Ethnopolitical regimes and state-minority relations: a comparative case study of Abkhazia, Javakheti and Kvemo Kartli in Georgia



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Tartu Ülikool


After the collapse of the Soviet Union (SU), recently independent governments with heterogenous populations had to find ways to establish a new political power balance between the ethnic groups. But while some nation-building processes resulted in peaceful ethnopolitical confrontations, other state-minority relations developed into ethnic war and secessionism. This master thesis seeks to explain different outcomes of relationships between a government and its ethnic minorities in the context of ethnopolitics and ethnic conflict. Two variables accounting for ethnic conflict are: exclusion of non-core groups and a high political mobilization of ethnic minorities. Starting from there, this study analyzes when a host-state decides to exclude non-core groups from state power, as well as what factors account for a high political mobilization of an ethnic minority. The mechanisms are deduced from two main theories – the politics of nation-building by Mylonas (2013) and ethnopolitical situations by Pettai (n.d.) – and applied in a few-n comparative study to three Georgian minorities: from the most violent form in Abkhazia to a milder form of unrest of Armenians in Javakheti and finally a case with a very low mobilization potential of Azeris in Kvemo Kartli. The comparative study shows that the decision of a host-state to exclude a minority is influenced by the international alliance-system. The political mobilization and consequently the reaction of a minority group to an exclusionary ethnopolitical regime depends on the resources it has gathered throughout historical processes, including the support of an external ally, grievances or strong social cohesion. The thesis is one of the few studies accounting for the relationship between all three players involved in ethnopolitical relations – the state, the minority and external powers – and for the broader geopolitical context of ethnic power struggles. Hence, this study crucially adds to the ability of understanding the mechanisms of ethnopolitics and conflict. Finally, this thesis is the first study that compares Javakheti and Kvemo Kartli in their differences, contributing to our understanding of nation-building processes and minority behavior in an under-researched part of the post-soviet space.