Abstract

Destabilized multiethnic states and empires are environments that are highly susceptible to violent ethnonationalist conflict. Conflicts between states built on the ruins of such empires and their minorities are especially common. James Fearon has famously argued that these conflicts are the result of minorities’ rational incentives to rebel, which in turn are the result of newly independent states’ inability to guarantee that these minorities will not be discriminated against if they acquiesce to citizenship, as well as expectations that over time the balance of power will shift against minorities as states consolidate their institutions. States can, however, take steps to reassure their minorities. The puzzle is why they often fail to do so. In fact, states often adopt policies that confirm minorities’ worst fears, pushing them toward rebellion. Such action may be precipitated by a state’s belief that a minority is motivated by a separatist agenda rather than by the desire to have its concerns and grievances satisfactorily addressed. If secession is a minority’s primary objective, then concessions intended to demobilize the minority will only make the state more vulnerable to future demands and separatist bids. The existence of third parties with incentives to support minority separatism exacerbates the problem. The violent and nonviolent minority disputes in post-Soviet Georgia illustrate these findings.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1531-4804
Print ISSN
0162-2889
Pages
pp. 170-207
Launched on MUSE
2015-05-06
Open Access
No
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