In the twentieth century, national self-determination came to be regarded as a basic human right. This concept served as the ideological foundation for both the establishment of successor states in Central and Eastern Europe after World War I and the decolonization of the Third World after World War II. All the problems were brought into focus by the new wave of ethnic nationalism that began in Central and Eastern Europe in the 1980s. Social and economic conflicts have become politicized in ethnonational terms. In the Soviet Union, ethnic unrest has been an unintended side effect of the policies of glasnost and democratization since Gorbachev came to power in 1985. Until the late 1980s, the Soviet authorities neglected the seriousness and political implications of ethnic tensions. In the three Baltic republics of the Soviet Union--Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania--concern about the natural environment and the health of the population triggered the national movements in 1987-1988. (Less)

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