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Chapter 1 The Majority-Minority Relationship and the Formation of Informally Institutionalized Conflict Dynamics After defeating communism as an ideology, the liberal creed in the early 1990s appeared to triumph globally. Capturing the Zeitgeist of the time, institutionalist accounts offered democratic solutions for mitigating ethnic conflicts by such strategies as respect for minority rights in line with international norms, power-sharing agreements, fair electoral rules and proportional representation, ethnic balance in military and police structures, decentralization, autonomy, and federalization.1 Principles of respect for diversity, division of power, and competition for power were placed at the core of these solutions.2 By the late 1990s some scholars became aware that such institutional solutions might be productive for a more mature polity, but not for a transitional setting. Policies leading to the devolution of power to minority regions—such as decentralization, autonomy, and federalization—were problematized because of their controversial consequences. Sometimes they relieved minority discontent by facilitating representation, but at other times they aided secessionist struggles associated with more violence.3 The devolution of power to highly concentrated minorities whose loyalties lay outside the state became especially questionable.4 Aware of such challenges, in the 2000s scholarly voices sang in harmony that transitional regimes were among the most violence prone, especially in polities with highly divided societies.5 Transitions can significantly weaken state institutions, which in turn may provide fertile ground for nationalist activities by dominant or subordinate peoples. In Eastern Europe, the transition from communism exerted The Majority-Minority Relationship 29 simultaneous pressures to replace one-party dictatorship with multiparty democracy and a command economy with a market economy, and often to build the state anew, which weakened state institutions.6 When institutions are weak, using nationalism for instrumentalist purposes faces few constraints. Elites may mobilize the population by evoking ethnicity as ‘‘the only politically relevant identity.’’7 Public discussion may become skewed by state or monopolistic control of the media, and average citizens may back groups or parties based on incomplete information.8 Governance suffers : state ability to provide political goods diminishes and corruption rises.9 Under such conditions, groups that can provide services gain popularity , often invoking a nationalist doctrine while building patron-client relationships. This chapter focuses on the early transition period (1987/89–1992), when structures and institutions established during communism were fundamentally transformed. Under conditions of high volatility and uncertainty , the choices of majority and minority elites mattered to how the new ‘‘rules of the game’’ of interethnic relations would be defined, and how the ground would be laid for the establishment of conflictual, semiconflictual, and cooperative dynamics. In this chapter I explore three interrelated questions: • How did antecedent conditions in Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Serbia influence the options available to majorities and minorities in decision-making during the critical juncture at the end of communism? • Did the opening of the political system for political competition in each case precede or follow changes in minority status and how did it affect majority-minority relations? • How did the changes in constitutional status of the Turks of Bulgaria, the Albanians of Macedonia, and the Albanians of Kosovo (Kosovars) create new rules of the game in a transitional environment? I argue that three factors were highly important for establishing the rules for ethnonational actions during the critical juncture and subsequent development of cooperative (Bulgaria), semiconflictual (Macedonia), and conflictual (Kosovo) dynamics. First, in the volatile late 1980s, communist elites within the dominant ethnic group competed with rival ideas on 30 Chapter 1 minority status. When a faction won, it sealed its vision about the minority ’s status in the newly adopted constitution. I show the importance of the relative change in minority rights compared to the communist period, rather than the absolute scope of minority rights judged against global or regional normative standards. The relative scope of decreases in status also mattered. Constitutional changes created a political threshold that propelled causal chains of majority-minority interactions leading to different degrees of violence over time. The second factor was a decision-making sequence that aimed at reinforcing the earlier majority decision. Majority elites decided to make minorities comply with these decisions through co-optation or coercion. The third factor, depending on the combinations of majority choices about the type of minority status change (increase/decrease) and strategy for compliance (co-optation/coercion), was the development by the minorities of a reactive sequence of counter-strategies. These took the form of rejection...


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