ABSTRACT

"It did happen rather suddenly," was Aleksandr Iakovlev's comment when asked whether he himself had reckoned with the explosive nature of the nationality question. 1 Though none of the problems in this area really developed "suddenly," they did develop a force of escalation in 1988 which lays plain a basic characteristic of nationality problems in multinational states in periods of transition, crisis, or liberalization. They can develop with a velocity that can scarcely be controlled. Remarks by Gorbachev mark peaks on the fever curve. Prior to 1987 he associated the nationality question with the "total economic complex," with "rational distribution of resources," and "intra-national division of labor" in the Soviet Union. Nonmaterial and ethno-psychological factors lay outside his field of vision or were perceived as disturbing factors for a functioning economic internationalism. Gorbachev then placed "fundamentally new intra-national relations" in the first rank of the Soviet system's victories. 2