Политическая география европейских меньшинств english (28029-1)

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Санкт-Петербург - 2000




The collapse of communist regimes in East-Central Europe, the disintegration of Soviet Union and of Czechoslovakia and the war in former Yugoslavia showed that even the most dramatic geopolitical shifts can happen. Even before 1991, Europe was the continent with the youngest political boundaries and, therefore, an elevated geopolitical "seismicity" (Foucher, 1991). Numerous changes of political boundaries and the creation of new states only partly solved or softened ethnic problems. It is well known that partitions and the redrawing of political borders often only create new problems, aggravate and perpetuate ethnic conflicts (Waterman, 1984). The purpose of this paper is two-fold: first, using the historical retrospecvtive of the 20th century and hypothetical scenarios of the future, we would like to prove that the unlimited right of peoples to self-determination and the concept of the nation-state are not a mean to reduce ethnic tensions. Second, we would like to try to define the most dangerous ethno-political boundaries in Europe along which new geopolitical shifts can occur, in estimating quantitatively the geopolitical, the economic, and the cultural potential of the conflicts in all European areas of ethnic minorities, as well as the level of their political mobilization. As far as we know, it is the first attempt of this kind and, despite any shortcomings of our method, it can be useful for further studies.

The definition of "minority" depends greatly on the definition of nation, state and, indeed, of majority. This paper will apply the definition of nation in Krejci and Velimsky, with updated adjustments. When counting the European minorities in 1910, 1930 and 1950, Krejci and Velimsky (1981, 66) defined minorities as "ethnic groups without any kind of autonomous status or partnership in such a status, and with their majority living on a more or less clearly identified territory".

The second portion of the definition excludes Jews, Gypsies and guest workers/immigrants, and is the same restriction we use for our ethnic areas. The restriction should be continued and some limits must be introduced for minimal ethnic population - 50,000 for large states and 25,000 for small states; otherwise, considerably long "tails" of micro-minorities might be identified.


To study the dynamics of European minorities by using the definition, one most start with historical changes on the European political map. This analysis is confined to the twentieth century (in terms of time), Europe as far eastward as the Urals and the Armenian plateau (in terms of space), and the states populated by 50,000 or more residents (population).

We begin by recalculating the population figures according to these parameters and using different sources than those presented by Krejci and Velimsky (Krejci and Velimsky, 1981; see also Kolossov, Glezer and Petrov, 1992; Tarkhov and Jordan, 1993; World Population, 1989, World Directory, 1990; and Sellier and Sellier, 1991). Maps 1-5 and table 1 reflect the data corrected and extended both in time (the two recent dates added, divided by the same interval of about 20 years) and in space (several more states related to our enlarged Europe, from the island of Madeira to the island of Vaigach and from Iceland to Cyprus).

In the accounting, one can observe the process of self-determination as the century's leitmotif. The number of completely independent states has doubled, and even tripled in Central and Eastern Europe since 1910. Three states that emerged in Western Europe were thinly populated islands of Iceland, Ireland and Malta, states with almost no minorities. In Eastern Europe, the path towards the nation-state model was much more dramatic and successful, if the number of newly-created states serves as a criteria of success.

Major changes of the continental political map during the twentieth century resulted from the World War I, with the Balkan wars as a prelude, the World War II, and the collapse of the communist bloc and of some incorporated states after the Cold War. These three macro-events divide the century into four historical periods: multinationalism, nationalism, socialism (Rugg, 1985, 11-13), and the modern era. This latter period is yet not clearly determined, balancing between the newest nationalism and trans-nationalism. Each period's geopolitical and ethnic impacts are different. The era of great empires was marked by forced intrastate ethnic integration, often painful for the then numerous minorities. World War I allowed some of them to establish their own states (for example, Poland, Hungary, etc.), but brought even more problems to the others (for instance, to Romania and Yugoslavia). Stalinist socialism pretended to solve those issues by creating a complicated system of "autonomies" of different kind inside the "Eastern bloc" using the Soviet example (in Romania, Czeckoslovakia but especially in Yougoslavia). But, as modern history shows, these attempts also failed, followed by a new wave of conflicts, at the background of generally more integrated and interrelated Europe.

Eastern Europe entered the century divided between four empires. Only the Ottoman empire exhibited symptoms of erosion, as evidenced by the five Balkan states. Russia and Austria-Hungary were the European leaders in both number of minorities and their total population. In 1910, the Russian empire alone accounted for over 40% of the total continental population. However, Austria-Hungary exceeded the Russian empire twofold in terms of minority's average size; the minorities of Austria-Hungary formed over three-quarters of its total population (or 60%, if Hungarians were considered as a "co-majority"). European Turkey still had the same percentage of minorities (Table 1).

Nine new states appeared on the European scene in the 1920s after the first geopolitical shift, notably reducing percentages of minorities and both the total and the average minorities' number. The figures for average minorities' size became almost equal in Western and in Central and Eastern Europe. However, the number of minorities and subnations increased, particularly in the East. This is a result of the new boundaries often splitting a minority, which then has to be counted separately for each different state. Ukrainians are a classic example of an irredentism split in the 1920s between the Soviet Union, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Romania.

In 1930, the European USSR, though lacking many western areas of its Russian empire ancestor, retained the largest number of minorities in absolute figures, but followed the new "collective" Yugoslavian kingdom (the European number two) as well as to the old Belgian and to the Swiss Confederation in percentage terms. Furthermore, with its minorities' share near one-third, the USSR was on a pair with 1930s Poland and Czechoslovakia.

The Second World War resulted in the second geopolitical shift, but it did not affect greatly the figures for minorities, as it only slightly elevated the number of states. Among new states, there was the "second Germany", but at the same time, three Baltic states have been incorporated into the USSR. However, the tremendous war and post-war losses, and the forced transfers of millions of Jewish, French, German, Greek, and Slavonic peoples, are counted. Why did these exchanges not notably affect the European minorities' totals and averages? The intrastate shifts often had a counter-compensative nature. For instance, the majority of Central European countries, especially Poland, became more mono-ethnic.

The Soviet Union, by contrsat, became more diverse. For example, from 1939-45, nearly 135,000 sq.km, a region called Ruthenian or Galician Ukraine (the latter name coming from ancient principality of Galich) was added to the USSR. These areas were inhabited by approximately nine million "double minorities", ethnic or confessional subgroups of Ukrainians (Gutsuls, Lemkys and Boykis known under the common name of Ruthenes), Poles, Transcarpathian Magyars, and Bukovinian Rumanians. Together with eastern Ukrainians, Moldavians, Belorussians, Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians, these subgroups significantly raised the figures for Soviet minorities.

Overall, a long-term and very special era of divided Europe was opened in 1950. The triple geopolitical formula, suggested by Jordan (1973) for Poland, seems to come true for Central Europe as a whole:

Strong Germany + weak Russia = German-dominated Poland;

Weak Germany + strong Russia = Russian-dominated Poland;

Strong Germany + strong Russia = no Poland.

Jordan, however, forgot a historically feasible combination: weak Germany + weak Russia (both disintegrated) = strong Polish or Polish-Lithuanian state. Nevertheless, we can expand the formula for Europe in its entirety as follows:

Strong West + weak East = West-dominated Central Europe;

(Weak West + strong East = East-dominated Central Europe);

Strong West + strong East = no Central Europe.

The second version (in brackets) seems to be a hypothesis which reflects some exaggerated western fears of communist expansion in the 1950-60s. However, the final formula was accurate for the full Cold-War period, when there was almost no rooms for neutrals or buffers, except, to some extent, Finland, Austria and Yugoslavia. The ethnic-national situation inside the two systems was, paradoxically, the most stable one. The world-wide confrontation displaced old ethnic tensions and secessionist intentions from the surface of European political geography.

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