Minority Politics in Ethnofederal States: Cooperation, Autonomy or Secession?
Leaders of minority communities in multinational states have taken one of three positions when interacting with their central governments. They have accepted the institutional status quo; they have pressed for moderate changes, such as increased cultural and political autonomy; or they have demanded a state of their own. What explains this variation? The purpose of this paper is to develop an answer by comparing political dynamics from 1989-2003 in nine regions located within three postcommunist ethnofederations: Georgia (Southern Ossetia, Abkhazia and Adjaria), Russia (Chechnya, Dagestan and Tatarstan) and Serbia-Montenegro (Kosovo, Montenegro and Vojvodina). Two conclusions are drawn. First, while many familiar economic, cultural and historical factors fail to explain differences across country and over time, two short-term political factors seem to be influential. One is variations in international support for minority leaders and their political agenda. The other is variations in the outcome of regional struggles for power once communism and the state unravel. As a result, in postcommunist ethnofederal states, increasing political competition creates a dilemma for new states in transition to democracy. While competition at the center seems to encourage democratization, competition in the regions threatens the state.
Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies
Minority Politics; Ethnofederal States; Cooperation; Autonomy; Secession; Democracy; Regional Competition