Ethnonationalist Conflict in Postcommunist States: Varieties of Governance in Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Kosovo

Ethnonationalist Conflict in Postcommunist States: Varieties of Governance in Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Kosovo

Ethnonationalist Conflict in Postcommunist States: Varieties of Governance in Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Kosovo

Ethnonationalist Conflict in Postcommunist States: Varieties of Governance in Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Kosovo

Synopsis

Ethnonationalist Conflict in Postcommunist States investigates why some Eastern European states transitioned to new forms of governance with minimal violence while others broke into civil war. In Bulgaria, the Turkish minority was subjected to coerced assimilation and forced expulsion, but the nation ultimately negotiated peace through institutional channels. In Macedonia, periodic outbreaks of insurgent violence escalated to armed conflict. Kosovo's internal warfare culminated in NATO's controversial bombing campaign. In the twenty-first century, these conflicts were subdued, but violence continued to flare occasionally and impede durable conflict resolution.

In this comparative study, Maria Koinova applies historical institutionalism to conflict analysis, tracing ethnonationalist violence in postcommunist states to a volatile, formative period between 1987 and 1992. In this era of instability, the incidents that brought majorities and minorities into dispute had a profound impact and a cumulative effect, as did the interventions of international agents and kin states. Whether the conflicts initially evolved in peaceful or violent ways, the dynamics of their disputes became self-perpetuating and informally institutionalized. Thus, external policies or interventions could affect only minimal change, and the impact of international agents subsided over time. Regardless of the constitutions, laws, and injunctions, majorities, minorities, international agents, and kin states continue to act in accord with the logic of informally institutionalized conflict dynamics.

Koinova analyzes the development of those dynamics in Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Kosovo, drawing on theories of democratization, international intervention, and path-dependence as well as interviews and extensive fieldwork. The result is a compelling account of the underlying causal mechanisms of conflict perpetuation and change that will shed light on broader patterns of ethnic violence.

Excerpt

Over the past few decades some Eastern European postcommunist states with large ethnonational minorities managed to participate in nonviolent transitions while in others ethnic conflicts turned into civil wars. Some consolidated their democracies, and by 2007 were full members of the European Union (EU). Others started democratic transitions but did not complete them. Instead, disagreements between majorities and minorities evolved into civil wars, arrested political development, and led to significant loss of life. Despite the EU’s mitigating effects on its neighbors, some conflicts displayed remarkable resilience and others developed anew.

The global media reported on the capture of indicted war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic and their delivery to the International Tribunal on Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and on multiple counts of criminality and corruption in structures of government. They also covered more mundane topics such as elections and initiatives related to the eu integration of the Western Balkans. But violence continues to be a viable option in this part of the world. Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008, triggered new riots in the heart of Serbia. the city of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo, divided by the Ibar River into Albanian and Serbian communities, became a new center for violent clashes. Disputes in July 2011 involved the ethnic Albanian-dominated Kosovo government, the ethnic Serb minority, and some nato troops still deployed there. the dual governance in Mitrovica complicates Kosovo’s political development and Serbia’s eu aspirations. Kosovo’s international status, though not recognized by a majority of the un General Assembly, also . . .

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