Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Ethnic Violence in the Balkans and the Caucasus

For a class I'm teaching this semester, we will be talking about the inter-ethnic violence in the post-Yugoslavia countries, and the mountainous region between Russia and Turkey/Iran. Playing with Quantum Gis and a Harvard dataset of ethnic group (GREG)s, I mapped the groups onto a current map, along side a table with post-1989 civil/political-related deaths from the Uppsala dataset of global armed conflict (PRIO). I will be using the figures below in my lecture.

One of the interesting features of this region since the fall of the Soviet Union, is the radically different paths taken by the satellite states. Consider that most of the post-communist countries had relatively peaceful transitions out of Communism, from Poland, to Hungary, to Czechoslavakia, to Germany. Even countries further east, like the Ukraine's Orange Revolution was relatively violence-free, at least on the side of the protesters (those wanting a change in government and political process). Building on a generation of non-violent protests, from Ghandi to Martin Luther King Jr, and many others during this period, non-violence proved a radical weapon in transforming dictatorial governments.

On the other hand, countries with radically ethnically-diverse populations had transitions that brought far more loss of life. As can be seen from the tables, many were killed, for example, as Serbia tried to keep Yugoslavia together, opposing first Slovenia's independence, then Croatia, then Bosnia-Herzogovina, and most recently, Kosovo. From the ethnicity map, it is clear that most of the Kosovars are Albanian. When Kosovo rebelled against Serbia for liberation, Serbia led brutal attacks on the population. Macedonia, to the south, opened its borders in 1991, and let Kosovars come in, dramatically increasing the Albanian-speaking population in northern Macedonia. From the table, one can see a subsequent fatalities marker for Macedonia in 2001, when the Albanian/Kosovar refugees who stayed in Macedonia, later rebelled against Macedonia. Just this month (Nov, 2013), Kosovo held the first national election for local offices, after having entered into an EU-brokered agreement with Serbia, that the northern part of Kosovo would be released from Serbian control back to Kosovo. The continued Kosovo-Serbia conflict is one of the primary factors preventing them from being accepted into the European Union, and the agreement helps pave the way through that impediment.

Turning to the Caucasus, there are at least 40 recognized, distinct languages in the region, and the ethnic divisions map shows the compact space with tremendous diversity. The mountains run from north-west to south-east, dividing the country into north and south. At the intersection of three great empires, Ottoman, Persian, and Russian, they have been at the cross-roads of these rich cultures, as well as the intersection of centuries of battle. While the low-land cultures at the foot of the mountains tend to assimilate reasonably well into the conquering empires, the highland cultures in the mountains, such as the Chechens, Dagestanians, and Ossetians, have posed great difficulties any invader. In the last WWII period (1944), Stalin deported all of the north-Caucasus people to the Gulags, many dying on the way, in what was later recognized as a genocide by the European Parliament. As can be seen in the Caucasus violence table, Chechnya has been rife with violence over the last 20 years.

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