Millennium: Journal of International Studies. 1999, 28 (3), 607-631
Diasporas are usually defined as ethnic groups which lack a territorial base within a given polity. Territoriality, however, is not a given. It is determined not only by such objective factors as geography, demography, and history, but also by perceptions and ideas. The degree to which a certain group is attached to the territory on which it lives is, up to a point, a political, not an empirical question. The members of a minority group may see themselves as clearly 'rooted' in the land, while the majority may be unwilling to accept this claim. These general points are illustrated by an examination of the Russian minority groups in the former Soviet republics after the break up of the unitary Soviet state. It is argued that, from very different starting points, the Russian state and the political leaders in the non-Russian Soviet successor states, somewhat ironically, have arrived at basically the same conclusion: they tend to see the Russian diaspora communities in the so-called 'near abroad' as territorially linked to Russia rather than to the countries in which these communities are actually based. This view, however, is challenged by some Russian diaspora leaders who are seeking local territoriality in their country of residence.