Emil Souleimanov’s “Understanding Ethnopolitical Conflict: Karabakh, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia Wars Reconsidered” offers an excellent theoretical and methodological analysis of the ethnic conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia. Souleimanov ‘tests’ the efficacy of the major on-set and in-process theories of the origins of ethnic conflicts and civil wars, including the role of elites, natural resources, social inequality, external support, opportunity and power asymmetry, geography, etc., by examining their applicability to the conflicts in the South Caucasus. As such, the author examines the conflicts in the South Caucasus from an array of different angles: historically, geographically, psychologically, sociologically, economically, politically, etc. I found this quite impressive, given most authors’ almost singular focus on either the historical or legal aspects of the South Caucasian conflicts.
Although primarily a theoretical work, the book offers an impressive merger of both theoretical and empiricist approaches, something not often found in books about the conflicts in the South Caucasus. Nevertheless, the book is much stronger theoretically than empirically, as I found the author’s historical analysis rather weak, albeit far from the worst I’ve ever read (that distinction belongs to Heiko Kruger and Kamal Makili-Aliyev!).