Cultural Revolutions

A Formidable Challenge

The Soviet Empire these days offers a formidable challenge even for the most experienced Kremlin watchers. While economic collapse, the communications revolution, the threat of another nuclear disaster like Chernobyl, the decline in life expectancy, and the environmental crisis are all tinder for fires of change, the power of nationalism still remains central.

Shortly after World War II there were perhaps 70 states recognized as sovereign nations in the world. Now the count is approximately 170. The breakup of the British Empire into a commonwealth of independent nations seems in retrospect as inevitable as water running downhill. There is no reason that this same growth of national identity should not play out in the Soviet Union, a country composed of over one hundred different nationalities and covering one-sixth of the earth's surface.

Of all the places in the Soviet Empire where nationalism is asserting itself, the three Baltic nations have a unique claim. Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia once enjoyed the status of independent statehood between 1920-1940, and they receive de jure recognition from the United States as well as countries in Western Europe. Much of the population has living memories of their freedom and how it was lost. Last summer the Kremlin was forced to admit of the Secret Protocols of the Stalin-Hitler Pact of 1939 that led to the forced annexation of the Baltic nations into the Soviet...

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