This paper offers hypotheses on the role that state social welfare measures can play in reflecting nationalism and in aggravating interethnic tensions. Social welfare is often overlooked in theoretical literature on nationalism, because of the widespread assumption that the welfare state promotes social cohesion. However, social welfare systems may face contradictions between the goal of promoting universal access to all citizens on the one hand, and social pressures to recognize particular groups in distinct ways on the other. Examples from the post-Soviet context (particularly Russia) are offered to illustrate the ways in which social welfare issues may be perceived as having ethnic connotations.
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