ALMOST EVERY DAY NEWSPAPERS and magazines relate stories of problems connected with national, cultural, or ethnic identity. If in the Western world these questions are no longer connected exclusively with the state, in the Third and ex-Soviet worlds issues of national identity are intimately bound up with state (re)building. As national claims by non-Russians move into the center of the state in the Soviet Union, one should also pay attention to the nature of Russian national consciousness. Is there anything in the history of Russian national identity that may explain its peculiar forms of expression and clarify the attitudes the Russians bring to non-Russians within the boundaries of the Russian Empire or the Soviet Union? To answer this question, as well as for the light it may shed on the nature of modern Russian culture, a sketch of the formative period of the Russian sense of nationality may be of interest. But before proceeding several preliminary observations are in order.