Monday, 20 April 2009

Stability in Post Soviet space will only develop when multi-ethnic states are accepted

In an essay considering the chances of successful reconciliation between Russia and Georgia, Ivan Sukhov keeps his most interesting contention for the final paragraph.

“Georgia, like most post-Soviet nations, is a country where the concept of nationality is crucial. A national agenda for Georgians is barely compatible with the thesis of a Georgia for everyone (i.e. for Georgians, Abkhazians, Ossetians, and for all other citizens regardless of their ethnicity). This is not a problem specific to Georgia. It is characteristic of almost all the post-Soviet nations, including Russia itself in many ways.”

It is useful to read Sukhov’s piece in conjunction with a further Open Democracy article, which examines another post-Soviet state struggling to come to terms with ethnic division, Moldova.

Transdniestria, Moldova’s own breakaway region, shares characteristics with South Ossetia. Although as Andrey Kalikh observes, the chances that serious violence will develop there remain slim.

However, many of the frozen conflicts, as well as those which have involved fighting more recently, have undoubtedly arisen because ‘ethno-nationalist’ states have been carved from multi-national space.

Although its size and diversity prevent Russia from being described in such terms, political forces in the Federation, including the Kremlin, have undoubtedly, from time to time harnessed national chauvinism for pragmatic purposes.

For its failure to encourage the creation of multi-ethnic states the west is also culpable. Baltic states have been allowed to join the European Union without dismantling discriminatory citizenship laws for instance. Anti-Russian sentiment is indulged where large Russian minorities are still present. Smaller minorities’ interests have been disregarded by western opinion on the assumption that they simply represent manifestations of irredentism by Russia or other largish states.

And of course, outside the former USSR, Kosovo has provided a precedent, whereby western institutions have indicated their willingness to underwrite ethnic separatists’ aspirations, without any urge to compromise or attempt to accommodate them within the larger state.

No wonder the argument for multi-ethnic states is weakening in the former Soviet Union, rather than strengthening.


The Aberdonian said...

I have never particularly understood this thing about Kosovo. The usual idea that Kosovo should remain part of Serbia is that it was an autonomous province of Serbia rather than a Yugoslav Republic. Yugoslav republics have the right to break away apparently despite the fact that in the case of Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Montenegro in one way or another signed up to the principle of the Yugoslav state (ok the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes orginally) in 1918 and therefore volunteered.

On the other hand the Kosovan Albanians were ram raided into the Kingdom of Serbia after the Balkan Wars of 1912-13 with no consultation but none the less have less rights apparently than the Republics who signed up volutarish. And got worse treatment than what the other South Slav nations got.

Tito thought the solution to the problems was to try and annex Albania after WWII but was refused. Whilst that would have saved Albania proper from Enver Hoxa, I would think that an Albanian war of independence would have broken out way before Tito had gone to the big Party Conference in the sky.

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