Nationalism, Populism and Ethnic Conflict Management in Eastern Europe

Course Description: 

Questions of nationalism, populism and ethnic conflict reemerged in the 1990s as the European Union prepared to open its doors to ten countries in Central and Eastern Europe. Many of these countries contained minorities that had endured decades of economic or social discrimination. In the context of political transition, numerous self-identified nations and groups have sought self-determination in response to ethnic fears or economic opportunities—in some cases leading to violence. To ensure the stability of the region and prevent a tidal wave of migrants in the wake of EU enlargement, the U.S. and West European governments worked closely with NATO, the EU, the UN, the Council of Europe, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to ameliorate sectarian tensions in the region. Today, the EU and NATO continue to search for solutions to ongoing conflicts in former Soviet Republics of Ukraine and Georgia as well as the newly independent Balkans states of Kosovo and Macedonia. This course examines the successes and failures of Europe’s long history of conflict management to see whether lessons can be drawn from earlier periods of conflict management that can help policy makers forge a stable peace in affected countries today. We also assess the newer threat posed by populist movements in order to identify what, if anything, can be done to ameliorate conflict associated with populism.

The course’s main aim is to provide students with a sound understanding of:
1) Theories of nationalism, ethnic conflict, populism and conflict management
2) The distinctions and interactions between nationalism and populism
3) What makes third party conflict mediation successful
4) The origins, successes, and failures of European security regimes
5) The theory and practice of conflict management strategies

Learning Outcomes: 

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

 Distinguish the causal logics of competing theories of ethnic conflict
 Identify the drivers of populism and nationalism
 Undertake comparative analysis of conflict management across cases
 Identify the origins and dynamics of specific cases of conflict
 Critically evaluate competing solutions for conflict management
 Offer policy recommendations for designing regional security regimes


(1) Midterm Exam (30%). Students will be given an in-class midterm examination that tests their understanding of different theories of nationalism, ethnic conflict and populism, using case evidence in Eastern Europe as well as material covered in lectures
and readings.
(2) Final Exam (40%). Students will be given a comprehensive in-class essay examination that tests their understanding of all course materials. There will be greater emphasis on materials from the second half of the class, particularly theories of ethnic conflict management, applied in cases of historical and contemporary Eastern Europe. In exceptional cases, students may be permitted to submit a final paper in the place of
the final exam (see me about this).
(3) Class Participation (10%). Students are expected to attend all the seminars and participate in class discussions.
(4) Team Presentations (20%). Students will form two-person teams and give a 20 minute team presentation of one or more real world conflicts, either historical or contemporary, engaging with the assigned readings for that seminar. Students will be graded on both their participation as part of the team (15%) and as an individual player (15%) (More details about the presentation will be given in the course itself.)