Dissolution: Sovereignty and the Breakup of the Soviet Union

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Rowman & Littlefield, 2003 - Political Science - 203 pages
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In December 1991, the Soviet Union passed into history as a legal entity, breaking apart into15 successor states. This clear and convincing book explains why. Walker argues against much of the conventional wisdom and scholarly literature on the breakup, which emphasizes what he calls the 'demand side' of the problem, or the role of nationalist mobilization and the rise of separatist aspirations in the USSR's union republics. He points out that support for dissolution was limited to a handful of republics that included only a small portion of the Soviet population. Instead, the author highlights the critical role played by the USSR's ethno-federal system, as well as the normative claims and legitimizing myths of Soviet nationality policy. These institutions and myths empowered the anti-union opposition even in those union republics where they had limited support, and they help account for the highly ineffective strategy that Gorbachev adopted to overcome the USSR's 'nationality crisis.' Walker also shows how confusion over the meaning of some of the key terms of Soviet political discourse during perestroika-particularly 'sovereignty' but also 'union, ' 'federation, ' 'confederation, ' and 'independence'-contributed to a 'fog of war' that helped bring about the full disintegration of the USSR, an outcome that surprisingly few desir

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User Review  - daschaich - LibraryThing

Short and insightful: The question that Edward Walker addresses in this short book is not why the Soviet Union broke up - but rather why it broke up in the way it did. Why were all 15 of the Union ... Read full review


Sovereignty Federalism and Soviet Nationality Policy
Perestroika and the Parade of Sovereignties
Sovereignty for the Autonomies
Multiple Sovereignty and the New Union Treaty
Sovereignty as Independence
Suggested Additional Readings in English on Perestroika and the Breakup of the USSR
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About the author (2003)

Edward W. Walker is executive director, Berkeley Program in Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies, University of California, Berkeley, and adjunct associate professor, Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley.

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