With the beginning of glasnost in the former USSR, ethnic problems that were claimed to have been solved during the Soviet regime quickly developed into open conflicts, revealing different 'cultures of violence'. The analysis of the initial, often symbolic, stage of the conflict is of special interest, since it can better reveal the peculiarities of national patterns of violence in different cultural traditions, these patterns usually becoming indistinguishable soon after the conflict grows into a real war. The article analyses the first nine months of the Armenian - Azerbaijani conflict (February-November 1988), indicating the quite different models of aggressive behaviour of the groups involved in the conflict. It shows how national violence has been shaped by historical and/or mythological patterns (the militant branch of the Armenian national movement of the late 1980s reflecting the fedayi movement of the late 19th century in the Ottoman empire; the Chechen terrorists reflecting the heroes of the North Caucasian Nartian epic). The article also discusses the hidden forms of national violence (the ecological movement in Estonia addressed firstly towards the native Russians; the self-damaging ecological movement in Armenia; pseudo-ecological anti-Armenian rallies in Azerbaijan, etc).