Introductory Concepts and Problems

  • Milica Zarkovic Bookman


The above statements are the first sentences of articles on a single page of the New York Times in 1917. They show a stunning resemblance to events in 1992. Despite the passing of decades, despite political and economic modernization, and despite a changing international environment, interethnic and interregional disputes persist in an almost unchanged form. In the period since World War I, there has been a relative lull in demands by ethnic and regional groups to alter borders, although some long-term efforts persisted both in Western Europe and some in the Third World countries. Some, especially in Africa and Asia, gained momentum in the aftermath of World War H. Then, as though these interethnic and interregional conflicts follow some kind of cyclical pattern, the last few years have witnessed a resurgence in secessionist movements.1 No longer restrained by a cold war polarization and encouraged by the winds of rapid change, subnational groups are seeking to free themselves from central authorities. Unlike any other period in recent history, this unfolding decade may result in some of the most dramatic attempts at redrawing national boundaries as secessionist fever spreads. While in the past successful secessionist efforts were few (notably Norway, Ireland, and more recently, Bangladesh), today’s success of Lithuania, Slovenia, and Eritrea fuels the fires in numerous regions that struggle with their unions.


Civil Disobedience Moral Basis Soviet Bloc Western EUROPE Region Violence 
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  1. 1.
    Chazan has identified four waves of such movements: the first was during the delineation of the European states of Italy and Germany, the second was after World War I with the redrawing of boundaries following the defeat of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires, the third was after World War II and the boundary problems arising from decolonization, and the fourth is occurring presently (Naomi Chazan, “Irredentism, Separatism, and Nationalism,” in Naomi Chazan, ed., Irredentism and International Politics, Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1991, pp. 142–143).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
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  35. 64.
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  36. 81.
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  37. 83.
    The principal ethnic group of Cabinda, the Bakongo, are linked to the population of southwestern Zaire and have little in common with the ethnic groups of Angola. Their exact numbers are unknown, due to migrations, however, it is estimated that during the mid-1960s, the figure was 400,000, dispersed over three countries (Douglas L. Wheeler and Rene Pelissier, Angola, New York: Praeger, 1971, pp. 6–8).Google Scholar
  38. 85.
    The Diola, the dominant ethnic group of the region, does not speak Wolof, the country’s main language. A study by Geller claims that various smaller ethnic groups, including the Diola, Mandinka, and others have been developing a strong regional Casamancian identity (Sheldon Gellar, Senegal, An African National Between Islam and the West, Boulder: Westview Press, 1982, p. 99).Google Scholar
  39. 88.
    Kurds are Muslims of Indo-European stock (Turkik), while the majority of Iraqis are Arabs. See Christine Moss Helms, Iraq: Eastern Flank of the Arab World, Washington: Brookings Institution, 1984, chapter 1. Moreover, the use of the Kurdish language in schools is illegal in Turkey. Kurds can vote, but cannot have their own political parties or media. They are not officially recognized as a minority (they are “mountain Turks”) although the much smaller Greeks, Jews, and Armenians are. The mention of the word Kurdistan is illegal, so newspapers print “…” in place of it. (The Wall Street Journal, December 3, 1990).Google Scholar
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  41. 99.
    Within Tito’s federation, Krajina had no special status within the republic of Croatia. It never enjoyed the status of autonomous region that was granted to Vojvodina, which had a significantly lower percent of minority population. Then, in 1991 it declared itself an autonomous region, and then a republic. However, it did have a special status during the Austro-Hungarian rule. At this time, Krajina was called Vojna Krajina (military Krajina) and it served an important function for the Austrian Empire. It was populated over the centuries by Serbs evading the Ottoman empire, and in exchange for land, they agreed to defend the empire, and thereby Europe, from Turkish invasion. As such, Vojna Krajina was a separate administrative-political territorial unit, ruled directly by Vienna, and did not come under the jurisdiction of the Croatian parliament until 1881. See Gunther E. Rothenberg, The Military Border in Croatia 1740–1881, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966.Google Scholar
  42. 100.
    The average proportion of Serbs in Krajina is 62%. There is a great variety among the communes, ranging among the following highs and lows: Donji Lapac 91.1%; Vojnic 88.6%; Dvor 80.9%; Pakrac 38.4%; Kostanjica 55.5%; and Obrovac 60.1%. (These numbers are taken from the 1981 census, as published in Savezni Zavod Za Statistiku, Statisticki Godisnjak 1983, Bel grade, and Jovan Ilic, “Characteristics and Importance of Some Ethno-National and Political-Geographic Factors Relevant for the Possible Political-Legal Disintegration of Yugoslavia,” in Stanoje Ivanovic, ed., The Creation and Changes of the Internal Borders of Yugoslavia, Belgrade: Srbostampa, 1992, Table 6, p. 89.)Google Scholar
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    The question of ethnic composition of Kosovo lies at the heart of the present crisis. According to the census of 1981, the population is predominantly Kosovar (77.5% of the region) although there is some doubt as to the validity of those statistics. Nevertheless, that number must be considered in historical context. There was a time when the region was predominantly inhabited by Serbs (indeed, according to the bookkeepers of the invading Ottoman Empire, the region was populated by Serbs). Then, during World War II, much of the region was annexed to Albania under Italian rule, to form Greater Albania. Since the war, various factors contributed to altering the demographics of the region, including: illegal border crossings from low-income and repressive Albania, high fertility rates among the Albanian population (the highest in Europe, over 2.5% per year), terror against Serbs with the aim of large-scale evacuations, and Tito’s policy of relocating Serbs from Kosovo to Vojvodina (see Alex N. Dragnih and Slavko Todorovich, The Saga of Kosovo, Boulder: East European Monographs, 1984, chapters 12–14).Google Scholar
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    The special status of Singapore was established prior to federation. According to Turnbull, the region was to have greater autonomy than other regions of the union. Singapore would have a smaller representation in the federal government than its population, and would have its own executive state government (C. M. Turnbull, A History of Singapore 1819–1988, 2nd ed., Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1989, p. 272–73). In addition, Shaffrudin explains how Singapore was also given autonomy in education and labor, as well as a special status with respect to citizenship (Shafruddin, p. 23).Google Scholar
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    The Pakistani army was involved in the crisis. However, the war could have prolonged itself endlessly were it not for the entrance of India into the conflict, tipping the balance in favor of secession. See Nigel Harris, National Liberation, London: I. B. Tauris, 1990, pp. 199–209.Google Scholar
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© Milica Zarkovic Bookman 1992

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