasland 1994b, p. 81). In a survey of Russian opinions in Estonia in 
1993 the pollsters also here found attitudes which they interpreted as 
'empire-mindedness': thirtyseven per cent of the Russian respondents 
said they felt bereft of a homeland after the collapse of the Soviet Union 
(Kirch and Kirch 1995, p. 48). The Estonian researchers nevertheless 
detected a slow but perceptible identity change among Estonian 
Russians towards an embryonic Estonian-Russian local identity. They 
saw the typical Estonian-Russian self-perception as ambiguous: Russians 
in Estonia feel some resonance with Russians in Russia, but at the same 
time they recognize in the Russian core group certain characteristic 
traits from which they wish to dissociate themselves (A. Kirch 1994, p. 
41; Vetik 1994; Vetik 1995).
In a major study in 1993 encompassing all three Baltic countries, 
Richard Rose and William Maley found that fifty per cent of all Russian 
respondents most often identified with their city/locality while only 
twentynine per cent listed 'Russian' as their first identity choice. In 
contrast, only twentytwo per cent of the Balts put city/locality above 
nationality in their hierarchy of identities. Sixtynine per cent of all Baltic 
Russians felt that they had a 'great deal' or 'some' in common with the 
titular nationality. The corresponding figures for Lithuanians, Latvians 
and Estonians were only twentyfour to twentynine (Rose and Maley 
1994, pp. 51-5).
Belarus. Russians in Belarus number more than one million (thirteen per 
cent of the total). In addition, 1.5 million Belorussians in Belarus are 
linguistically Russified. Belorussian national identity is very young and 
brittle, a product of the twentieth century. The prestige of the 
Belarusian language is surprisingly low even among Belarusians.  In a 
1992 survey in Eastern Belarus more than sixty per cent claimed that 
they  more or less regularly heard disrespectful remarks about the 
Belarusian language uttered by ethnic Belarusians (Zlotnikov 1993, p. 
The educational level among Russians in the republic is well above the 
average Belarusian level (Clem 1990). Belorussians are strongly 
attracted to the larger and more consolidated Russian culture. Evidence 
of this is the May 1995 referendum which showed strong support for 
the introduction of Russian as a second state language, and for greater 
integration with Russia. 
Neither the Russian language nor Russian ethnic identity is under threat 
in Belarus. Russia is adjacent, and to be a Russian in Belarus is almost 
like being a Russian 'at home', in Russia proper (Grigor'eva and 
Martynova 1994). This will reinforce the retention of strong identity 
links to Russia both politically and culturally, mostly in the shape of 
'traditional Soviet'. Indeed, the major Russian language daily in Minsk is 
still called 'Soviet Belarussia', and functions as a strong conveyor of 
restitutionist sentiment. 
Ukraine. The Russian population in Ukraine makes up as much as eleven 
millions and is the largest Russian diaspora group by far. The Russian 
settlements are often centuries-old, and geographical distance to Russia 
is short, particularly in the Eastern part of the country, where a majority 
of the Russians are living. A separate Russian identity is therefore 
anchored in both high numbers, a high degree of rootedness, and 
geographical proximity to the external homeland. 
At the same time, the cultural distance to the Ukrainian environment is 
very short. Until recently the affinity between the Russian and the 
Ukrainian cultures worked in favour of the former: many Ukrainians in 
the Ukraine (not to mention in the Soviet Ukrainian diaspora) adopted 
Russian as their mother tongue. Today, under new political realities, this 
tendency is likely to be reversed: many Russified Ukrainians will 
rediscover their cultural roots. In addition, in independent Ukraine a 
large number of Russians will no doubt learn the state language. This 
will not demand much of an effort, and will increase their chances for 
social advancement. Assimilation might take place among some Russians 
who live scattered in heavily Ukrainian-populated areas as has also 
occurred in the past (Chizhikova 1968, pp. 22-5).11 
To many Russians in Russia proper the idea of an independent Ukrainian 
state is completely outlandish (Brzezinski 1994). To them Ukraine is an 
old Russian province inhabited by people who are 'practically' Russians. 
The Russian population in Ukraine, however, has indicated that it thinks 
differently. In December 1991, a very large percentage of them voted 
for Ukrainian independence (Vydrin 1992). Apparently, many 
supported this idea in the expectation of a swift Ukrainian 
Wirtschaftswunder which has so far not materialized. The economic 
hardships in the country might take on ethnic overtones, driving 
segments of the Russian group towards the Dniester syndrome or 
irredentism. In Crimea, where both legal, historical, and demographic 
arguments for unification with Russia can be marshalled, irredentist 
sentiments are running high. 
A 1992 survey of three Ukrainian cities, Lviv, Kiev and Simferopol, 
showed that eightynine and eightyeight per cent  of the Russian 
inhabitants in Lviv and Kiev wanted to be a citizen of the Ukrainian 
state (in Simferopol in the Crimea  support for Ukrainian statehood was 
radically lower; only twentyseven per cent). At the same time, more 
than forty per cent of the Russians interviewed also would prefer it if 
the Soviet Union still existed (Bremmer  1994b). This adds up to almost 
130 per cent support for incompatible alternatives, indicating rather 
unsettled or muddled political loyalties.
Along the cultural axis Dmitrii Kornilov, the leader of the Donbass 
Intermovement,  asserts that  'ethnic Russians in Ukraine are far from 
being identical with Russians in Russia, just as Ukrainians also differ a 
lot from each other within the confines of their ethnos'.(Kornilov 1993) 
Russians in Ukraine tend to feel both attached to and removed from the 
Russian core group.12 As pointed out by Andrei Malgin at the 
Simferopol Regional museum, this ambivalence is shared also by other 
Russian groups in the periphery of the Russian ethnographical space, 
such as the Sibirians, and may be interpreted as a case of  general 
Russian regionalism.13 N.M. Lebedeva asks but does not answer the 
question: 'are Russians in Ukraine a diaspora or a part of the Russian 
people?' (Lebedeva 1994). The answer is clearly:  'both', since few 
Russians in Ukraine see any contradiction between those two identities. 
Moldova. The distance between Russian and Moldovan cultures is 
shorter than the Russian-Baltic distance, but longer than Russian-
Ukrainian and Russian-Belarusian ones. Moldovans and Russians share 
the same religion, Orthodoxy, but speak very different languages. All 
permanent residents of Moldova have been granted original citizenship, 
but many Russians nevertheless feel that they are not accepted as part 
of the body politic on a par with ethnic Moldovans (Lukyanchikova 
In the first years after independence Moldova used the language of 
ethnic rather than civic nation-building to a larger degree than most 
other Soviet successor states in official state documents (Kolst¿, 1993b; 
Kolstoe 1995). Also the prospect of Romanian-Moldovan state unification 
made the half a million Russians uneasy. At the present time unification 
is clearly not in vogue among ethnic Moldovans but it remains an issue 
by virtue of the demographic and linguistic realities. 
Geographically, Russians in Moldova are further removed from Russia 
than are any other Russian diaspora group in the European part of the 
former Soviet Union. This factor adds to their feeling of vulnerability. 
These circumstances are likely to produce an identity development 
towards the centre or lower left corner of our matrix. Indicatively, 'the 
Dniester syndrome' derives its name from developments in Moldova. 
After the Dniester war in 1992, however,  official rhetoric in Chisinau 
was changed from ethnic towards civic nation-building. If this new 
departure is followed through it might stimulate the formation of 
integrated minority mentalities.
In interviews with the author in 1992   in  Chisinau and Tiraspol leading 
Russian spokesmen of different political convictions all agreed that 
Russians in Moldova had developed an identity of their own.14  State 
Secretary of the Dniester Moldovan Republic, Valerii Litskai, defined the 
local Russian culture as a 'homestead culture' (using the English 
expression), and likened it to the frontier mentality of the American 
An opinion poll conducted in 1992 showed that approximately half of all 
Moldovan Russians (fiftythree per cent) regarded themselves as 
different from Russians in Russia (Stepanova 1992). At the same time, in 
another survey conducted in the same year one quarter of the Russian 
respondents gave answers which were interpreted by the pollsters as 'a 
nostalgia for the Soviet Union' (Danii and Gontsa 1992).
Moldova is one of the few Soviet successor states where Russians do not 
constitute the largest minority, this being the Ukrainians. Due to 
Moldova's proximity to Ukraine and the policy of the Moldovan 
government, which favours reopening of Ukrainians schools and cultural 
facilities, the chances that Russians and other Slavs in Moldova will 
coalesce into a common Russian-speaking group are relatively small. 
Transcaucasia. The three Transcaucasian republics have experienced 
very little demographic penetration of Russians, in 1989, Russian shares 
of the total population varied between one and six per cent. Due to their 
small numbers many Russians in Transcaucasia have learnt the local 
language (fluency percentages of twentythree in Georgia and thirtythree 
in Armenia in 1989). 
Protracted ethnic warfare in the region has induced scores of Russians to 
leave. Hence, the already very small Russian communities are further 
diminished. There is every reason to believe that those who stay behind 
are those best integrated into society. The  evidence also indicates that 
Russian old-timers in Transcaucasia have a feeling of being rather 
dissimilar to Ciscaucasian Russians. In 1994 a prominent Russian 
Georgian writer described himself as 
a third generation inhabitant of Tbilisi with a mediocre command of 
Georgian. At the same time, I speak Russian with a distinct Georgian 
pronunciation. I am raised in the traditions of Russian culture and have 
no intention of betraying them, but at the same time my customs and 
habits are Georgian. (...) In a certain sense, I am a typical Georgian 
Russian (Osinskii 1994). 
While this self-description fits the integrating new diaspora type, others 
see the 'typical Georgian Russian' as more or less assimilated: one source 
describes him and her as 'not quite a Russian, or not even a Russian at 
all' (Mikeladze 1993). A  further development towards integration  and 
even some assimilation may be expected. 
Central Asia. Central Asia is the post-Soviet region furthest removed 
from Russia, geographically as well as culturally. To an extreme degree 
the Russians and other Europeans have been clustered in the cities, 
particularly in the capitals. Marriages between the Russians and 
indigenous groups are statistically negligible, of 134 Russians 
interviewed in Tashkent in 1992, JŸrgen Nowak found only one person 
with an Uzbek parent (0.7 per cent) (Nowak 1994, p. 46). On the other 
hand, marriages among the various European diaspora groups are very 
frequent. Central Asian Russians usually make no distinctions among 
themselves and other Europeans in the area, but indiscriminately lump 
everyone together as 'Russians'.15 
Only a tiny fraction of the Europeans (between one and five per cent) 
are fluent in the native languages. Two distinct cultural communities, 
Asian and European, have been living side by side. In the opinion of one 
well-informed observer, pro-Soviet nostalgia is more widespread among 
Russophones  in Central Asia than among inhabitants of the Russian 
Federation (Rotar 1993). However, they  seem to  wail the 
disappearance of the unitary state more than the political ideology it 
was shrouded in. 
Russians in Central Asia are mostly engaged in production and 
construction, as engineers, managers, and workers. On the average, their 
educational level is well above that of the indigenous groups (Ostapenko 
and Susokolov 1992). They have been granted automatic citizenship in 
their state of residence (in Turkmenistan, even the right to obtain dual 
Turkmenistani-Russian citizenship). Nevertheless, most of them feel 
politically marginalized. Social and political advancement in these 
societies largely rest with the old tribe- and clan-structures from which 
the Europeans are excluded. Also in industrial management and 
research, previously bastions of the Europeans, the top jobs are 
gradually being taken over by the locals. For social support and social 
values the Russians have relied heavily on the Soviet state structures 
which have now vanished. 
The already strong feeling of vulnerability among Central Asian 
Russians has been further enhanced by the occasional flare-ups of 
ethnic conflicts which have visited several countries in the region. In 
Tajikistan a full-scale civil war among various Tajik clans erupted in 
1992-93. These conflicts have rarely if ever involved the Russians 
directly, but they fear that the violence at any time might spread and 
encompass them as well. For these reasons the streams of Russians 
leaving the region have been wide. These have to a very little degree 
been offset by the arrival of new groups. The question of how many will 
remain when the outmigration tapers off has been a matter of much 
controversy (Perevedentsev 1993; Dunlop 1994). If the most alarmist 
prognoses come true, only a fraction will be left by the year 2010. Those 
who do will most likely be the ones who are best integrated into the 
new states. Should many Russians be persuaded to stay, a wider variety 
of more Russia-oriented identity types may be retained. 
Most Russians in Central Asia clearly feel different from mainland 
Russians (Brusina 1992, p. 84). They see themselves as less given to 
drinking, more hardworking, and more disciplined.16 The cultural 
selfunderstanding of most of them is leaning towards (B) 'new Russian'. 
This factor to some extent keeps back migration, and has also prompted 
a certain amount of remigration. Central Asian Russians complain that in 
Russia they are not receiving any cordial homecoming as ethnic 
brethren. As expressed by the leader of the 'Slavic Diaspora' 
organization  of southern Kyrgyzstan, V. Uleev: 
Many have already returned, at a considerable economic loss. It is 
indeed very difficult to adapt to new circumstances when you have a 
radically different mentality. More often than not those who think that 
they have arrived in their historical homeland, find that they are 
regarded as aliens (Uleev 1993).
Kazakhstan. The vast Kazakhstani state (the size of Western Europe) 
stretches deep into Siberia and the southern Ural mountains. The entire 
northern tier of the country is predominantly inhabited by Russians and 
Russified Europeans who are usually engaged in either mining, 
engineering or agriculture. Their towns are hardly distinguishable from 
similar settlements across the border in Russia, neither is the cultural 
selfunderstanding of the local Russians. Russians in Kazakhstan are less 
versed in the titular language of their state of residence than their 
conationals in any other Soviet successor state (0.85 per cent fluency in 
From the 1930s through the 1970s Russians made up the largest ethnic 
group in Kazakhstan. Today, some six million Russians live in 
Kazakhstan, making up almost thirtyeight per cent of the total 
population, the largest percentage of any Soviet successor state outside 
Russia. By dint of their numbers, rootedness, and generally high 
educational levels the Russians in Kazakhstan should be guaranteed a 
future in Kazakhstani society for a long time to come. They are less 
given to flight than are Europeans further south, and Kazakhstani state 
authorities are expressly striving towards civic rather than ethnic 
nation-building. However, civic nation-building in a society with so 
disparate population elements as in Kazakhstan is extremely hard going, 
even with the best of will, and some observers have doubts about the 
earnestness of the Kazakhstani endeavours (Bremmer 1994a; Rotar 
1994). As in the other Asian republics political authority largely flows 
through clan channels, and ethnic Kazakhs are increasingly filling the 
top notches in government and administration (Giller and Shatskikh 
1993). A state program to promote the knowledge of Kazakh is fiercely 
resisted by Russians in the north, and tension between the two major 
ethnic groups seems to be mounting. Irredentism remains an identity 
option in the northern provinces. 
In southern Kazakhstan the Russians are fewer in number and more cut 
off from mainland Russia. This leads us to assume that Russian identity 
formation in northern and southern Kazakhstan will follow very 
different trajectories. In the north it will remain basically geared 
towards Russia, politically as well as culturally, while the south will see 
some outmigration and a growing willingness to adopt and integrate 
(but not assimilate) among those who choose to stay.17

Concluding remarks. 
On the political loyalty axis there has been considerable movement in 
the Russian diaspora community over the last couple of years. Around 
1990-91 a significant part of the Russians in several Soviet republics - 
ranging from perhaps a third to a half - in plebiscites and elections 
signalled a willingness to transfer their political allegiance to their state 
of residence. However, when the euphoria of de-imperialization faded 
away and the harsh realities of economic depression set in the 
pendulum changed its direction once more. Although few hard facts are 
available, the evidence indicates a certain strengthening of nostalgia for 
the Soviet past in many regions and also for identification with the 
contemporary Russian Federation.
This newest trend, no more than the previous support for independence, 
should be automatically extrapolated into the future. It goes without 
saying that the political identity of the Russian diaspora in the next 
century will be completely dependent upon the political realities 
prevailing then. Should the CIS collapse and the new states develop 
quite independently of each other, this will confront the Russians with 
quite another situation than if CIS should prove a durable and viable 
political structure. Also, if relations among the Soviet successor states 
should evolve into some kind of neo-imperial arrangement, this will 
increase the likelihood of the 'traditional Soviet' and 'new Cossacks' 
options among Russians outside Russia. And last but not least: internal 
developments in Russia - towards prosperity or economic collapse, and 
towards democracy, anarchy or dictatorship - will determine the 
gravitational strength which this state can exert upon the Russian 
Cultural selfunderstandings change much more slowly than do political 
convictions. However, a tendency of Russian periphery  communities to 
be influenced by their immediate ethnographical environment is much 
older than the debacle of the Soviet Union. More than hundred years 
ago, in 1881, the leading Muslim intellectual in the Russian Empire, 
Ismail bey Gasprinskii, remarked that 
the assimilationist ability of the Russians is obviously very weak. We 
see very few cases of Russified non-Russians,18 but quite a few 
examples of Russians who to some extent have submitted to the 
influence of the surrounding non-Russians. They adopt their language -- 
without, of course abandoning their own -- as well as some customs, 
popular beliefs and dresses (Gasprinskii 1993, p. 38). 
107 years later, in 1988, (that is, before the break-up of the Soviet 
Union), a Russian intellectual in Estonia asserted that 
Russians today is a peculiar national entity, an unprecedented historical 
experiment. On the one hand, a huge part of the people is living in a 
practically monoethnical territory. On the other hand, millions are 
dispersed on the territories of other republics. (...) 
For all practical purposes Russians in each republic constitute a 
particular ethnos with its own specific needs, cultural ballast and 
literature, frequently also with its own dialectical fragments (Portnikov 
This assessment has been seconded by  well-informed Russian 
anthropologists from the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology at the 
Russian Academy of Sciences. In the words of  A.Susokolov, 
Even if the regional "republican" groups of Russians so far have not 
coalesced into independent sub-ethnoses, intense interethnic interaction, 
combined with a reduction of in-migration from the outside, can in the 
course of two to three generations lead to such an outcome (Susokolov 
1992, p. 215). 
Valery Tishkov  for his part asserts that 
Like many other widely settled peoples Russians have in some aspects 
quite loose identities. Cultural distances between geographical groups of 
Russians (those living in the Pomor area and those living in the 
Caucasus, for example) may be greater than between Russians and those 
locals with whom they have had centuries of contact (Tishkov 1995, p. 
There is every reason to believe that the tendency towards a split in the 
Russian ethnos, between a diaspora and a core group, will be 
strengthened under the new political realities after the collapse of the 
unitary state (Laitin 1994). Of the eight identity options discussed in 
this articles the four on the axis of 'new cultural self-understanding' are 
in the opinion of this author likely to be most strengthened. In many 
areas this development will be boosted by the convergence of Russians 
and other Russophone diasporas into one group. The creation of new 
Russian diasporas as  separate cultural entities is not a matter of 
dissociation from the Russian core group only but also of association 
with other groups. However, in some places, such as in Moldova, this 
tendency will probably be off-set by ethnic revivals among the 
Russified non-Russian diasporas. 
There is no reason to believe that the final outcome of the identity 
formation of the Russian communities in the Soviet successor states will 
be the creation of one, single diaspora identity. Not only the cohesion 
within the Russian ethnos at large - between the core and the periphery 
- is being weakened. This is true also of the cohesion within the diaspora 
itself. The social, political, economic, and cultural conditions under which 
the diaspora is living differ greatly. Rather than one diaspora identity 
we should expect the formation of several new identity types. 

 Acknowledgements. I would like to thank Rogers Brubaker, UCLA, and 
David Laitin, University of Chicago, for valuable comments and 
suggestions to this article. 


1 The authors used the English word 'dispersion', rather than the Greek 
'diaspora', but in the same sense as diaspora is used in this paper. 

2  The nouns  'option' and  'choice'  may be  somewhat misleading, 
insofar as they   imply a voluntary and conscious process which cannot 
be assumed. They will, however, be employed  throughout the chapter. 
Whenever this is done, they should be understood in  a metaphorical 
sense as synonymous with 'adoption'.

3 The matrix is revised  from an earlier version used in my earlier 
article (Kolst¿  1993a). The terms  'nationalizing state' and  'external 
homeland'  are taken from Rogers Brubaker (1993b). 

4  For convenience's sake we may regard  the Soviet Union and the 
Russian tsarist empire  as  coextensive. 

5   Some  Cossacks will claim that they are a 'sub-ethnos' under the 
Russian nation, while others   maintain  that they constitute a separate 
nation. Finally,  some Cossacks define themselves not in ethnic, but in 
social terms, describing themselves as a soslovie, or estate.  Author's 
conversations with Cossacks in Tiraspol and Kuban, September 1992.

6  This is true also of residents of remote areas of the Russian 
Federation  such as the Sibiriaks.

7 Author's interviews with Valerii Litskai, State Secretary of DMR, 
Tiraspol,  and with Crimean nationalist politicians Iurii Meshkov, 
Anatolii Los' and Vladimir Terekhov in Simferopol, September 1992.

8 Not everyone will agree to  this. John Armstrong  (1976) thinks that 
proletarian  diasporas lacking elites, in contrast to mobilized diaspora 
possessing elites,   will  tend to become progressively more distinct 
culturally and in physical appearance from the dominant ethnic group.  

9 Author's conversation with Vladimir Steshenko, Nationalities director 
in the Latvian government until 1993, since then  a Russian diaspora 
activist and journalist, in Riga, May 1992. 

10 Lithuania does border on the Kaliningrad enclave, but this fact does 
not seem to be of great import to Lituanian Russians.

11 Already in 1989  the only sizable group of  Russian diasporians who 
had abandoned Russian as their mother tongue consisted of  
linguistically Ukrainified Russians  in Ukraine (some 180 thousands).

12 Author's interviews in Simferopol, September 1992 and Donetsk, 
September 1994,  with, inter alia, the leader of the Republican 
Movement of Crimea, Iurii Meshkov, and the leader of the 
Intermovement of Donetsk, Dmitrii Kornilov. 

13 Author's interviews in Simferopol, September 1992.

14 Interviews with General Director of the Nationalities Department in 
the Moldovan Government, Victor Grebenscicov; cochairman of the 
Russian cultural centre, Ivan Belopotapov ;  and State Secretary of the 
Dniester Moldovan Republic, Valerii Litskai, in Chisinau and Tiraspol, 
September 1992.

15  The category of 'Russian'  in Central Asia is very much linked to the 
Russian language. An indication of this is that even Russian-speaking 
Koreans, who were deported  to the region in the 1930s, are often 
included in the European group!  See Vasil'eva 1991.

16 Author's interviews in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan,  and Uzbekistan, May 

17 Author's interview with mr. Podushkin, leader of the Slavic cultural 
centre, Shymkent, southern Kazakhstan, May 1993.

18 For 'non-Russian' Gasprinskii used the word inorodtsy, which usually 
designated people of  nomadic and/or Muslim origin. 

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