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Policy Options for Resolving Post-Soviet Ethnic Conflict

Robert M. Cutler

This article examines in detail and gives an appreciation two magisterial books on ethnicity, nationalism, conflict and conflict management in the former Soviet areas. It compares their treatments in particular of two conflicts that both address, reviews their general conclusions, and evaluates their policy recommendations. For that purpose, this article reviews independently the situations in the five Central Asian states, falling along a continuum from "absence of conflict" to "military conflict" and, arriving at a definition of "interest," explicates an implicit cognitive-behavioral cycle: (1) an interest is grounded in historical inheritance and international custom; (2) this inheritance and custom produce knowledge in the form of an understanding and a definition of the situation in which interest may be asserted; (3) that understanding is projected into the future through that knowledge formalized as particular norms that guide action; and (4) the exercise of power motivated by those norms is the search to realize objectively and so validate those interests as constructed. The roles of ideological ("political-cultural"), economic, legal-financial, and military instruments for mitigating conflict are explicated within the systematized framework thus described. Conclusions follow of a general order, relating different degrees of conflict situations with associated modalities of intervention, and specifying those modalities in accord with diplomatic instruments as enumerated and state interests as constructed.

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  1. [Preliminary remarks]
  2. Overview
  3. Tishkov’s accomplishment
  4. Common case studies and policy recommendations
  5. Comparative synoptic analysis of Central Asian conflicts
    • Table 1. Tishkov’s prescriptions for engineering ethnic accord in post-Soviet states.
    • Table 2. Modalities of intervention and their relative priority as instruments, by degree of conflict.
    • 4.1. Absence of conflict: Turkmenistan
    • 4.2. Absence of conflict: Kyrgyzstan
    • 4.3. Conflict of interest: Uzbekistan
    • 4.4. Threat of coercion: Kazakhstan
    • Military conflict: Tajikstan
  6. Summary and conclusion
    • Table 3. Conflict situations, their degrees of conflict with associated modalities of intervention, and specification of the nature of Western instruments and interests.
Suggested citation for this webpage:

Robert M. Cutler, “Policy Options for Resolving Post-Soviet Ethnic Conflict,” Central Asian Survey 19, nos. 3–4 (September/December 2000): 451–468, available at <http://www.robertcutler.org/ar00cas.htm>, accessed 25 February 2018.

[ page 451 ]

Policy Options for Resolving Post-Soviet Ethnic Conflict

0. [Preliminary Remarks]

These two books are perhaps the most significant recent works on the origins and regulation of ethnic conflict in the post-Soviet area, yet there could not be a greater contrast between them. Valery Tishkov became director of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology in Moscow during Gorbachev’s perestroika era and is a former Minister of Nationalities in Yeltsin’s government. This work draws on his inside knowledge of major events as well as on extensive primary research and an encyclopædic knowledge of the literature. It is a brilliant tour de force that makes available to English-readers an extremely wide range of Russian-language ethno-historical and conflict-analytic work. Its length, acute criticism of dominant Western theories and analyses, and lack of a unified methodological approach will probably diminish its appreciation by Western scholars. In the opinion of this reviewer, however, the idiosyncratic combination of these characteristics, married to Tishkov’s comprehensive familiarity with the situations, is one of the work’s strengths and contributes to its acuity. It is precisely the author’s political engagement, combined with his use of personal reminiscences, interviews, notes and conversations, as well as documents from his files as Minister and institute director, which give his work its special

[ page 452 ]

qualities. When deployed by someone like Jack Matlock, these qualities are lauded.

A good review should outline the arguments of the items under review and evaluate them. With only two books under review here and with both of them of such heft and authority, the summary of their arguments will necessarily be extended. Therefore the first section of the review indicates in a more cursory manner how the books are constructed and complement one another. This section will include some details as to the basis for the conclusions of the book edited by Arbatov, Chayes, Chayes and Olson, which is below denoted the ‘ACCO’ volume. The second section of the review examines in detail the structure and argumentation of Tishkov’s monograph. It turns out that the two volumes share two case studies and that their general conclusions are mutually related. Therefore the third section of this review compares their treatment of the Ingush- Ossetian conflict and of the situation of Slavophones in Kazakhstan, and it compares also the volumes’ respective policy recommendations. The fourth section of this review evaluates those recommendations on the basis of an examination of Central Asian conflict situations in. the former Soviet area. The fifth section of the review is a summary and conclusion.

Dr. Robert M. Cutlerwebsiteemail ] was educated at MIT and The University of Michigan, where he earned a Ph.D. in Political Science, and has specialized and consulted in the international affairs of Europe, Russia, and Eurasia since the late 1970s. He has held research and teaching positions at major universities in the United States, Canada, France, Switzerland, and Russia, and contributed to leading policy reviews and academic journals as well as the print and electronic mass media in three languages.

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Text: Copyright © Taylor and Francis
First Web-published: 02 November 2006
Content last modified: 02 November 2006
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