Now our symposium is over. The Slavic Research Center has always been proud to organize conferences which deal with the wide scope of problems of the Slavic Eurasian world, but this symposium was characterized by special variety of participants and topics : among the authors of the papers there were ethnologists , historians, political scientists, a writer, a low temperature scientist and an economist, coming from ten countries; the topics of the papers covered almost all regions of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe (important blank spots were the Baltic and Caucasian regions).
Needless to say, national and ethnic problems are quite delicate. It is no wonder, therefore, that in some sessions we heard heated discussions- A great difference of opinion among participants was observed on the point whether Russian territorial expansion was positive or negative. Many scholars agree that the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union were somewhat different from the Western colonial powers in terms of ethnic policies, but the question as to whether this "difference" indicates "posiuveness" and "tolerance" of Russian rule remains unresolved,
When we deal with ethnic issues of different regions, we must always take into account the traditions of each region and ethnic group. Both papers for the session 5-A referred to the traditional institutions in Central Asia. One of the discussants, though admitting the importance of traditional institutions, pointed out that some of the "traditions" might have been distorted, or even invented, in modern times, and uncritical studies of "traditions" could lead to an exaggeration of the "backwardness" of a given region.
Another delicate problem is that of ethnic minorities, especially when it is concerned with their languages. A discussant in the 3rd session posed a fundamental question: why and for whom should minority languages be preserved, if many people from minorities themselves prefer to use major languages in order to have more access to information and their career? Of course, this question does not mean that minority languages should disappear, but it urges us to seriously consider the problems of universality and diversity, practical convenience and moral justice.
As a whole, the symposium provided various new information, it revealed those problems which have not sufficiently been studied, and it presented keys to structural and multi-dimensional understandings of ethnic issues.
I would like to thank Akifumi Takeda, a COE research fellow of the SRC, who assisted me in editing this volume; Mark Holst, who corrected the English of papers written by non-native speakers; Hitomi Nakamura, who carried out computer work; and all people who helped us in organizing the symposium.

Tomohiko Uyama
Sapporo, February 1998

Copyright (c) 1998 by the Slavic Research Center. All rights reserved.