Khazanov's astute assessments of ethnic and political strife in Russia, in Chechnia, in Central Asia, in Kazakhstan, among the Meskhetian Turks, and among the Yakut of Eastern Siberia illuminate the interconnections between nationalism, ethnic relations, social structures, and political process in the waning days of the USSR and in the new independent states. Exploring the Soviet nationality policy and its failure to satisfy national aspirations, Khazanov demonstrates the fatal flaws of totalitarian rule and the impossibility of reforming it. Khazanov cautions that the liberal democratic direction of current transformations in the former Soviet Union should not be taken for granted. For most of the independent states, he points out, departing from totalitarianism requires creation of a civil society for the first time in their history. The state's partial retreat from the public sphere leaves a dangerous institutional vacuum, in which nationalism is emerging as the dominant ideology. He warns that this new, post-totalitarian society is still a far cry from a genuine liberal democracy and, despite its inherent instability, may turn out to be a long-lasting phenomenon.
Anatoly M. Khazanov is professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin Madison. He was formerly professor of social anthropology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a senior scholar at the Soviet Institute of Ethnography and Anthropology. A Fellow of the British Academy and a 1993 94 Guggenheim Fellow, he is the author of "Nomads and the Outside World," published by the University of Wisconsin Press, as well as nine other books."