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East: Frozen Conflicts Not So 'Frozen' After All

Abkhazia: more complex than frozen (ITAR-TASS) The term "frozen conflict" has become common to describe the breakaway regions located on the edges of the former Soviet Union -- South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Transdniester. They have a lot in common. All of them are seeking independence and closer ties with Russia. The states from which they have broken refuse to give them up. The international community is unwilling to recognize them. But perhaps "frozen" is not the best way to characterize these conflicts. RFE/RL correspondent Luke Allnutt spoke to two experts to find out more.

Laurence Broers is an expert on the South Caucasus.

"Calling these conflicts 'frozen conflicts' is a misnomer. It's indicative of lazy thinking and it's a regrettable shorthand for conflicts and conflict settings that I think are dynamic and ever-shifting."

Listen to the complete interview with Broers (about 8 minutes):
Real Audio Windows Media

"What is specific to the South Caucasus is a historical legacy of the absence of indigenous state-building projects. So when these three states -- Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan -- became independent, this came out of nowhere. They had been very briefly independent prior to the reabsorbtion in the Soviet Union in 1918-1921. But these states lacked indigenous traditions of statehood."

"What I see as the key to this concentration of conflicts in the South Caucasus is interaction between relatively strong nationalist movements and a very weak institutional environment. That's quite different from Central Asia, where nationalist movements were far weaker, or the Baltic states where you did have strong nationalist movements but you had a much more organized and conflict-averse institutional environment."

Harri Kamarainen is a Caucasus expert at the OSCE's Conflict Prevention Center in Vienna.

"It's not the most accurate term anyway, anymore, because if we look at what has been happening, especially in the conflicts in the South Caucasus area -- I'm speaking about Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh conflicts -- there are a lot of things taking place. Actually during recent years, the conflict-settlement mechanisms in South Ossetia are rather active and that is the case also in the Karabakh conflict."

"The South Caucasus is a fairly small geographic area and in this fairly small geographic area we have more than 40 different ethnic groups, not only ethnically different, but culturally, religious[ly], linguistically different. [You also have] a mountainous region, which also adds to the certain temperament of these people."

RFE/RL Caucasus Report

RFE/RL Caucasus Report

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