Table of Contents
As history illustrates, relationships between nations were often tense and ensued in tragic events. Russian lands suffered from the attacks of the Mongolian nomads, the Teutonic Knights, Polish invaders, among others. The discovery of America by Columbus was accompanied by robbery and destruction of indigenous Indian tribes. Colonizers captured tribes and peoples of Africa. “Many worry that ethnic conflict is contagious, that conflict in one locale can stimulate conflict elsewhere, and the initial outbreaks in the Balkans, the former Soviet Union, and Africa, if not quarantined, could set off an epidemic of catastrophic proportions.” During the world wars of the twentieth century, certain peoples and nations were ruthlessly destroyed and subjected to the most brutal oppression. Historical enmity could not help but affect the national consciousness. It is still portrayed in national prejudice and hostility, with its roots in the past.
For these reasons, conflicts between different ethnic groups, during which the parties often resort to violence, are the constant companion of human civilization. Today, the problem of ethnic conflicts is particularly relevant for a multiethnic state because in practice, it appears that it is quite complicated and laborious to build and maintain a stable interethnic peace. On the territory of the former Soviet Union, dozens of ethnic conflicts erupted. Nowadays, even in prosperous Western countries, there are many problems related to the preservation of interethnic harmony. Therefore, scientists have retained a significant interest in the problem of the ethnic factor in both domestic and international politics. It has become obvious that the old options to solve national problems have been exhausted. National enmity or national distrust is usually a consequence of years of accumulated mistakes and failures in national politics.
Heightened national identity and intolerance to minor violations of national equality permeate the spiritual atmosphere of the present time. It is not coincidence that in the second half of the twentieth century, the national question was designated where it seemed to have been resolved. The aim of this paper is to reveal the concept and essence of such phenomena as ethnic conflict, the ethnic instability in Russia, as well as consider the main reasons for its occurrence and the various ways of fighting and prevention it.
Causes and Factors of the Existence of Ethnic Conflicts
Exacerbation of ethnic problems all over is more connected with methodological and conceptual search in the field of ethnic conflicts. “Ethnic conflict is a persistent feature of modernity but the last few years have brought seismic changes in the relations between several ethnic communities around the world.” Ethnic conflict as a social phenomenon is a clash of interests of different levels and content and is a manifestation of the underlying processes in the complex relationship between the individual ethnic communities or groups of people occurring under the influence of a variety of socio-economic, political, historical, psychological, regional, separatist, linguistic, cultural, religious and other factors. This implies the existence of national contradictions and issues of ethnic conflicts, which in turn gives rise to the need to examine their causes. The following factors predetermining the ethnic conflicts can be defined:
- The national structure of the conflict region.
- The type of settlement.
- Age (extremes: “older-young” give a higher probability of conflict).
- Social status (higher probability of conflict in the presence of marginal).
- The level of education (the roots of the conflict nest in the mass of low level of education; however, it should be remembered that its ideologists are always the individual intellectuals).
- Political views.
Whatever the reasons for any ethnic conflicts are, they lead to a massive violation of the laws and the rights of citizens. The reasons for the exacerbation of ethnic tensions are listed below.
Firstly, it is the effects of long-term deformation of national policy, dissatisfaction that was accumulated over many decades and splashed out in a transparent manner, and democratization. Secondly, it is the result of a serious deterioration in the economic situation in the country, which also gives rise to resentment and hostility among different segments of the population, and these negative sentiments are concentrated primarily in the sphere of international relations. Thirdly, it is the result of old-line structures of government and the weakening of the foundations, on which a free federation of Soviet peoples was created.
The cause of the ethnic conflict can also be any rash or deliberately provocative statements of politicians, national leaders, members of the clergy, the media, incidents of domestic nature, and different cases. In fact, ethno-national organizations are not the forces of ethnic harmony and conflict prevention. On the contrary, in some cases, they act from the destructive perspective.
Conflicts regarding national values in the history the most important attitudes in the sphere of international relations are among the most difficult to resolve. “Group history is socially constructed. As Suny argues, “Nations are particular forms of collectivity that are constituted by a process of creating histories.”” This is the case where the most acute problem of the ensuring and protection of civil, social and cultural rights of individuals and representatives of various ethnic groups can arise.
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The source of ethnic conflict is also the measure and the shape of the distribution of power and positions available in the hierarchy of power and administrative structures. Actually, this is the political science approach, in which priority is given to the interpretation of the role of the national elite in the process of ethnic tension and its escalation to the level of an open conflict. The power issues, the role of local national elites seeking to possess power, communications power bodies and processes of distribution of competences, economic resources, material goods, possession of certain privileges are the starting basis for understanding the reasons for the growth of ethnic tensions.
Ethnic Instability in Russia Due to and Islamic Ideology
The beginning of the 21th century can be considered as the special time. The end of the ‘cold war’ and the collapse of the Soviet Union contributed to a radical change in the geopolitical map of the modern world. The emergence of a unipolar world and violation of the old balance of power contributed to a radical revision of the majority of its foreign policy. Instead of sunk into oblivion ‘communist threat’ to justify their own aggressive plans, the new enemy of the international community – ‘Islamic terrorism’– occurred. In the 90-ies of the 20th century, the United States attempted to implement a model of a unipolar world. In order to prevent the implementation of such a strategy, Russia had to strengthen relations with Islamic countries.
Russia is a multiethnic and multireligious country with a rich historical experience of the coexistence of different cultures. Figuratively, it is the bridge between different civilizations (Western and Muslim). The development of cooperation with the Islamic world is one of the top priorities of the Russian Federation’s foreign policy doctrine. Russia plays an important role in the development of various Muslim peoples of the world – from Iran to Palestine. Dialogue of civilizations (Western and Islamic) is of particular importance for the political stability in the international arena.
Currently, there is an active process of rapprochement between Russia and the countries of the Islamic world. The dynamics of these relations at the present stage has reached a new level.
The most important prerequisites for cooperation between Russia and the Islamic world are:
- The geographic and cultural proximity. Islamic civilization is the most important source of knowledge, inventions and scientific progress. It has contributed much to the Renaissance and the Enlightenment in Europe. Russian Muslims have made a significant contribution to the treasury of the country’s history and culture.
- The common historical values at certain stages of historical development of countries.
- Civilization relations with the countries of the Islamic world. Historical relations of Russia with the Middle East have their roots deep into the centuries – in the pre-Mongol period. Many customs, cuisine, clothing, art and architecture were influenced by the Arab-Muslim world and Orda-Tatar culture.
- Availability and intertwining of common interests: political, economic, and cultural.
- The increasing role of Muslims of Russia in the political life of the state. In addition, they are a part of the global Islamic Ummah.
- The complex of geopolitical factors that contribute to the fact that both Russia and the Islamic world are interested in peaceful coexistence and cooperation.
It cannot be said that the relations between Russia and the Islamic world are perfect. The ethnic tensions are increased due to the presence of a number of problems in the way of closer relations with Muslim countries. The external problems are the Islam phobia and xenophobia, which are the result of work of the media. The internal problems are the difficulties of the transition period. These include such socio-economic problems as unemployment and migration. They contribute to the fact that the mistrust occurs among the population and ignorant people try to look for the enemy in the person of a different race, ethnic group or denomination. The next problem is the absence of a clearly defined state policy in the sphere of inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations in the country. Unfortunately, the Russian leadership lacks a clear national-oriented ideology, or, as it is called, the national idea. The information attacks on Islam are not stopped until now, and systematic measures for the integral value reorientation of the population and the erosion of cultural and civilizational identity are adopted.
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The North Caucasus is the most unstable territory of the Russian Federation. “The North Caucasus region lies in the southwestern-most corner of the Russian Federation, and was colonized by the Russian Empire in the nineteenth century.” Then, the violence started almost simultaneously with the collapse of the Soviet Union. To be more precise, the violence in the region is associated mainly with the national republics, especially with three of them: Dagestan, Chechenia and Ingushetia. This eastern part of the North Caucasus, especially Chechenia, is considered the center of anti-Moscow activity that is ongoing since the beginning of the first Chechen war in 1994.
The situation in the western part of the North Caucasus is different. The socio-political situation is relatively calm. This part of the region is also considered as more closely integrated with Russia than traditionally unstable East.
Ethnic Diversity as a Potential Source of Tension
There is a whole range of issues in the North Caucasus that affect internal and external security of the Russian Federation. The following sources of tension in Russia can be emphasized: inter-ethnic relations between the neighboring nations; mutual territorial claims; historical grievances and injustices of the federal Center; islamization of the local population or the radicalization of local Muslim communities; injustice and arbitrariness of local authorities in the field of economy; nationalist movements or the struggle for independence.
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The first problem is the ethnic diversity, in which the factor of increasing instability can be perceived. This feature is quite applicable to the eastern part of the North Caucasus. Dagestan has an outstanding ethnic diversity (there are more than 40 ethnic groups), Chechenia and Ingushetia are rich in hydrocarbon energy resources, and all three republics are characterized with instability. However, a closer analysis unmasks the weakness of this approach.
Highlanders lived for a long time together sharing joy and sorrow. Several times, they created their own state, but it never led to the uniting of the entire population of the region into a single nation, and in the end, they have remained fragmented but not because of discord or quarrel. In other words, the locals have learned to co-exist peacefully, without assimilating each other. All their efforts to establish state are mainly caused by some common threat to all, and it was not possible because of military defeats.
Another remarkable fact is not consistent with the idea of ethnic diversity as a source of instability. It is the fact that the peoples of the North Caucasus have never faced each other in large-scale wars. Local skirmishes between the neighbors happened very often, but before the Soviet era, they never led to ethnic conflicts.
Moreover, even for the Soviets, it was difficult to incite ethnic hatred. It is a feeling that is totally alien to Caucasians. There is a very eloquent example of relations between the locals and outsiders, such as the Cossacks (in XV-XVI centuries) or Alans (in IV-IX centuries). These people who settled near the North Caucasians developed friendly relations with them and eventually adopted not only their fashion but also lifestyle, behaviors, ways of farming, and many traditions.
The fact that in later times, interethnic relations in the region differed with tension, is predetermined by the Soviet policy regarding ethnic minorities. A change of borders conducted by Moscow was a real bomb in the region. Another seeds of instability were sown as well. An interesting and seemingly effective formula of coexistence for the peoples of the North Caucasus was invented.
When the main posts have been the subject of political competition, the level of ethnic tension rose sharply. For example, the Balkars accused Kabardians of having taken all main posts in Kabardino-Balkaria. Other republics, except ethnically homogeneous Chechnya, Ingushetia and North Ossetia, are also not free from the struggle for power based on ethnicity. As history shows, the peoples of the North Caucasus are able to regulate their relations by themselves.
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Ethnic hatred in the North Caucasus is nothing but a product of conflicts that erupted for another reason. One of them is the disputes over territories. The origins of today’s violence in the North Caucasus can be found in the Soviet times.
Collision Due to the Lone Territories and Wealth
After 1991, there was at least one dispute in the North Caucasus that escalated into an armed conflict. In 1992, there were clashes between Ingush and Ossetians because of Prigorodny district. Fighting lasted six days because Ingush lands were transferred in 1944 to Ossetians. It led to the deaths of several hundred people and the emergence of several tens of thousands of internally displaced persons (mainly – Ingush). Loss and damage of Ossetians were several times less.
It must be stressed that the issue of the return of the Prigorodny district was of great importance for the Ingush. They even decided to separate from Chechnya, declare independence and stay in the Russian Federation. However, they did not manage to realize their dream.
Following the outbreak of violence on October 31, 1992, when Russia demonstrated the supports of the Ossetians, Ingush lost all hope to recover their land by lobbying of the issue in Moscow unless the situation in Russia would not change. In addition, they realized the role they had to play in this conflict. The dispute over the Prigorodny region remained unresolved until now.
Karachai and Balkars, not having any common borders or blood ties with the Chechens, avoided such dramatic scenario. However, the grim prospect of a war on ethnic grounds is viewed in Karachay-Cherkessia and Kabardino-Balkaria. The reasons for it slightly differ from the causes of the conflict between the Ingush and Ossetians but are also related to the territorial dispute. The main source of deep ethno-political divisions and social unrest in the North-West Caucasus is the Soviet policy of separation of nations and their enforcement to live under one administrative entity with other not ethnically related national groups. This is true not only for the Karachai and for Balkars who are aware of their kinship, speak the same language and want to live under a single administrative entity but also about the Circassians. This nation is divided by administrative boundaries of the three republics and is unwilling to share political power with the Karachai and Balkars.
Tensions between the nations living within the borders of one republic have not only territorial but also economic reasons. Balkars, as well as other nations, tend to have their representatives at least at the national level to ensure their access to federal funding that is considered the main source of income for the region.
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