RUSSIANS LIVING IN THE FORMER SOVIET Union but outside Russia are in a politically sensitive position. In the newly independent countries in which they live, they are often seen as the representatives of an imperial system, the effects of which are best erased. In Russia, their fate is both a rousing issue in domestic politics and a useful justification for projecting influence into strategically key areas of the former Soviet Union. In a sense, the Russian diaspora has been taken hostage by the nonexistent Soviet imperial state.

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