Blurred lines : effects of the Soviet nationality policy on ethnic conflicts in the South Caucasus
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This thesis will examine the ethnic conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Adjara, and how the Soviet nationality policy affected each of these conflicts in the following ways. First, the policy placed all of the ethnic groups in the Soviet Union into a strict hierarchy, creating power differentials between ethnic groups that had previously been on an equal footing under Imperial Russian rule. Second, some ethnic groups were divided across multiple union republics in order to weaken their political power, hindering their ability to advocate for themselves when conflicts arose. Third, because the autonomy level of each ethnic group was laid out in the Soviet constitution, any change in status could be seen as depriving an ethnic group of something that it was constitutionally guaranteed. Finally, the top-down power structure created by the policy made the Soviet Union the only arbitrator of conflicts and guarantor of autonomy. As such, when the Soviet Union collapsed and their continued autonomy was no longer guaranteed, some smaller ethnic groups in the region resorted to armed conflict in order to ensure that their autonomy would be respected.