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Nationalism, Myth, and the State in Russia and Serbia

Antecedents of the Dissolution of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia

by: Veljko Vujačić
published by: Cambridge University Press
pp: 336
ISBN: 9781107074088
price: £64.99 Hardback

Book's frontpage

This book examines the role of Russian and Serbian nationalism in different modes of dissolution of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia in 1991. Why did Russia's elites agree to the dissolution of the Soviet Union along the borders of Soviet republics, leaving twenty-five million Russians outside of Russia? Conversely, why did Serbia's elite succeed in mobilizing Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia for the nationalist cause? Combining a Weberian emphasis on interpretive understanding and counterfactual analysis with theories of nationalism, Veljko Vujačić highlights the role of historical legacies, national myths, collective memories, and literary narratives in shaping diametrically opposed attitudes toward the state in Russia and Serbia. The emphasis on the unintended consequences of communist nationality policy highlights how these attitudes interacted with institutional factors, favoring different outcomes in 1991. The book's postscript examines how this explanation holds up in the light of Russia's annexation of Crimea.
Utilizes an interdisciplinary approach that traverses the boundaries among sociology, history, political science and Slavic studies Provides a theoretical and methodological approach offering a model combination of historical interpretation and causal explanation, and illustrating the fruitfulness of a Weberian approach in a small-n study Connects to contemporary issues with a postscript on Crimea that makes clear how the book's argument fits into the most recent developments in Russia and Ukraine


Table of contents

1. Russians and Serbs in the dissolution of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia: grounds for comparison and alternative explanations
2. States, nations, and nationalism: a Weberian view
3. Empire, state, and nation in Russia and Serbia
4. Communism and nationalism: Russians and Serbs in the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia
5. The nation as a community of shared memories and common political destiny: Russians and Serbs in literary narratives


'In this much-needed study, Veljko Vujačić takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the comparative history of Serbia and Russia for the purpose of understanding the violent collapse of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s as counterposed to the relatively peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union. Along the way, he explores the theoretical contributions of Max Weber and other historical sociologists to understanding nationalism and its reliance on mythopoetic historical memory. An intriguing postscript about the Russian annexation of Crimea concludes this altogether highly illuminating and carefully argued book.'Norman Naimark, Stanford University
'Veljko Vujačić's deeply learned and lucidly argued study of the long-term legacies of nation- and state-formation in Russia and Serbia is a model of Weberian comparative historical sociology.'Rogers Brubaker, University of California, Los Angeles
'Totally contrary to the leader-focused explanation common in the early 1990s of why the Soviet Union disintegrated peacefully and Yugoslavia did not - Yeltsin versus Milosevic - this fascinating, richly documented, and utterly creative use of this paradox insists instead on the role of collective historical memory. It is a must-read for any student of nationalism, of the politics of state disintegration, and of secessionist movements anywhere, including those interested in the continuing conflicts with Kosovo and Ukraine.'Susan L. Woodward, Graduate Center, City University of New York



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