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The Geography of Ethnic Violence

The Geography of Ethnic Violence: Identity, Interests, and the Indivisibility of Territory

Monica Duffy Toft
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The Geography of Ethnic Violence
    Book Description:

    The Geography of Ethnic Violenceis the first among numerous distinguished books on ethnic violence to clarify the vital role of territory in explaining such conflict. Monica Toft introduces and tests a theory of ethnic violence, one that provides a compelling general explanation of not only most ethnic violence, civil wars, and terrorism but many interstate wars as well. This understanding can foster new policy initiatives with real potential to make ethnic violence either less likely or less destructive. It can also guide policymakers to solutions that endure.

    The book offers a distinctively powerful synthesis of comparative politics and international relations theories, as well as a striking blend of statistical and historical case study methodologies. By skillfully combining a statistical analysis of a large number of ethnic conflicts with a focused comparison of historical cases of ethnic violence and nonviolence--including four major conflicts in the former Soviet Union--it achieves a rare balance of general applicability and deep insight.

    Toft concludes that only by understanding how legitimacy and power interact can we hope to learn why some ethnic conflicts turn violent while others do not. Concentrated groups defending a self-defined homeland often fight to the death, while dispersed or urbanized groups almost never risk violence to redress their grievances. Clearly written and rigorously documented, this book represents a major contribution to an ongoing debate that spans a range of disciplines including international relations, comparative politics, sociology, and history.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3574-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. 1 The Forgotten Meaning of Territory
    (pp. 1-16)

    No matter how barren, no territory is worthless if it is a homeland. History is replete with conflicts in which people fight to the death over what appears to be territory of questionable value. This is because territory is simultaneously a divisible, quantifiable object and an indivisible and romantic subject.

    As a physical object, territory can be divided and later redivided. It can be explored, inhabited, mined, polluted, exchanged, sold, bought, and farmed. Borders and boundaries can be redrawn, place-names changed, and people moved from here to there.

    Yet in many places of the world, borders and boundaries seem fixed...

  6. 2 Indivisible Territory and Ethnic War
    (pp. 17-33)

    This book asks a simple but important question: why do some ethnic disputes turn violent and others do not? In other words, what causes ethnic war?

    The world is populated with multiethnic states: 82 percent of all independent states comprise two or more ethnic groups, which are often involved in disputes either with each other or with the state itself.¹ Although such disputes do not always lead to war, they often do, as we know from recent history in the Balkans, Rwanda, East Timor, and elsewhere.

    As noted in chapter 1, an extensive body of excellent research in bargaining theory...

  7. 3 Territory and Violence A STATISTICAL ASSESSMENT
    (pp. 34-44)

    This chapter offers two tests of my theory’s main hypotheses. The first test focuses on the part of the argument that deals with the aggrieved ethnic group and examines my hypotheses about the relationship between certain settlement patterns and violence. The second test considers the interests of the state as well, examining the effect of five factors on the likelihood of violence: (1) the relative impact of settlement patterns; (2) attachment to homeland; (3) the duration of residence in a region; (4) precedent setting; and (5) the richness of resources in a region.

    The findings regarding settlement patterns and the...

  8. 4 Russia and Tatarstan
    (pp. 45-63)

    In the late 1980s the collapse of the Soviet Union touched off a chain reaction in which many of the former union republics and autonomous republics began to seek independence. Among them was Tatarstan, which did not end up as a sovereign state. Although it had been demanding independence from Russia, it eventually moderated its position, and in 1994 a bilateral treaty that regulated political and economic relations was signed.¹ In this chapter I show how the Tatar settlement pattern affected the group’s demand for independence; although Tatars viewed Tatarstan as their homeland, they simply did not have the legitimacy...

  9. 5 Russia and Chechnya
    (pp. 64-86)

    Two contrasting events marked 1994 in the former Soviet Union: the signing of a bilateral treaty and the outbreak of civil war. Although both Chechnya and Tatarstan had initially demanded greater independence from the Russian Federation, Tatarstan eventually moderated its demands and signed a bilateral treaty with Moscow in February of that year. Chechnya, however, remained recalcitrant, precipitating the deployment of Russian Federation troops in December 1994 and a subsequent civil war. Given the apparent similarities between the two independence movements, and given their close proximity in time, why did a negotiated settlement obtain in one interaction but not in...

  10. 6 Georgia and Abkhazia
    (pp. 87-106)

    Throughout its history, Georgia has been plagued by both internal strife and external interference. Ronald Grigor Suny, writing about the sixteenth century, described Georgian politics as consisting of “[l]ocal dynasts maneuver[ing] among the contenders for political hegemony, sometimes choosing the king, other times the great empires that bordered Georgia.”¹ Richard Pipes, discussing Georgian politics in the early twentieth century, wrote, “In its endeavor to create a homogeneous national state, the Tiflis government showed little sympathy for the attempts of . . . minority groups to secure political and cultural autonomy.”² Both Suny and Pipes could just as well have been...

  11. 7 Georgia and Ajaria
    (pp. 107-126)

    While the rest of Georgia broke out in violence in the early 1990s, Ajaria acquired the distinction of being the only region to avoid it. I argue that violence failed to erupt there largely because the Ajars did not view their identity as distinct from that of the dominant group and because they regarded the territory of Ajaria as an integral part of Georgia. The Ajar leaders identified and represented themselves to Tbilisi as Georgians, committed to the territorial integrity of Georgia. The question of territorial independence from a “Georgia for Georgians” was not an issue at the bargaining table....

  12. 8 Conclusion
    (pp. 127-148)

    This book started with a simple point. Territory is not only a material and divisible object but also a nonmaterial and indivisible subject. In the last century alone, millions died in wars and in other violence as a result of this simple and enduring problem. Although this dual nature of territory has never been forgotten in such diverse places as Israel/Palestine, Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka, and Spain, in academic treatments of ethnic conflicts and wars and in many attempts to implement policies designed to end ethnic violence, it has largely been forgotten or overlooked. The central purpose of this book...

  13. Appendix Tables
    (pp. 149-166)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 167-202)
  15. References
    (pp. 203-218)
  16. Index
    (pp. 219-226)