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Europe from the Balkans to the Urals: The Disintegration of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union

Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN 0-19-829200-7
436 pp.

The disintegration of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union in 1991 shed entirely new light on the character of their political systems. There is now a need to re-examine many of the standard interpretations of Soviet and Yugoslav politics.

This book is a comparative study of the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union—as multinational, federal communist states—and the reaction of European and US foreign policy to the parallel collapses of these nations. The authors describe the structural similarities in the destabilization of the two countries, providing great insight into the demise of both.

'In this volume, Professors Reneo Lukic and Allen Lynch present the results of their research, which is based on a wealth of reliable documentation. They took into account both domestic factors and those international aspects which influenced the course of disintegration of the two federations. The book not only facilitates understanding of the causes of the bloody conflicts on the former Soviet territory and in the former Yugoslavia, but is also of particular significance for the efforts to shape new security institutions and procedures for staving off or solving such conflicts in the future.' - Adam Daniel Rotfeld, former SIPRI Director, excerpt from the Preface

'The subject of this book will continue to preoccupy and perplex analysts for a long time to come, and the analysis it presents cannot be taken—neither was it intended, I believe—as the last word in the discussion. It should be seen, rather as an invitation to further exploration. It raises very important questions and suggests useful ways to approach them. It is up to its readers to pick up the challenge.' - Liah Greenfield, Boston University, excerpt from the Foreword



  • In Europe from the Balkans to the Urals, Reneo Lukic and Allen Lynch analyse the political processes that led to the disintegration of the Yugoslav, Soviet and Czechoslovak states and the international consequences that have flowed from these three collapses. The authors, who have delved deeply into primary and secondary sources in more than half a dozen European languages, look in particular at the role that 'federalism' played in the collapse of these once communist states. They conclude that the ethno-federal constitutional and administrative structure of these multinational states—that is, the fact that the various federal territories were defined in explicitly ethnic terms (the Ukrainian republic; the Slovak republic; the Slovenian, Croatian, and Serbian republics, etc.) played a catalytic role in propelling the disintegration of the Yugoslav, Soviet and Czechoslovak states along nationalist lines. The absence of democratic representation, or indeed of any substantial civic representation along non-national lines in these multinational states, meant that when communism collapsed the state would collapse with it.


  • It is not, however, federalism per se that bears responsibility for the collapse of these states but the fact that within nominally federal structures there were none of the pluralist and civic institutions and incentives for non-ethnic political participation that are necessary for stable federalism in a multi-ethnic setting: that is, electoral systems designed to create motives for cooperation among nationalities; regional policies aimed at giving regional elites a strong interest in the survival of the central government; skilful gerrymandering of electoral districts to encourage cross-national electoral alliances; and most importantly, infusing formal federal structures with the power as well as the responsibility that a balanced federal regime requires.


  • Looking towards the future, the authors conclude that the one remaining ethno-federal political unit in post-communist Europe—the Russian Federation—will not collapse along ethnic lines, mainly because post-communist Russia more closely resembles a classic nation-state (such as Britain or Spain) than it does the communist federations examined in the book. However, the decomposition of the Russian state along civil lines (Russian versus Russian) cannot in principle be excluded, mainly because of the dramatic pace at which economic and social inequalities are being created. All the approaches to Russia's future that seek to ensure Russia's stability need to proceed from this realization; in the fragile conditions of post-communist development, even after the re-election of Boris Yeltsin as President in July 1996, it hardly requires 'shock therapy' to induce the shock.


  • In the second part of the book, the authors examine two key episodes of post-communist international relations in Europe that are a direct consequence of the collapse of the Soviet and Yugoslav states analysed in the first part: the wars of Yugoslav succession and Russia's relations with its now independent former Soviet neighbours. They discuss in detail the failure of international policy in the former Yugoslavia to enforce compliance with a series of UN Security Council resolutions rejecting armed force as an agent of political and territorial change and the acquiescence of the international community in a genocidal war in Europe half a century after the end of World War II. In the final analysis, national interests triumphed in the West just as they have in the East. The international community, including the European Union, lacks the consensus of values and interests required to give binding expression to the conviction 'Never again'. Genocide in the East has proved to be compatible with the national interests of the several Western states.


  • The authors also examine the evolution of Russia's relations with its former Soviet neighbours and conclude that, while a return to empire is excluded, Russia seems to be heading, with tacit Western acquiescence, towards an interventionist policy that is beyond a very weak Russian state's capacity to sustain. Once again, as in the Yugoslav case, Western unwillingness to assume diplomatic responsibility commensurate with its potential influence is serving to undermine the premises on which Western policy is based, in this case to maintain Russia as a viable international partner.


  • Finally, the authors examine the implications of the Yugoslav wars and of Russia's regional policy for the future international role of Western Europe and the United States. The collapse of communism and the end of any Soviet or other hegemonic threat has removed a key premise from much of the internationalist role of the United States. Europeans, East and West, can no longer assume that the United States will remain diplomatically engaged on the continent, even if it retains a symbolic military presence for the foreseeable future. The authors end their study by noting that the world is on the threshold of witnessing 'a new kind of Europe, one extending from the Balkans to the Urals, and squandering the immense democratic and pacific possibilities of 1989. Unfortunately for Europe, this is a failure that the United States can live with. The same cannot be said for Europe itself'. Reviewer comments

    'The best study yet of the dynamics of the distintegration of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. Luckic and Lynch not only provide a useful study of this complex transformation but also suggest theoretical insights that will be useful for all students of political change.' - Paul Goble, Jamestown Foundation

    'Professors Luckic and Lunch offer an intriguing investigation of the break-up of two communist and 'imperial' states, as well as an explanation of the impact of this transformation on international relations. They explore the curious relationship between communism and ethnicity which ultimately precipitated the collapse of those powers, and they address the issue of the following turmoil in Europe. This is an innovative analysis of communism and of nationalism.' - Alain Prujiner, Director, Institut québécois des hautes études internationales

    'Reneo Luckic and Allen Lynch have produced an empirically rich and theoretically sophisticated analysis that promises to set the standard for a long time to come.' - Alexander J. Motyl, Columbia University


Part I. Introduction

1. Introduction

2. The disintegration of the communist federations of East-Central Europe and the Soviet Union, 1989-92


Part II. Ethno-federalism under communism

3. The idea of the multinational communist federation: early Bolshevik theory and practice

4. Constants in the Yugoslav polity, 1918-54

5. Communist reform and ethno-federal stability

6. Restoration and degeneration of the ethno-federal party-state


Part III. The disintegration of the USSR and Yugoslavia

7. Gorbachev and the disintegration of the USSR

8. The disintegration of the Yugoslav state, 1987-91

9. The wars of Yugoslav succession, 1991-95

10. The disintegration of Bosnia and Herzegovina


Part IV. International consequences of the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the USSR

11. The international setting of Soviet and Yugoslav disintegration

12. The Yugoslav wars, 1991-93: a case study of post-cold war international politics

13. European reactions to the break-up of Yugoslavia

14. The role of the United Nations in the former Yugoslavia

15. US policy towards Yugoslavia: from differentiation to disintegration

16. Russian foreign policy and the wars in the former Yugoslavia

17. After empire: Russia and its neighbours in the CIS and East-Central Europe


Part V. Conclusions and bibliography

18. Conclusions