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Since this book was first published in early 1990, more new nation-states have been formed, or are in the process of formation, than at any time in this century. The break-up of the USSR and Yugoslavia have so far added sixteen to the number of internationally recognized sovereign entities, and there is no immediately foreseeable limit to the further advance of national separatism. All states are today officially ‘nations’, all political agitations are apt to be against foreigners, whom practically all states harry and seek to keep out. It may therefore seem wilful blindness to conclude this book with some reflections on the decline of nationalism as a vector of historical change, compared to its role in the century from the 1830s to the end of World War II.
It would indeed be absurd to deny that the collapse of the Soviet Union and the regional and international system of which, as one super-power, it was a pillar for some forty years marks a profound, and probably permanent, historical change, whose implications are, at the time of writing, entirely obscure. However, they introduce new elements into the history of nationalism only insofar as the break-up of the USSR in 1991 went far beyond the (temporary) break-up of Tsarist Russia in 1918–20, which was largely confined to its European and transcaucasian regions. For, basically, the ‘national questions’ of 1989–92 are not new.
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