Book Review | The Post-Soviet Wars: Rebellion, Ethnic Conflict and Nationhood in the Caucasus | Christoph Zürcher
The earliest books that came out about the Caucasus after the collapse of the Soviet Union were firsthand accounts of events. Now, a second spate of books, which attempt to apply analytical frameworks to the turbulent events that occurred have the breakup of the Soviet Union are beginning to appear. Christoph Zürcher’s The Post-Soviet Wars: Rebellion, Ethnic Conflict and Nationhood in the Caucasus, published with New York University Press, falls into this category. The book examines where wars occurred in the Caucasus (Georgia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Chechnya) and where they didn’t (Dagestan and Ajara) and places those cases studies within the context of the international quantitative literature that attempts to explain why internal wars occur.
Those who are knowledgeable about the Caucasus will find much information they have already come across. However, for those interested in international conflict who possess little regional understanding, the tersely written detail provides a good overview.
To whet your appetite for some of the details about why wars started in the Caucasus, Zürcher argues that, in Georgia, anti-Soviet rhetoric allowed for no maintenance of Soviet institutions, increasing the likelihood of conflict, since state institutions utterly collapsed as a result. Furthermore, the fallback on nationalist rhetoric, which was seen as the only way of creating a cohesive political force, then alienated both Abkhaz and Ossetians. Zürcher, perhaps controversially, also claims that Armenian politics looked very similar to Baltic politics (and different from Georgian and Chechen) in that the same type of state weakness did not exist. However, Zürcher makes the claim, which has been echoed in much of the democratization commentary about Armenia, that instead of the Baltic states’ orientation towards Europe, Armenia’s politicians unified around war in Nagorno-Karabakh, creating an anti-reform minded regime.
From a more technical standpoint, the book is a rare breed within the political science literature, as it is specifically concerned about testing existing theories about internal wars by examining a series of cases studies. In doing so the volume seeks to refine those theories. While this type of book is out of vogue because the academic nomenklatura does not perceive the endeavor as groundbreaking, it serves an important role in refining theories, something Zürcher does throughout the book.
So what does Zürcher find in relationship to the international quantitative literature? Several variables that are generally cited as determinants of internal war do not appear to hold true in the Caucasus: low economic development and mountainous terrain do not help in explaining the conflagrations in the Caucasus. Despite the Caucasus being mountainous, most conflict occurred in urban environs or in the plains. In the conflicts where mountains played a role, the guerillas (which conflict theory supposes are aided by mountains) had the mountains against them. In fact, Zürcher seeks to refine the theory about the relationship between mountains and war and suggests several plausible alternative hypotheses, part of the intellectual merit of the book. One interesting hypothesis is that mountains are a proxy for the cheap recruitment of male soldiers, since mountainous areas often have high unemployment rates and hence a male population ready to mobilize.
The volume also reinforces the idea found in the international quantitative literature that state weakness often plays an important role – perhaps much more so than underdevelopment – as does the role of one ethnic group constituting the majority of the population. This ethnicity argument is well-highlighted with Zürcher’s case study of Dagestan, where ethnicity did not play the same role as in Georgia, Armenia or Chechnya, in part because of the fact that no ethnic group had a majority.
Overall, this reviewer found the findings sound, but would have like to see more analysis of some of the interesting proxy variables discussed above. This, however, could form the basis of a new and fruitful conflict research agenda in the Caucasus.
By Zaur Shiriyev
By Yevgenya Jenny Paturyan
Think tanks are considered to be an important part of civil society: providers and keepers of expertise on important social, economic, environmental, political and other issues. Organizations like Chatham House and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace come to mind. In addition to ‘pure’ think tanks, there is a plethora of organizations that combine research with advocacy and action, Transparency International being a prominent example.
Interview by Dustin Gilbreath
By: Dustin Gilbreath
CRRC’s third annual Methodological Conference: Transformations in the South Caucasus and its Neighbourhood
Deserving to be beaten and tolerating violence: Attitudes towards violence against women in Azerbaijan
შიდა მიგრაცია საქართველოში: რა ვიცით მის შესახებ CRRC-ის კავკასიის ბარომეტრის მონაცემების საფუძვლეზე?არსებული შეფასებების თანახმად, მსოფლიო მასშტაბით შიდა მიგრანტთა რაოდენობა ბევრად აღემატება საერთაშორისო მიგრანტთა რაოდენობას. სამწუხაროდ, საქართველოში ძალიან ცოტა მონაცემი არსებობს შიდა მიგრანტების რაოდენობისა და მათი გეოგრაფიული განაწილების შესახებ. საქართველოს სტატისტიკის ეროვნული სამსახურის შინამეურნეობების ინტეგრირებული გამოკვლევები რეგულარულად აგროვებს ინფორმაციას ქვეყანაში შიდა მიგრაციის შესახებ. სახელმწიფო სერვისების განვითარების სააგენტო კოორდინაციას უწევს მოსახლეობის რეგისტრაციას საცხოვრებელი ადგილის მიხედვით.
The recent history of the South Caucasus as seen by the world’s media – Part 1, Armenia and Azerbaijan
By Till Bruckner
By Nino Zubashvili
By Dustin Gilbreath
In terms of the business findings, CRRC's Media Survey (undertaken in September/October 2009) generated extensive data that is available to help media make good business decisions. One recent presentation, summarized here, focused on showing the diversity of data that is available.
Food Safety in Georgia: views from retailers, producers and consumers in Tbilisi and Samtskhe-Javakheti
Brookings Index of Regime Weakness | State Rebuilding or State Collapse in the Caucasus | The Annals of Data
Here are some basic tips and tricks we found useful.
Book Review: Georgia Diary: A Chronicle of War and Political Chaos in the Post-Soviet Caucasus | Thomas Goltz
Visa liberalization: How much do people in Georgia know about the conditions of visa-free travel to the EU?
CRRC’s previous blog posts have shown that the population of Georgia had rather moderate expectations of the recent visa liberalization with the Schengen zone countries, especially when it comes to the question of how much ordinary people will benefit from it. Europe Foundation’s latest survey on Knowledge of and Attitudes towards the European Union in Georgia, conducted in May 2017, provides a more nuanced understanding on how people in Georgia feel about this process and to what extent they are familiar with the conditions of visa liberalization.
Visa liberalization: How much do people in Georgia know about the conditions of visa-free travel to the EU?CRRC’s previous blog posts have shown that the population of Georgia had rather moderate expectations of the recent visa liberalization with the Schengen zone countries, especially when it comes to the question of how much ordinary people will benefit from it. Europe Foundation’s latest survey on Knowledge of and Attitudes towards the European Union in Georgia, conducted in May 2017, provides a more nuanced understanding on how people in Georgia feel about this process and to what extent they are familiar with the conditions of visa liberalization.
Taking partly free voters seriously: autocratic response to voter preferences in Armenia and GeorgiaDo voters in less than democratic contexts matter or are elections simply facades used to create a veneer of democratic accountability for domestic and international actors? Within the Autocratic Response to Voter Preferences in Armenia and Georgia project, funded by Academic Swiss Caucasus Net, CRRC-Georgia and CRRC-Armenia aimed to help answer this question, at least for Georgia and Armenia. On October 27, Caucasus Survey published the results of the project in a special issue, available here.
What are young people’s values and how are these different from older generations’ values in Georgia?As Georgian society is going through social and cultural changes, it is important to understand people’s beliefs and values. Comparing the values of young people to those of the older generations is also important. This blog post summarizes the findings of a study that examined the values of young people aged 18 to 25, and analysed how these values are different from the values of older people in Georgia, based on both quantitative (World Values Survey, 2014) and qualitative data (40 in-depth interviews conducted in 2016). The study looked at values, perceptions, attitudes and tolerance towards different minority groups in Georgia. It concludes that in many cases, the younger generation shares more modern views and values, while the older generations are more inclined to support traditional values and hold conservative points of view.
During Sargsyan’s incumbency, dissatisfaction with government grew and support for protest increasedSerzh Sargsyan, formerly the President and then Prime Minister of Armenia, resigned from office on April 23rd, 2018, following 11 days of peaceful protest. Over the past 10 years, which coincide with Sargsyan’s time in office, Armenians were increasingly dissatisfied with their government. At the same time, the country witnessed growing civic engagement, with “youth-driven, social media-powered, issue-specific civic activism,” referred to as “civic initiatives”. CRRC’s Caucasus Barometer data from 2008 to 2017 reflect both these trends.
In the December 2017 CRRC/NDI survey, pollution was the second most commonly named “infrastructural” issue, with 23% of the population choosing it in the respective show card. Only roads were named more often, by 33%. Approximately equal shares of men and women named pollution: 25% of women and 20% of men; similarly, there was no difference in the frequency of naming this issue by age.
The Caucasus Barometer survey regularly asks people, “Which of the following statements do you agree with: “‘People are like children; the government should take care of them like a parent’ or ‘Government is like an employee; the people should be the bosses who control the government.’” Approximately half of the population of Georgia (52%) agreed in 2017 with the former statement and 40% with the latter. Responses to this question have fluctuated to some extent over time, but overall, attitudes are nearly equally split.