Russia's continued assault on Ukraine is a stark reminder of Russia's historical policies to subjugate ethnic minorities into its empire, whether Russian or Soviet. The Tsarist empire and the USSR comprised more than 80 nationalities, most of which were incorporated by military or other coercive means. Tensions among these different nationalities and Great Russians, who make up the majority of Russia's population, were a constant struggle for Moscow's leaders to control. These pressures were a major contributor to the rapid dissolution of the Soviet Union since the policies of glasnost and perestroika in the mid-1980s allowed various ethnic groups to openly express their past grievances and desire for independence.
Vladimir Putin's desire to "put the genie back in the bottle" will face serious resistance, as evidenced by Ukraine's fierce reaction to Russia's invasion. Other former Soviet republics, some of which are now NATO members, are rightfully wary of Russia's aggressiveness and are strengthening their defensive abilities.
The newly published book, "Wind of Change", takes place in Russia shortly after the fall of Communism, when the country's ethnic groups experienced greater autonomy from Moscow. Several stories in the book concern an American's travel in Tatarstan, an ethnic minority region of Russia that had considered becoming an independent state in the early 1990s.