Review: “The Politics of Ethnic Separatism in Russia and Georgia” – Julie A. George

Julie George’s “The Politics of Ethnic Separatism in Russia and Georgia” examines the factors that contributed to the decision of ethnic and regional leaders in both countries to pursue violent or non-violent strategies to achieve their political, economic, and personal goals.

On the one hand, Georgie examines the factors that contributed to the strategies pursued by Russia and Georgia in response to ethnic and regional demands. In response to Chechen political and economic demands, Russia’s leaders eschewed numerous attempts at negotiations by the Chechen leadership (especially under Aslan Maskhadov) in favor of violent repression, leading to the First and Second Chechen Wars. In contrast, when the leaders of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan made similar, if not more provocative, demands, Russia’s leaders granted the republics wide autonomy. Similarly, Georgia’s leaders attempted to violently repress South Ossetia demands, vacillated between violent suppression and negotiation in Abkhazia, but granted Adjara wide autonomy without resorting to violence.

On the other hand, George examines what factors contributed to the strategies pursued by Russia’s and Georgia’s various regional and ethnic leaders. In Russia, Chechnya, Tatarstan, and Bashkortostan’s leaders pursued high-risk strategies, while those of Dagestan and Ingushetia did not. Similarly, the leaders of South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Adjara pursued high-risk strategies, but Georgia’s Armenian, Azerbaijani, Laz, Greek, and other minorities did not.

George arrives at some highly unorthodox conclusions. She argues that regional and state capacity (i.e., the military, political, economic power of states and regions), the existence of ethnic borders, corruption and patronage connections also influenced the strategies pursued by the respective actors. Among her unorthodox and unconventional conclusions are that state-building, increased democratization, and policies to combat corruption may actually fuel ethnic conflict.

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