When Walker Connor presented a paper entitled ‘When is a Nation?’ in a conference on ‘Pre-Modern and Modern National Identity in Russia/the USSR and Eastern Europe’ at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies in 1989, he could not have foreseen that this rather simple question would become so fundamental to the burgeoning field of nationalism studies in the years to come. ‘The article appears to have elicited a surprising amount of interest in LSE circles’, Connor later recalls. Why? He does not know: ‘at the risk of impersonating Dickens’ deceitfully self-deprecating Uriah Heep’, he writes, ‘my piece does not merit such attention’ (2004: 35). It is indeed true that ‘when is the nation?’ has been the central organizing question of the theoretical debate on nationalism, as the table of contents of most introductory texts on nationalism and relevant entries of assorted handbooks and encyclopaedias, including the ones published in the first quarter of the new millennium, would attest (see for example Smith 1998a; Ichijo and Uzelac 2005; Hearn 2006; see also Uzelac 2002: 35).
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