Soviet Union Breaking Up Is Hard to Stop

Violence in the south and separatism in the north make nationalism Gorbachev's most pressing problem

Activists of the Azerbaijan Popular Front in Nakhichevan, a region bordering Iran, made no secret of their preparations for an incendiary New Year's Eve. They stockpiled axes, shovels and wire cutters, assembled trucks and buses, and held rallies demanding the dismantling of frontier barriers that separate them from Azerbaijanis living in Iran. On the last day of 1989 they struck. A mob of some 7,500 tore up boundary markers and pulled down border posts and watchtowers. Similar attacks over the next two days spread along 500 miles of the border, crippling the communications network in a string of towns from Zangelan...

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