chapter  1
20 Pages


The dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1991 was not only the dissolution of a state. It was also an event in the prelude to, and in the wake of which, many images informing our understanding of the world were deconstructed. The usual geographic representation of the Soviet Union on world political maps as a single huge pink country to a large extent reflected the Western common sense understanding of Soviet society as a huge homogeneous whole, conformity to which was forcibly ensured by an omnipotent Communist Party (Saroyan 1997: 125). The image of the Soviet Union as a homogeneous whole was supported by the habitual practice in the West – a habitual practice with roots back to the days of the Tsarist Russian empire – of using the name ‘Russia’ as a synonym for this whole, and calling its inhabitants ‘Russians’, although around half of the population of the Soviet Union consisted of nonRussians.