The collapse of an empire can result in the division of families
and the redrawing of geographical boundaries. New leaders promise
the return of people and territories that may have been lost in the
past, often advocating aggressive foreign policies that can result
in costly and devastating wars. The final years of the
Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires, the end of European
colonization in Africa and Asia, and the demise of the Soviet Union
were all accompanied by war and atrocity.
These efforts to reunite lost kin are known as irredentism -
territorial claims based on shared ethnic ties made by one state to
a minority population residing within another state. For Kin or
Country explores this phenomenon, investigating why the
collapse of communism prompted more violence in some instances and
less violence in others. Despite the tremendous political and
economic difficulties facing all former communist states during
their transition to a market democracy, only Armenia, Croatia, and
Serbia tried to upset existing boundaries. Hungary, Romania, and
Russia practiced much more restraint.
The authors examine various explanations for the causes of
irredentism and for the pursuit of less antagonistic policies,
including the efforts by Western Europe to tame Eastern Europe.
Ultimately, the authors find that internal forces drive irredentist
policy even at the risk of a country's self-destruction and that
xenophobia may have actually worked to stabilize many postcommunist
states in Eastern Europe.
Subjects: Political Science
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