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Political Research Exchange

Conditions of Success and Failure of Ethnic Regional Autonomies in Preventing Ethnic Conflict

Comparative Politics
Ethnic Conflict
Qualitative Comparative Analysis
Mikhail Zabotkin
Freie Universität Berlin
Mikhail Zabotkin
Freie Universität Berlin

The paper aims to contribute to the debate on the “paradox of federalism” by opening the “black box” of ethnic autonomy arrangements. It strives to establish which conditions determine whether ethnic territorial autonomy is conducive for ethnic peace or fuels conflict. The paper addresses this question by using two-step fuzzy-set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (fsQCA) based on the Ethnic Regional Autonomies Dataset (ERAD), which takes ethnic regional autonomies (and not ethnic groups or nation-states) as units of observation. Different structural and institutional causal factors discussed in the literature are divided into groups of national-level (remote) and regional-level (proximate) conditions. Included in the analysis are 30 nation-states and 92 ethnic regional autonomies in 2001-2010. The first step of analysis, using only national-level conditions, establishes the contextual conditional combinations conducive to either ethnic conflict or ethnic peace, which are in the next step analyzed together with regional-level conditions to determine the precise causal paths leading to both outcomes. One of the main findings is that national-level conditions provide simple and mostly non-contradictory explanations of ethnic peace in whole countries but are more ambiguous in case of ethnic conflict. Moreover, national-level accounts obscure significant variation in outcomes among different autonomies in states with conflict-inducing national-level conditions. In addition, there are several distinct pathways to both outcomes. Thus, the paper argues that the interplay between various combinations of structural and institutional features of ethnic autonomies and their broader national context warrants more attention. The paper also outlines possible directions of search for underlying causal mechanisms based on the results of the analysis, as well as promising avenues for further theory-building.
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