The Geographical Context of Ethnic Relations in North Caucasus

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Multiethnic regions offer social scientists unique opportunities to study the interplay of global and local processes and, in particular, to follow the evolution of complicated territorial identities. Typically, multiethnic regions are sites of increasing migration and interethnic mixing, and like other places, reflect social, economic and cultural shifts. In polyethnic societies, demographic processes are reflected in social well-being and identity, particularly differences between ethnic groups in terms of history, identities, and migration. Multiethnic regions often play a particularly important, and often even determinant, role in shaping contemporary geopolitical situations. They are the foci of sharp conflicts, weakening political stability far beyond their borders. At the same time, they have a rich and diverse natural and cultural heritage.

The experience of former Yugoslavia and a number of regions of the former Soviet Union has shown again that the threat to the stability of political boundaries is particularly strong in multiethnic regions surviving the periods of accelerated social modernization or political transformations (Ó Tuathail et al 2006). In such regions post-Communist transition is particularly painful. Political disintegration combined with economic crisis has provoked, in a number of post-Communist multiethnic regions, protracted wars. They have a deep environmental, political, social and economic impact on neighboring territories. The Caucasus at the beginning of the twenty-first century offers a powerful example of a multiethnic region surviving a difficult period of radical transformations which has given rise to new conflicts and revived old ones.

A long-term solution of these conflicts has not yet been found. They have deeply modified the identity of ethnic groups involved in them. Even so, promisingly, a cease-fire was achieved a relatively long time ago, which in some cases has resulted in considerable social and economic changes, especially in the areas which have not been directly involved in the war. Thanks to external investments, basic infrastructure has been restored, and points of economic growth have appeared. A number of refugees have come back home although many people have left for large cities or abroad.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2009

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  • Chapters of Modern Human Geographical Thought
    Chapters of Modern Geographical Thought is a compilation of original, state-of-the-art essays written by recognized scholars, covering a wide range of topics from human geography, always paying tribute to the multidisciplinary nature of the field. This book will provide students with penetrating analyses of seven fields, including critical geopolitics of film and affect, the political economy of the environment, ethnic problems in the Caucasus, the US and Mexico relations, new social movements in Southern Africa or identity politics and the legal recognition of the Silesian minority in Poland. All the essays emphasize the interconnectedness of a globalized world.
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