Ethnic Conflict in the Post-Soviet World: Case Studies and Analysis

By Leokadia Drobizheva; Rose Gottemoeller et al. | Go to book overview

THE BALKANS

3.

Minority Rights and Majority Rule
Ethnic Tolerance in Romania and Bulgaria

MARY E. MCINTOSH

MARTHA ABELE MACIVER

DANIEL G. ABELE

DAVID B. NOLLE

Research on ethnic conflict and intolerance toward minorities has a long history in the social sciences. The sociopolitical transition in Central and Eastern Europe offers an opportunity to deepen our theoretical understanding and broaden our empirical knowledge of the processes that shape orientations toward ethnic minorities.

Ethnic conflict began to erupt in Central and Eastern Europe soon after the "revolutions" of 1989. As a result, multinational states such as Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union have unraveled. Although these developments were motivated largely by the desires of those sharing a common nationality for sovereignty in their own states, history and geography have situated national groupings throughout this region in such a way as to force either the massive migration of people or the continued existence of at least some multinational states.

As Steven Burg has argued, the treatment of ethnic minorities within these states may influence, to a large degree, the level of ethnic conflict in this region. 1 As long as minorities have the right to maintain their cultural identity and enjoy the same rights as members of the ethnic majority group in their society, they may be less concerned about where state borders are drawn (and their "mother" countries may have less reason, or at least less perceived justification, to voice irredentist claims on territories they once controlled). But ethnic majority groups in these new democracies, desiring to preserve or strengthen their national identity, may pressure politicians to resist the granting of such rights to minority groups. The existence of such a defensive nationalism, fueled by fears of irredentist neighbors (and by the relative paucity of civil society in these countries), has led Joseph Rothschild to conclude that

there exists a real threat (not yet a probability) that communist tyranny may be replaced by majoritarian tyranny, that anticommunist nationalism may become a motor of injustice, and that Central and East European ethnonationalism may be as acute, illiberal, and bloody in our century's last decade as in its interwar ones. 2

-37-

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