Valery Tishkov is a well-known Russian historian and anthropologist, and former Minister of Nationalities in Yeltsin's government. This book draws on his inside knowledge of major events and extensive primary research. Tishkov argues that ethnicity has a multifaceted role: it is the most accessible basis for political mobilization; a means of controlling power and resources in a transforming society; and therapy for the great trauma suffered by individuals and groups under previous regimes. This complexity helps explain the contradictory nature and outcomes of public ethnic policies based on a doctrine of ethno-nationalism.

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