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Nationalism, ethnic conflict, and job competition: non-Russian collective action in the USSR under perestroika

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The article examines the effects of job competition on ethnic relations within a multinational state. It argues that demographic increase leads to competition for blue-collar jobs while an increase in the number of graduates from higher education leads to competition over elite jobs. In the first case, people risk unemployment, in the second, blocked career opportunities. Mass-level unemployment may lead to anger-driven mass riots, while an intelligentsia will formulate more rational strategies to eliminate threatening competitors from the labour market. One such strategy is to insist that the state ought to be a national state, in which the national elites will be in control. While questions of identity no doubt also may have an enormously mobilising power in times of national resurgence, identity issues are normally intimately intertwined with interest politics. These mechanisms are traced in the history of ethnic mobilisation in the Soviet Union and the post-Soviet states during and after perestroika.
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Keywords: ethnic mobilisation; former Soviet Union; job competition; perestroika

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Literature, Area Studies and European Languages, University of Oslo, Norway

Publication date: January 1, 2008

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