The Causes and Consequences of Irredentism
Funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, 2015-2018
Prof. Lars-Erik Cederman
Seraina Rüegger, ETH Zurich
Guy Schvitz, ETH Zurich
This project aims to gain a better understanding of transnational ethnic connections and how they affect the dynamics of irredentist violence. Irredentism, defined as a claim to change existing state borders in order to integrate members of an ethnic group in one state, poses a threat to the geopolitical stability of today’s world order. Irredentist tensions led to various conflicts since the end of the Cold War, for instance in the former Yugoslavia, between Armenia and Azerbaijan or recently in Ukraine. When state borders divide the settlement territories of ethnic groups, irredentist conflicts constitute a combination of secessionist claims, state partition and nationalist integration. However, many transborder ethnic groups are peaceful. For these reasons, it is extremely important to understand how, and under what circumstances, irredentism emerges in the first place, and how it may drive different types of conflict, including both civil and interstate war.
To systematically analyze the origins and implications of irredentism, this project engages in extensive data collections on 1) transnational ethnic kin groups, including whether they have a national homeland state and their geopolitical demands, 2) historical state borders and 3) in addition to existing data on ethnic civil wars, the ethnic dimension of interstate conflicts. These data resources and our analysis tools are used to develop effective strategies that foster peace and international stability. Our main expectation is that irredentist groups are overrepresented in conflict statistics if they have both the motivation, in terms of having been deprived of rule by co-ethnics, and opportunity, in terms of their geopolitical context, to engage in violence.