Leokadia Drobizheva, Rose Gottemoeller, Catherine McArdle Kelleher, Lee Walker, eds. Ethnic Conflict in the Post-Soviet World. Case Studies and Analysis. Armonk NY and London: M. E. Sharpe, 1996. 365 pp. Hardback. $65.95.
How do women break into all-male fields? By forming organizations, holding conferences, and publishing their papers. This publication is a project of WIIS (Women in International Security--College Park MD) and WINGS (Women in Global Security--Moscow).
The only Baltic contribution is by Klara Hallik, "Ethnopoliical Conflict in Estonia" (87-108), a senior fellow at the Institute of International and Social Studies, Estonian Academy of Sciences, and a member of the USSR Supreme Soviet's Commission on Interethnic Relations and International Policy in its last days.
Hallik notes that the ethnically-divided society of independent Estonia reflects past "policies of assimilation and Russian acculturation" which created a largely locally-born minority that is the majority in urban centers. On the one hand, these were illegal colonization policies; on the other, the immigrants themselves did not violate any laws. Hallik argues that Estonian linguist nationalists had effectively recovered control of their nation by 1988, at which time they began using the instruments of power to dismantle the Soviet system. Political lines were drawn along ethnic identification, but--reality being more complex than theory--the result was a three-sided conflict: the Estonian government seeking viable compromises, the Estonian congress (supported by the émigré community) representing radical nationalism, and the Interregional Soviet (directed by hard-line communists in Moscow) with the armed forces, factories, communication systems, and experience. The failure of the 1991 coup led directly to real independence for Estonia.
Hallik sees the citizenship issue as central to Estonia's future: the moderate triumph over the radical nationalists changed the question from integration to selective inclusion. The practical impact of the Estonian language requirement, she says, is to discriminate against individuals on purely ethnic grounds (although, she notes, 90% of Russophones want their children to be Estonian citizens and expect them to learn Estonian at least as a second language). Moreover, the practicality of maintaining a Russian separateness is cast in doubt by the continuing "Estonianization" of the political institutions of the nation. "Uncertainty and insecurity" was the general mood of the "non-Estonian" population in late 1994 when this essay was apparently written. Hallik concludes with an appeal for "policies that enhance ethnic tolerance, stability, and democratization."
Drobizheva's essay on "Russian Ethnonationalism" (129-147) finds that, in contrast to minority groups, Russians identify themselves more closely with language than with culture. As Russian nationalism reasserted itself in 1989, it was not unified; moreover, by 1993, it had converged on a moderate center that was significantly different from the extreme patriot position that emphasized images of Mother Russia and memories of the Soviet Union. The essay ends weakly with the observation that the future will be determined by what happens.
Zhanna Zaionchkovskaia's "Interethnic Tensions and Demographic Movement in Russia, Ukraine, and Estonia" (327-336) reaches only 1992. She notes that industrialization requires urbanization; hence, the Baltic States would have had to rely upon immigration to provide a work force for the cities anyway; moreover, once the current economic crisis is overcome, renewed immigration will be necessary (and the pool of available immigrants will consist largely of Russians). Consequently, Estonian efforts to "limit the civil and legal rights of immigrants" will fail.
Kelleher's Conclusion (337-352) starts with a warning that the era of independence may be more dangerous than that of the Cold War: managing ethnic conflict will be the fundamental policy issue for everyone. This can be done, she says, if we recognize that ethnicity is a primary factor in conflicts only when it is allowed to become one; the true roots of conflict are "resource control, political power, the manipulations of the political elite, and the inability of the central state to address the needs of the periphery." In short, ethnic conflict is a result of governmental failure, not its cause.
What is needed, Kelleher argues, is a "consensual approach" to potential conflicts--peacekeeping missions, mediation, neutral observers, and impartial forums where everyone can "air their complaints." These could be provided by the Organization for Security and Cooperation and the United Nations. A constructive approach, financial commitment by the West and the investment of political capital, is also necessary to create supra-national (pan-European perhaps) identities. Above all, we must not accept the easy definition of ethnic conflicts as ethnic problems, but must get underneath the reality that lies underneath the slogans: "If an ethnic Latvian also considered himself a European and simultaneously identified with a larger, regional Baltic community that included Russians, Poles, Finns, and Swedes, the potential for ethnic conflict would be greatly reduced."
Western feminist theories about conflict resolution lie somewhat uneasily alongside the need to be sensitive to the concerns of female Russian colleagues. There is a determined effort to avoid jargon, but when nationalism and nation-states are dismissed as myths (4-6) or the result of mistaken Soviet policies (10), it becomes possible to see two general themes in the collected essays (12): Athe motivating power of claims to equality and human dignity and the pervasiveness of the struggle for control over the appropriation and distribution of political and economic resources.@
What one is to make of this feminist approach to Baltic problems is not quite clear to this reviewer. On the one hand, if ethnic conflict is real and inevitable, we are in a real pickle, and, therefore, the only hope is to educate people as to their true interests. This argument makes perfect sense, but even its proponents do not seem very optimistic about much coming of it. On the other hand, the argument leads toward amalgamating small states into something that resembles a Soviet Union that lives up to its propaganda image or a New World Order. Not much chance of that, either. In the real world there are no guarantees, and sometimes muddling along is the best we can do. But a little idealism and some fresh thinking, however muddled those on the spot may think it, will not hurt at all.