The TsaristRussian Empire was dubbed the "prison of the peoples" ("Тюрьма народов") by Vladimir Lenin. The Soviet Union, which replaced the empire, proclaimed that the goal of its national policy was to forge a new national entity, the "Soviet people". Even though the Soviet Union often claimed to make significant progress on "the nationalities question", its dissolution came about largely due to inter-ethnic conflict and like other communist countries a privileged nationality (in this case the Russians, in Yugoslavia the Serbs, in Vietnam the ethnic Vietnamese and in China the Han Chinese) had more political and economic power.
^The expression "prison of the peoples" was first applied to pre-revolutionary Tsarist Russia in the 1840s by Marquis de Custine's critical book La Russie en 1839. It was later taken up by Alexander Herzen and the goal of demolishing this "prison of the peoples" became one of the ideals of the Russian Revolution. Ironically, the same expression was adopted decades later by the dissident movement against the so-called Soviet Empire.