Dissident ethnic networks were a crucial independent institution in the Soviet Union. Voicing the discontent and resentment of the periphery at the policies of the center or metropole, the dissident writings, known as samizdat highlighted anger at deprivations imposed in the political, cultural, social, and economic spheres. Ethnic dissident writings drew on values both internal to the Soviet system and international as sources of legitimation; they met a divided reaction among Russians, with some privileging the unity of the Soviet Union and others sympathetic to the rhetoric of national rights. This focus on national, rather than individual rights, along with the appropriation of ethnonationalism by political elites, helps explain developments since the fall of the Soviet Union, including the prevalence of authoritarian governments in newly independent states of the former Soviet Union.

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