Soviet Union The Cracks Within

An upsurge of nationalism becomes Gorbachev's greatest challenge

The unbreakable union of free republics, joined together forever by great Russia . . ." At 6 a.m. each day, the opening lines of the Soviet state anthem ring out in Russian from radios across the vast country. They are heard by reindeer-herding Chukchi tribesmen in Siberia, Buryat farmers near the Mongolian border and Estonian fishermen by the Baltic Sea. The words project an illusion of homogeneity that Moscow finds increasingly difficult to maintain.

As Mikhail Gorbachev has learned since coming to power in 1985, the "unbreakable union" has a few cracks. The 285 million Soviet people form a patchwork of...

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