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Ethnic Unrest in the Soviet Union

September 04, 1991

Concern over ethnic nationalism continues to run beneath discussions about any new government in the Soviet Union. Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin Tuesday declared that Russia would never dominate a proposed new union of Soviet republics, a concern of smaller republics. And yet, Yeltsin has sent aides to other republican capitals out of concern for minority ethnic Russians in the other areas. Here is a roundup of areas where ethnic difficulties continue:

GEORGIA. Over the weekend, five demonstrators were shot and wounded by special police. Some 5,000 supporters of the opposition National Democratic Party had gathered outside government buildings in Tbilisi to demand President Zviad Gamsakhurdia's resignation. There are longstanding and deep-seated feelings of discord between Georgians and Russians.

\o7 NATIONALITIES IN GEORGIA\f7 OTHER: 16% MINOR NATIONALITIES: 8% RUSSIAN: 6% TITULAR: 70% UKRAINE. Refrains of anti-Russian sentiment were repeated through the Ukraine, spurring statements by Russian leader Yeltsin that Russia would not be more important than other republics. Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk was being publicly denounced as a "puppet of Moscow."

\o7 NATIONALITIES IN THE UKRAINE\f7 OTHER: 4% MINOR NATIONALITIES: 1% RUSSIAN: 22% TITULAR: 73% AZERBAIJAN-ARMENIA. Armenians in the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh declared themselves a Soviet republic in a bid for separation from Azerbaijan, and possibly for complete independence. The area is populated mostly by ethnic Armenians within Azerbaijan. Centuries-old tensions between mostly Christian Armenia and Muslim Azerbaijan erupted into violence over control of Nagorno-Karabakh three years ago, and hundreds have died in sporadic fighting. Azerbaijan rejected the separatist movement.

\o7 NATIONALITIES IN AZERBAIJAN\f7 OTHER: 5% MINOR NATIONALITIES: 6% RUSSIAN: 6% TITULAR: 83% MOLDOVA. Ethnic tensions run high in the republic of 4.3 million, with Russians, Turkic Gagauz, Ukrainians and Bulgarians fearing they will lose their identity in an independent state. Over the weekend, 1,500 Gagauz, Christian Orthodox who speak an ancient Turkish dialect, rallied to denounce Moldovan separatism and demand a republic of their own. And deputies representing minority ethnic Russians unilaterally proclaimed the "Socialist Republic of Trans-Dniester," threatening to cut off water and electricity supplies to eastern Moldova if their leader was not released from jail on charges of supporting the coup. Moldova would like to ally with Romania.

\o7 NATIONALITIES IN MOLDOVA\f7 OTHER: 9% MINOR NATIONALITIES: 14% RUSSIAN: 13% TITULAR: 64%

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