Southeast European Politics Online
                    Volume IV, Number 2-3, November 2003


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Dedijer, Vladimir. The Yugoslav Auschwitz and the Vatican. Amherst: Prometheus Books, 1992. 444 pp. ISBN 0-87975-752-3 (hardcover)


Righting past wrongs, in particular achieving justice and retribution for crime against humanity committed in wartime, has proved to be an important component of the peace building and reconciliation process in the Balkans. All too often have we seen that atrocities committed in the bloody wars which have accompanied the dissolution of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia were justified by atrocities committed during Second World War. While it is up to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and, it is hoped, the national judiciaries, to carry out the arduous task of punishing the perpetrators of the latest Balkan bloodbath, thus at least attempting to bring retribution to the victims, the task of shedding objective light on the crimes committed during the Second World War, be they in the name of God, the king, the homeland or the people, rests largely with scholars and their research.

The war crimes committed by the Ustasha regime in Croatia during the Second World War have seldom been the topic of serious research which is in line with the academic standards of the present day. [1] Although the nature of this regime is known and undisputable, at least in serious scholarship, the public perception of it has recently been largely influenced by much nationalist discourse and mythology which have evolved both on the side of the perpetrators as well as the victims – and their descendents. One such point of contention, for instance, has been the number of victims of the Jasenovac concentration camp which former Croatian president had reduced ad absurdum, while others, usually the followers of Milosevic’s expansionist policy in the Balkans, had inflated to equally unrealistic proportions.

The dire need for reliable publications on the topic of the Ustasha regime during the Second World War has, unfortunately, not been filled by Vladimir Dedijer’s The Yugoslav Auschwitz and the Vatican. The book is generally useless. Of its reliability perhaps best speaks the screaming typo on the cover on which the word “Croatian” has been misspelt both in the original edition and in this reprint by Prometheus books.

The volume is divided into five, to a large extent incoherent, sections in which the author attempts to prove the existence of a Vatican conspiracy against Orthodox Serbs in Croatia which was effected through the policies and actions of the Ustasha regime. The first section describes the nature of the relations between the Vatican and the Ustasha regime. Starting from the sixth century, but focusing on the period form the 19th century on, Dedijer goes at great length to prove the “anti-Slav, pro-Austrian policy of the Vatican” during the Austro-Hungarian Empire and on the eve of the Second World War. In the second section, the author describes a number of instances of massacres committed by the Ustasha against the Serbian population. He then continues by presenting a series of documents giving evidence of the atrocities committed in the Jasenovac concentration camp. The fourth section attempts to establish a link between the Pope Pious XII and the massacres. Finally, the author presents his claims of the continued efforts of the Vatican to preserve the Ustasha regime and the relations with the Ustasha officials even after the fall of the fascist regime at the conclusion of the Second World War. The volume is introduced by a note on the historical background to the Yugoslav crisis of the 1990s written by Mihajlo Markovic, member of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts and four editor’s prefaces contributed by Gottfried Niemietz. Although the five essays contain much more analysis than can be found in the remaining 400 pages of the books, they largely serve as political pamphlets bordering on chauvinism at times.

The book is in fact a compilation of documents produced by the National Commission for Determining Crimes of the Occupiers and their Helpers (sic!) which in the aftermath of the war investigated the Ustasha war crimes. It is, moreover, based on Dedijer’s personal experiences and investigations, as well as other sources, such as archives of the various armies. Presented in a cut-and-paste fashion, the documents are listed one after the next without any in-depth analysis. They are, however, prefaced by the author resorting to editorializing and inflammatory language. To substantiate his claims, Dedijer offers little more than repetitiveness and circular arguments. The book is furthermore, characterized by exaggeration and name throwing. Overall, Dedijer’s writing style is extremely poor which makes the reading quite cumbersome. This is further exacerbated by poor translations, countless typos and misspelt names which occur with annoying frequency.

Probably the only value of the book lies in the documents it reprints. Although the majority of them were produced by the Yugoslav Communist authorities, and as such should be carefully examined as potential sources, they offer strong evidence of the Ustasha war crimes. The rest of the book, authored by Dedijer, is of little value. Thus in the book, the author vents his anti-Roma prejudice which abounds in those sections in which he talks about the alleged Roma involvement in the Ustasha crimes, significantly downplaying the fact that Roma themselves have remained the invisible victims of the Holocaust. The figures cited in the book are also unreliable. The number of victims of Jasenovac, for instance, switches from 200,000 to 750,000 only a dozen pages apart.

In sum, Dedijer’s The Yugoslav Auschwitz and the Vatican makes no significant contribution to the body of knowledge on the crimes committed by the Ustasha regime in Croatia and reading it is a waste of time.



Minority Rights Group International,  


Peter Radan, The Break-up of Yugoslavia in International Law. London and New York: Routledge, 2002. 278 pp., 70 GBP, ISBN 0 415 25352 7 (hardcover)


Although most of the tragic events that form the background to this book occurred almost a decade ago, this is nevertheless a timely and important study. The focus - the break-up of Yugoslavia, in 1991-92 - is arguably the most significant occurrence in international legal terms with regard to statehood in Europe for over half a century. And Dr Radan’s book is the first thoroughgoing international legal analysis of it to be published in English. But it would be wrong to consider this as a book ‘about’ Yugoslavia. Whilst there is clearly considerable knowledge, and empathy, concerning this troubled region, the author’s focus is squarely the issue of the public international law that was involved in these human events.

Dr Radan’s study takes as its point of departure the principle of self-determination of peoples. He offers a general overview of the development of this principle, in legal terms, and posits that the crux of the debate surrounding its precise and much contested reach is over the meaning of the word ‘people’. Accordingly, he offers a more detailed consideration of this meaning - and enters the well trodden maze of the debate as to whether a people is something that may only be defined territorially, or whether it can be equated to something less concrete, in the author’s terms, a ‘nation’. His conclusion is that “a people does include a nation within its scope”, which therefore leads to the assertion that “secession from an internationally recognised state pursuant to the right of self-determination of peoples is clearly possible” (67).

Whilst the account offered regarding the meaning of ‘people’ is comprehensive, it finds its place within a whole range of such accounts, and of which there is really no broad consensus conclusion on this point. And yet this is the cornerstone of the book’s thesis. It leads to a detailed, and much welcomed, survey of the principle of uti possidetis juris - the principle that requires that former colonial boundaries must subsist during the decolonisation process. This two-chapter survey of the principle is the most comprehensive and thorough known to this reviewer - not surprising given that it was a principle confined to the decolonisation context until it was revived, not least by the Badinter Commission, in the context of the Yugoslav break-up, where it was applied to the internal republics’ borders upon the international recognition of the secession of four of those republics during 1991-92. With this in mind, Dr Radan offers an account of the emergence and development of the various borders within ‘Yugoslavia’, which resulted in those in existence in the SFRY at the point these secessions took place, before going into detail as to the emergence of the international community’s response to these secessions.

Dr Radan’s thesis requires that he view the various claimed secessions - those of the four republics that were ultimately recognised by the international community, but equally those of “the Republic of Serb Krajina, the Serb Republic, the Republic of Western Bosnia, and Kosovo”. And in so doing, he concludes that the recognitions of the secessions of the four republics were based upon “the application of the right of peoples to self-determination” as a legal right (202-203). But those recognitions were based in large part upon the reasoning of the Badinter Commission - not least its conclusions the SFRY was “in the process of dissolution” (205), and that the principle of uti possidetis applied to the internal republic borders. It is to these findings that Dr Radan then directs his analysis - and his criticism. Despite an en passant observation that the international community’s decision to treat the SFRY as in a process of dissolution was a political one (206, n. 9), he correctly scrutinises the Badinter Commission’s decisions as entirely legal ones. His analysis of these two key decisions of the Commission relies on domestic and international law, and concludes that they were both flawed applications of the existing international law. He asserts that the SFRY was not in a process of dissolution, but rather that parts of the existing state seceded, or attempted to secede. And, secondly, both following on from this and independently of it, that the transmission of the internal republic borders into international borders, through the application of the principle of uti possidetis, was incorrect.

In drawing his conclusions, Dr Radan restates the limits of his scope - a consideration of “the break-up of former Yugoslavia from an international law perspective”, with a primary focus on the “the interplay of two rules of international law aimed at resolving the question of international borders of new states”, the rule of self-determination and uti possidetis (244). The author asserts that the principle of self-determination applies to nations, and that the application of the principle of uti possidetis in the Yugoslav context was “misguided and flawed” (246). The result being that the restriction of the legitimate secessions to the republics, as territorial entities, actually violated the right of the various peoples of the former Yugoslavia to self-determination. Whilst there is considerable support for the criticism of the Badinter Commission’s application of international law, the conclusions drawing from it rely almost exclusively on Dr Radan’s at least questionable determination that self-determination is applicable to nations.

This arguably narrow focus is the books ultimate weakens, and frustration. The focus is narrow in two quite distinct, but related respects. First, it is limited simply to the application of those principles of international law to the break-up of Yugoslavia, which fails to acknowledge that the same international law principles were being used to deal with comparable, albeit distinct, events elsewhere in the world, at the same time as the events in Yugoslavia - most obviously, in Somalia, which was also a situation of state failure, with distinct internal units claiming self-determination and secession, or the break-up of the USSR, which the author merely refers to as also ongoing at the time. Second, it is limited - as many other analyses of the principle of self-determination are – in that it views the principle in a narrow, doctrinaire manner, which fails to take account of both the wider contextual (international legal-) reality – specifically, the laws as to statehood and recognition.

Having laid harsh criticism at the feet of Dr Radan from an international law perspective, I would nevertheless assert that his study offers considerable insight, for the first time, into the detail of the international law applied in this tragic context, and also offers some observations as to the possible nature of the impact these undoubtedly had. This book is a very useful addition to the legal literature on the break-up of Yugoslavia, and makes some precise contributions to the literature of international law regarding the principle of self-determination.


Civic Education Project, Budapest


Alain-G. Gagnon and James Tully (eds), Multinational Democracies, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. xvi+411 pp., 25 USD, ISBN 0 521 80473 6 (paperback) 70 USD, ISBN 0 521 80029 3 (hardback)


The aim of this collection of essays is to present the “first collaborative, multi-perspective and critical survey of a new and distinctive type of political association that is coming into prominence at the dawn of the twenty-first century- multinational democracy.” (p.1) Having discussed a plethora of issues concerning the rights of cultural/national minorities in multiethnic states throughout the 1990’s the attention of political theorists involved in the field of multiculturalism seems to have shifted towards the problem of stability and justice in multinational countries. Multinational democracy is defined in this book as a type of ‘constitutional democracy thatcontains two or more nations or peoples.’ (p.3) Opposite to multiethnic societies with diverse ethnonational groups living together with no claims to sovereignty or separate statehood, multinational democracies are comprised of a number of ethnic groups that act as nations, politically mobilized and seeking differentiated political status within a (con) federation, or secession even. Are multinational democracies stable and just societies is the question to which the authors of the book search an answer to.

Without exception the only case studies discussed here are the practices of Canada, Belgium, Spain, and the UK. The book is divided up in three parts After a longer introduction written by James Tully, part I consists of four articles written by Michael Keating, Dominique Ariel, Wayne Norman, and Ferran Requejo. Part I examinesphilosophical and normative foundations of the idea of multinational democracy. Part II consists of six articles written by Dimitros Karmis and Alain-G. Gagnon, Francois Rocher and Christian Rouillard and Andre Lecours, Luis Moreno, Shane O’Neill, Pierre Coulombe, and Michael Burgess. Part II discusses some of the reasons for the struggles for recognition of different identities drawing various examples from different countries. Part III is composed of another four articles written by Alan Patten, David Miller, Alain-G. Gagnon, and Richard Simeon and Daniel-Patrick Conway and looks at the institutional arrangements that are claimed to insure political stability in ethnically mixed societies.

In the introductory chapter, Tully, avoids summarizing the chapters that follow. Rather, he outlines the basic assumptions of justice and stability in multinational countries. In multinational federations not only the individual citizens should be free, but also the constituent federal members. According to Tully, multinational democracy is free and legitimate when “its constitution treats the constituent nations as peoples with the rights of self- determination in some appropriate constitutional form, such as the right to initiate constitutional change.” (p.33) In the next, chapter, Keating draws up a historical and comparative review of existing multinational democracies, the UK, Spain, Belgium and Canada, and the ways they have managed multinational politics. Dwelling upon the usages of terminology such as civic versus ethnic nationalism and multiple national identities he concludes that the normative argument that only nation states can guarantee equal rights, is undermined by the new spaces of democratic discourse corresponding to multiple levels of functional government. In the second chapter Arel asks if multinational states can be stable in the long run. He argues that in assessing the prospects for political stability, it is more fruitful to look at “psychological factors, namely, the social status of cultural groups, whether they are trends indicating a change in groups’ perceptions of themselves and the other, and the likely political implications of these changes.” (p.67-8) This psychology factor is much influenced by economic power, and can be influenced by political arrangements which in different circumstances of group relations can yield different results. Yet Arel concludes that multinational states can be stable when “a national group which perceives itself a minority and fears for its cultural survival is successful in reversing assimilatory trends and develops a sense of cultural security.” (p.89) Norman in the third chapter working deeply entrenched in the field of normative political inquiry examines the way arguments from justice and about stability are used or ought to be used in the public justification of major constitutional and other institutional provisions. Analyzing Canada-Quebec relations Norman concludes that “when considerations of identity, justice and stability are all given equal footing in the public deliberations of constitutional negotiations there should be a greater chance of funding acceptable solutions for all parties.” (p.108) Requejo deals with the legitimacy and sustainability of asymmetrical federal arrangements in multinational societies. He looks at the Spanish example and finds deficiencies which could me improved via reforms aimed at establishing a better balance between the decentralization of the state and the accommodation of its multinationality. In chapter 5 Karmis and Gagnon comparatively examine Canada and Belgium to explain how although they engaged in different policies, universalism and particularism, i.e., pan- Canadianism and linguistic cloisonnement both failed to provide for long- lasting solutions. Rocher, Rouillard and Lecours analyse political reforms in Belgium, Spain and Canada in relation to the horizontal and vertical cleavages in terms of identities and shared spaces. Not surprisingly, these authors conclude that in Spain there is a hierarchy of identities, representing the middle ground between Belgium’s national identity being in the process of eradication, and the Canadian identities being increasingly conflictual. Moreno in chapter 7 follows with an analysis of the Spanish case and the effects of the dual identity on the political stability of the country. O’ Neill presents normative arguments for achieving justice and stability in Northern Ireland claiming that shared sovereignty and full bi-nationalism as just liberal egalitarian solutions are not fully present in the ‘Good Friday Agreement’ of 1998 because they do not put an end to the hierarchical relations between the two communities. One particular aspect of federal arrangements in multinational setting, language rights, is the theme of discussion of Coulombe, in chapter 9. Spain and Canada are the two case studies the author dwells upon. In chapter 10 Burgess looking closely at the Canada- Quebec relations makes conceptual distinction between uninational and multinational federalism. In particular Burgess looks into five dimensions of the troubled relationship, language politics, the issue of Quebec as a ‘distinct society’, asymmetrical federalism, the structural process of constitutional reform, and centre- periphery relations. His conclusion, again not too surprising is that there are two competing national projects and visions in Ottawa and Montréal. In a very illuminating and thought provoking essay Patten makes a case for a right to equal recognition of identity in the public sphere within a liberal notion of citizenship, thereby augmenting a theory of multinational identity fir for multinational states. Miller in chapter 12 discusses arguments pro and con self- determination, and proposes three categories of social division as analytical tools for the debate. His discussion of the Scottish nested identities in the UK is illuminated with various historical examples. One of the editors of the book, Alain Gagnon, in the 13th chapter is concerned with the issue of justice in multinational societies. Gagnon discusses the positions developed within comparative politics and political theory and warns against some of the shortcomings in both fields. Of special interest to him are assymetrical federal arrangements, and those in Canada in particular. Simeon and Conway in the last chapter provide a tentative answer to the question of the effectiveness of federalism in managing ethnic conflicts. They argue that federalism alone is not enough to avoid conflict.

How effective federal arrangements in multinational democracies are in reducing tensions is indeed a difficult question to answer. This book has attempted to point out that to the question what institutional arrangements are most appropriate for a multinational society, the most appropriate answer is multinational federalism. On the one hand, federalism grants the national minorities the right to autonomy to manage their affairs. Greater political and cultural autonomy can bring about security in the identity of the national minorities. However, on the other hand, the regional self-determination of nations comprising the federation might lead to even greater demands for power by the regional elites, and to popular alienation from the other parts of the country. The articles in this book rightly point out that federalist solutions for multinational states are not conclusive because they might create friction and problems between the nations in the federation. Many of the problems in multinational democracies discussed in the book have been prevalent in the debates of the 1980’s in former Yugoslavia. Many are probably going to be tackled by the institutionally rapidly developing European Union. The problems are of political nature and simple solutions are impossible to find. Unlike the core constitutional arrangements which, pace Gagnon, liberals cannot accept being questionable because they are exactly those basic societal principles based on justice, political arrangements between different regions, states, or nations are just to the extent that they justly reflect the preferences of the parties involved in the negotiations. Political boundaries are best drawn when they reflect the preferences of the citizens within. Regions which have cultural cohesiveness within multinational federations and will to arrange their lives according to given set of principles are right to demand related or specific federal arrangements. If a variety of political arrangements are just, then multinational federations cannot be inherently stable as the opportunity that one member of the federation demands different political arrangements, secession even, if the right conditions are provided, will always be present. Which brings into light once again the question of the right to secession, or national self- determination. Another important side effect of this book is that discreetly illuminates the needs of the communities that are present within multinational federations and were rarely talked about when discussing federal arrangements. Even the basic interests and liberal rights of the aborigines, the immigrants in Western Europe, (like the guest workers in Germany, or Belgium for example) or the asylum seekers are not preserved. These are the peoples and the questions which also deserve the attention of political theorists and scientists. Overall, Gagnon and Tully, present an inspiring collection of essays which will be useful to political theorists and those students of comparative politics which have vast interest in the countries discussed in this volume.



Central European University


Mark Mazower, Balkans: A Short History. New York: Modern Library, 2000. 188 pp, USD 19.95 . ISBN 0-679-64087-8 (hardcover edition).

Many books have been written about this part of the world, but Mark Mazower’s “The Balkans: A Short History” is a welcome addition, bringing conciseness and brevity without losing sight of the essentials in the history of the region. One of the main merits of the book, besides its great readability, is the acumen of the author’s enterprise who presents the Balkans as a constructed entity, in the same vein in which Maria Todorova wrote her “Imagining the Balkans” [1]. Mazower carefully outlines the origins and the evolution of the idea of Balkans, starting with 19th century travelers’ accounts and continuing through the interwar period, when “novelists and film directors turned the region into a stage set for exotic thrillers of corruption, quick killing and easy crime” (xxix). Explicitly and implicitly, Mazower rejects the “ancient hatred” thesis (conflicts of today stem out of historic, deep-seated tensions) and demonstrates how the mystic aura that the Balkans seems to possess for the Western eye emerges out of an “Orientalist” attitude towards this part of Europe.            

The first part of the book, “Names”, deals with how the Balkans came about as a concept, and how the attitudes toward the region have been shaped by “sweeping narratives” out of European development. I found this part remarkable for the demystification process that sets the tone for the rest of the book. Shedding away the preconceptions that Europeans projected on the Balkans, this borderland region, of Europe but not in Europe, Mazower sets himself the task to take a “fresh look at the Balkans, without seeing them refracted through the prism of ‘the Balkans’ we have lived with for so long” (xxx).

Once he removes the stereotypical representations traditionally associated with the Balkans, Mazower proceeds systematically to initiate us to the secrets of a region observed through a focus on the national question. An introduction of the Balkan geography and demography (here I found the presence of maps a very useful tool), the chapter on the “Land and its inhabitants” presents an overview of the major processes that shaped the livelihoods of the people south of the Balkan mountain range. For the longest part, peasants have leaded a peaceful existence on this land that was not the most fertile but which allowed them the daily nourishment. Geography influenced the patterns of people distribution and eventually determined the occupation of the inhabitants, typically divided into mountain people (shepherds) and valley people (farmers).

The turning point for this largely peasant society, with the village as “the main political, administrative, fiscal and military unit” (33) at its center, was the 19th century. At this point a strong urbanization process left few peasants on the fields or pastures and produced a crisis in resource scarcity, overpopulation and large scale social inequality.  The independence brought more trouble for the rural population. The Ottoman Empire interfered less with the life of peasants than the new national entities whose aim was to control all activities happening on their territory. The peasants were largely marginalized, because they could not organize politically. The land reforms of the 1920s did not improve the situation; poverty drove out large numbers of Balkan people in a great wave of emigration.

The peasant society was not divided along ethnic lines. For the longest period under the rule of the Sultans, the Balkan society was largely indifferent to nationalism or ethnicity. The main differentiation occurred along religious lines, with the contrast between Islam and Christian Orthodoxy at the center; linguistic differences were brushed aside. Religion was the most salient marker of identity for Porte’s subjects, because it interfered most with their everyday life – especially in matters of taxation and climbing on the administration ladder (Christians had to pay higher taxes and were generally considered second-class citizens). The Turkish language was not the main language except in cities, Slavic remained predominantly the spoken language of the people. And even the religious divide was not as clean-cut as some define it. There was an intermingled of faiths: the Islamic courts were available to Christians, interfaith marriages were not uncommon. Mazower also cites the story of a Western traveler to the region who was surprised to find out that in some villages Christians went to the mosque and some Muslims associated themselves with the Virgin Mary (59).

This lack of nationalist fervor was an obstacle for the intellectuals of the late 19th century, aiming to eliminate the Ottoman presence and to establish modern nation-states in place of the traditional communities of the Balkans. In fact, Mazower presents the nationalist movements as weak, winning not because of their own strength but more because of the malfunctions in the Ottoman administration. Nothing heroic about the crafting of the new states, whose identity was still ill-defined as late as early 20th century (especially in the case of Macedonia).

Since the book wants to demolish the myths of the permanent struggles pushing the Balkan people one against another, a final chapter is dedicated to the exploration of violence in the region. In the same vein as his previous arguments, Mazower points out to the lack of Balkan exceptionalism in terms of frequency or intensity of violent incidents – “life in the Balkans was no more violent than elsewhere” (147). Like in the case of nationalism, a lot of “invention of tradition” to quote a Hobsbawn title [2], took place during the Cold War period, when the local historiography had to support the home-made version of national-communism. Thus, the glorification of the military past of the chosen people took primacy in face of historical accuracy, with the support of artists and intellectuals. The conflicts that shattered Yugoslavia in the 1990s cannot be blamed on any historical propensity of the Balkan people at killing each other. Talking about this supposed bloodthirstiness does nothing but perpetuate a myth.

Mazower does a very good job at writing in an intelligible style. The main critique I found for his book is perhaps an over-reliance on 19th century Western travelers’ sources. Even though these accounts are very useful in showing the origins of the perceptions of the Balkans as a theater of operations for the primordial forces of ethnic conflict, they also make the author susceptible of bias.

Mark Mazower wrote an excellent opus that makes the history of the Balkans accessible in a nutshell to the specialist as well as to the general public. Mazower demonstrates that high academic standards are compatible to a clear writing style – his prose is very fluid, scattered with examples and easy to follow. His demystification task comes at a timely moment, when the mental construct ‘the Balkans’ seems to obliterate the reality on the ground. Perhaps it would be a useful volume to put on the nightstand of any decision maker working in the Balkans.

University of Maryland, College Park


Beissinger Mark R, Nationalist Mobilization and the Collapse of the Soviet State.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. 503 pages. ISBN 0 521 00148 X (paperback).


At nearly 500 pages of solid text, Mark R. Beissinger’s Nationalist Mobilization and the Collapse of the Soviet State is a densely-packed empirical study examining the impact of nationalist mobilization in transforming the seemingly impossible – i.e. the dissolution of the Soviet Union – into a near certainty by late 1991. 

The book forwards Beissinger’s central thesis which claims that the systematic study of events during ‘thickened’ periods of history – i.e. times “in which the pace of challenging events quickens to the point that it becomes practically impossible to comprehend them and they come to constitute an increasingly significant part of their own causal structure” (p.27) - is critical to the explanation of nationalism.  According to the author, this is because the contention implicit in the nationalist event is often constitutive of identities during overt phases of nationalist mobilization.  In the Soviet case, the author finds that the ‘tidal’ nature of nationalist contention during these ‘thickened’ periods of history was critical in transforming the structural constraints traditionally imposed upon nationalist movements and opening up new spaces for the re-creation or re-assertion of identities.

The shear magnitude of the research that went into producing this book - it took Beissinger ten years to complete his research - is staggering.  During the course of his studies, Beissinger analyzed 6,663 protest demonstrations and 2,177 mass-violent events that occurred in the final 6 years of the USSR’s existence; categorizing these events across 23 variable categories to sort them out in terms of frequency, intensity, issues, location, etc.  For data-collection purposes, the author largely relied on some 150 English and Russian-language press-sources - including 60 publications in their entire press-runs from 1987 to 1992.  

Interested readers should be forewarned however, for this is not an easy read.  While Beissinger displays a remarkable ability to synthesize complex data and present comprehensive and tight analytical summaries of his research, the majority of the text addresses analysis of the empirical data which the non-expert reader – or those academics that rely less on social-scientific methodologies of analysis - may find dry and completely alienating at times.

Although, the numbers alone are impressive, more relevant to this journal is the import of Beissinger’s findings and methodology to the study of Southeastern Europe.  Fortunately, Beissinger’s work offers intriguing frames which may yield interesting analytical tools for social and political scientists seeking to explore the most recent tides of nationalist violence triggered by the destruction of the Yugoslav state (as well as previous episodes of nationalist mobilization and contestation in the Balkan region).  

Nationalist Mobilization is divided into nine chapters, which deal in turn with: a detailed elaboration of Beissinger’s thesis; an explanation of the ‘tidal’ nature of nationalism; a discussion of the structural influences that enable or impede nationalist mobilization; the dynamics of ‘thickened’ history (and the mobilization of identity during these periods); explanations for the failure of certain nationalisms to mobilize during such tides; the conditions under which violence manifests itself during nationalist tides; the transcendence of regimes of repression; Russian mobilization and the accumulating ‘inevitability’ of Soviet collapse; as well as a concluding chapter on the relationship between the nation and the event.

After an important introductory chapter in which Beissinger introduces his thesis, his methodology and engages in an eloquent discussion of the collapse of the Soviet state, the author launches into an exposition concerning the ‘tidal’ nature of nationalism in his second chapter.  Beissinger uses the term tide “to refer to multiple waves of nationalist mobilization whose content and outcome influence each other” (p.27).  Beissinger notes that his usage is similar to Timur Kuran’s use of the term ‘reputational cascades’ which describe the interdependencies that define ethnic behavior in multicultural environments.  To the extent that nationalist mobilizations constitute a form of contentious politics, the success of one act of contention increases the likelihood that such contention will be diffused to others and that previous structural constraints will be loosened. 

Along these lines, Beissinger notes how nationalist discourses challenging the Soviet state were diffused transnationally within the USSR – i.e. between the Union’s diverse nationalities – and even beyond its borders to other parts of eastern and southeastern Europe.  These frames of contention where found to be salient not only among subordinate nationalities within the Soviet state, but also among Russians (i.e. the state's dominant nationality). Key structural variables that were found to be positively correlated to the extent and success of nationalist mobilization included: population size, union republic status, prior state independence or conflict with the state, and the level of urbanization.  Variables negatively correlated to the success of nationalist mobilization included: the degree of linguistic assimilation and the predominance of traditional Islamic culture in a republic.

More interestingly, it was found that groups with “less robust facilitating structures” were able to benefit from the tidal effects created by early risers during tides of nationalist mobilization.  This signified that even groups with structural disadvantages could produce successful nationalist movements if the weakening of institutional constraints was sufficient to permit the expression of alternate discourses.  Such ‘tidal’ effects where definitely in place for less advantaged nationalities within the Yugoslav space during the early-1990s such as the Bosniacs and Macedonians and for Albanians and Montenegrins during the late 1990s.

Beissinger’s most interesting chapter, however, is the one dealing with nationalist violence.  Not only is Beissinger’s discussion of the existing literature on the topic interesting, but his exploration of the socio-psychological dimensions of nationalist violence and the logic animating conflicts in the post-communist space is positively compelling reading.  Interestingly, Beissinger finds that violence is part-and-parcel of larger tides of nationalist mobilization and contestation in which physical confrontation is a (particularly brutal) phase within a larger cycle of mobilization. 

For Beissinger, the inability to contest inter-republican boundaries other than by violent means was the greatest catalyst for the explosion of nationalist bloodshed in the Soviet space (creating a situation that favored entrepreneurs of ethnic violence).  However, it was also found that the degree of state support for violent contention was even more “central in prolonging violent mobilization beyond its initial outbreak and giving rise to sustained violent conflict.”  Beissinger borrows from Fanon in suggesting that, “violent action radically alters social reality and thereby powerfully constitutes a central element in its own causal structure.”  Violence must therefore be understood as part of a larger process of nationalist contestation, as is amply illustrated by successive waves of nationalist mobilization in the Balkans.

After reading Beissinger’s book, a researcher of Balkan history will be left with a desire to explore the southeastern European space using Beissinger’s methodology.  A tidal approach to nationalism highlights the interconnected nature of claims to identity among regionally intertwined peoples, ethno-linguistic groups, and religious communities.  By undertaking a comparative study of nationalist mobilization - through the empirical examination of mass-nationalist events - Beissinger was able to highlight a dynamic that is often obscured by researchers focusing on a single nationalism, or opposing nationalist dyads.  Instead, Beissinger has helped elucidate the complex interdependencies that underline periods of nationalist contestation.  This book demands comparative studies to be drawn with other regions of the world in order to highlight to what extent Beissinger’s findings can be universalized. Southeastern Europe’s post-communist dynamics make it an ideal place to begin such a project.



University of Toronto


Heather Rae, State Identities and the Homogenisation of Peoples Cambridge University Press, August 2002. ISBN: 0 521 79708 X (paperback) Price: £17.95/$24.00 ISBN: 0 521 79284 (hardcover) Price: £47.50/$65.00


Before the advent of neo-conservative utopianism, conservatives tended to see ethnic civil wars in distant places like Central Africa or the Balkans as a historical necessity; such processes were indispensable for the formation of genuine nation states and, though certainly distasteful, best left to run their course. The forced ‘unmixing’ of ethnic diversity, on this view, strengthened the building blocks on which a stable international system rested – bounded political communities with a clearly defined, more or less exclusive identity. This attitude, whose cynicism made it inherently attractive to great power policymakers throughout the twentieth century, received in the course of the 1990s the academic respectability required for it to be openly embraced by those who had believed in it all along – embraced, that is, until it casually developed the very same utopian activism it had earlier countered so effectively. Subsequent proposals by certain academics to dispatch U.S. troops to separate ‘warring populations’ by detaining them in ‘transit camps’ met with rather less enthusiasm in Western capitals, and for good reason.

Stripped of its cynicism and normative implications, however, the earlier conservative attitude contained a kernel of truth: processes of engineered ethnic unmixing have indeed been an enduring feature of state formation, East and West, and may therefore easily be construed as inevitable. In fact, as Heather Rae argues in her State Identities and the Homogenisation of People, ‘pathological homogenisation’ has occurred in Europe before the advent of ethnic nationalism, as her case studies of Jews and Arabs in Spain and the Huguenots in absolutist France make clear. It takes a good deal of dispassionate sophistication to explore these matters, which is precisely what Rae brings to the debate in this masterful comparative study.

State Identities and the Homogenisation of Peoples suggests not only that the engineered, violent unmixing of diverse populations is a process that has frequently accompanied the formation of modern nation states, but also that such processes are the result of complex choices and developments that involve collective and individual actors and are therefore contingent in their specific manifestations. The first aspect has received increasing scholarly attention over the last few years, for example with Norman Naimark’s Fires of Hatred. But for too long, scholars of international relations in particular have tended to neglect the actual processes, domestic and international, that constitute states and shape their identities, that is, the multiple ways in which the surface appearance of ‘historical inevitability’ is composed of policy choices, social developments, inter-state competition, and similar factors. It is by relating this second aspect to a macro-view of historical development – a gesture very much reminiscent of seminal works in historical sociology – that Rae achieves the true merit of this volume.

Rae contrasts the ‘social identity’ of states – their position within an international system of sovereign nation states – with their ‘corporate identity,’ that is, their internal makeup, which allows her to keep the two dimensions analytically distinct while exploring their systemic interconnectedness. For example, in post-Yugoslav Macedonia, one of two cases Rae uses to discuss the specific conditions that may prevent ‘pathological homogenisation,’ the social identity of the newly independent state – its wish to integrate into European and transatlantic structures, both formal and informal – helped thwart the realization of an unmixing option that was very much present as part of Macedonia’s internal identity. For that reason, Macedonia’s adherence to the values of a pluralist and multiethnic society remains fragile despite its strong dependence on an international context that militates against drastic ‘solutions’ of demographic engineering, since the political basis for an open society itself is fragile.

The case of Macedonia demonstrates that the occurrence or absence of engineered unmixing cannot be plausibly explained by recourse to only one set of factors, domestic or international. Rather, one must, as this book does, “trace the relationship between state-building and the strategies of ‘pathological homogenisation’ used by elites to construct the bounded political community of the state as an exclusive moral community from which outsiders must be expelled, and show how this process is intimately bound up with the development of the international system of states.” State Identities and the Homogenisation of Peoples achieves this through a number of case studies that highlight the pre-modern, pre-nationalist character of homogenisation and outline the various ways in which the process unfolds, also providing hints at the sort of international regime that may help prevent it (as happened in Macedonia and Czechoslovakia). In addition to Spain and France, the genocidal campaigns in the crumbling Ottoman Empire and the disintegrating Yugoslavia are discussed in some detail.

Where Rae departs from traditional international relations scholarship is in her attention to actual processes of state formation; she also diverges from traditional theories of state formation by discussing both the cultural and normative aspects in which these processes are entangled as well as the international environment in which they unfold. At the same time, State Identities and the Homogenisation of Peoples is also a work of old-fashioned international relations theory in the liberal mould, which tempts Rae into the occasional unnecessary editorialising. Nowhere is this more evident than in the gratuitous use of a rhetoric of the pathological. There are no grounds other than ideology – certainly none evident from her book – that justify the classification of unmixing processes as ‘pathological,’ yet this word is used with distressing routine and without the analysis it surely deserves. While we may (or may not) all agree that ‘ethnic cleansing’ is an undesirable and treacherous answer to the challenge of state-building in diverse societies, its condemnation needs justification as much as its enduring appeal needs explanation. Rae’s important book provides ample amounts of the latter but too little of the former. We may soon see whether utopian conservatism can fuse with the old-fashioned kind to produce yet another ‘solution’ to diversity that involves separating ethnic groups in the name of self-determination and stability. Rae’s book is unlikely to inspire any hope that such dubious policies are a thing of the past.



New School for Social Research, New York


Enver Hasani, Self-Determination, Territorial Integrity and International Stability: The Case of Yugoslavia. National Defence Academy, Institute for Peace Support and Conflict Management Vienna in co-operation with: PfP-Consortium of Defence Academies and Security Studies Institutes, Vienna and Prishtina, February 2003. 372 pp. ISBN: 3-901328-81-5.


Mr. Enver Hasani’s book is a deep, serious, and excellent collection of the fundamental principles of Self-Determination and of the concept of International Stability. Once treated in details the content and the function of the Uti Possidetis Principle, the author presents the developments in the post-Cold War paradigm, focusing in the phenomenon of the Territorial and Ethnic Self-Determination. As the author put it: “The purpose…is not to give any account as to when the Cold War commenced or ended nor why it ended in the way it did. Our aim is modest: to offer an overview about the processes triggered by the Cold War’s end, first and foremost those concerning self-determination and the response of the international community to them” (39). 

The study, originally a PhD Dissertation, defended at the University of Bilkent in Anakara, Turkey, offers a comprehensive comparative analysis of the fundamental concepts of Self-Determination. His comparative view on Self-Determination starts with the Peace of Westphalia (1648), including a history of this principle as it is developed between the Two World Wars (1918 – 1939); the Soviet Conception of Self-Determination, Wilson’s views regarding self-determination, self-determination in the Former Yugoslavia: from its Creation to its Dissolution (1918 - 1992), to end with the Kosovo Albanian Way Pursued for the Achievement of Self-Determination. The Dynastic Legitimacy (1648 – 1815) and the Balance of Power (1815 – 1914) in regard with self-determination are also examined under the chapter: “Self-Determination: From the Peace of Westphalia (1648) to the End of the Cold War”, giving a clear and complete form to the principle of self-determination. 

His work is also a remarkable survey of the most crucial Cases in the global scene regarding the principle of self-determination having compared with the notions and concepts of certain eras and/or leaders. “The views of these two statesman (Wilson and Lenin), together with the international practice developed in the Aaland Islands case, have been a decisive factor in the development of self-determination within the Versailles system and beyond. In this period emerged two basic types of self-determination, one Communist and the other Western” (11). 

One of the principle conclusions of this study -- in regard with Yugoslav case -- is that the Yugoslav case of self-determination should not be singled out from other similar cases of its time. This covers not only the period following the end of the Cold War, but also the period prior to the South Slav unification of 1918 and thereafter. However, the author concludes that, as opposed to the colonial self-determination, in the Yugoslav case as in the case of former Communist Federations, there had been put foreword some corrective criteria in connection with the realization of self-determination. These criteria were meant to guide the would-be states as to their acceptable behavior within the society of states. Those entities claiming the international statehood had to confirm to these corrective criteria. Otherwise, the legitimacy of their international statehood was not considered as valid under international law. This was done in various ways, - the author explains, - while the most common one was the use of the policy of non-recognition by the international community and its member states. Next to this came the imposition of the sanctions regime on the disobedient states claiming fully-fledged international status. In some cases, such as Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, even military means have been used to check and balance the Yugoslav self-determination.       

Another conclusion of the author is that the preservation of the territorial integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina, as one of the manifestations of self-determination of the sovereign and independent states, has as a consequence the treatment of the Kosovo issue on par with other entities that did not have the status of a federated republic. While Kosovo used to exist as an autonomous entity for a long time, the ‘Republika Srpska’ was set up by violent means leading to the commission of grave crimes against humanity and international law, ethnic cleansing of the non-Serbs being the most conspicuous one.  

To sum up, Professor Hasani concludes that no single binding principle of self-determination monopolizes the contemporary international law. Self-determination, as a right and a principle, whose structure and meaning continues to evolve with case examples, presents challenges for international law and politics. The liberal values concerning democracy, the rule of law and the respect for human and minority rights, - the author added, - will certainly be enhanced with a more developed understanding of the actual meaning of self-determination. “Unquestionable, based on recent experience, human rights which is now seen tied to democracy and the rule of law can be better realize in territories which have not benefited by self-rule. This means, in turn, that the human rights agenda may be greatly enriched with the appropriate realization of self-determination” (314).     

Mr. Hasani has written a practical and utterly original book, corroborated by an impressive array of data and well-chosen quotations. How Hasani makes his case is no less impressive than the argument itself. The author’s style is precise, pithy, and coolly analytical. He has also to be commended for his objective way in which he presented the historical reality in the Former Yugoslavia. Moreover, the used-bibliography -- more than 60 pages of the book -- tells us a lot about the seriousness of the book, using literature in Albanian, English, French, Italian, Serbo-Croatian and Turkish languages. Simply, this is an excellent “history” of the fundamental principles of self-determination, territorial integrity and international stability, namely of the International Law and Relations.  


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