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Is Autonomy the Best Answer to Combat Balkanization

Is Autonomy the Best Answer to Combat Balkanization

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Published by Arpit Bharat Gupta

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Published by: Arpit Bharat Gupta on Nov 13, 2011
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Balkanization is a geopolitical term originally used to describe the process of fragmentation or division of a region into smaller regions. The term findsorigin in the division of the Balkan Peninsula which was held in its entirety bythe Ottoman Empire into a number of smaller states. By and large thedivision of countries gives leaves poignant history and a hostile future and assuch the world balkanization is seen as pejorative. However, in recent yearsthe term comes vis-à-vis democratic rights of an ethnic group and thesustenance of its people. Thus new dimensions of balkanization have comeup and rendered the issue very much debatable. The seeds of balkanization are sown in time when groups of differentethnicity, language, and creed are co-existent in one geopolitical location. There is an inherent tendency in people to get separated from each otherand make an entity of their own identity. The tension only grows when in aregion, one entity feels that its rights have been pushed to margin by others.In absence of appropriate representation and a strong voice, people begin tofeel that they may be better benefitted if they have a separate nation of their own. This leads to agitations in cases for more rights, morerepresentation and in cases for a separate nation-state. For obvious reasonsthe process becomes violent in the race to gain ‘freedomand retainresources.Fragmentation of the Byzantine Empire into emerging ethnic kingdomsmarked the entire 14th century on the Balkan Peninsula. The coining of theterm itself had to wait five centuries for the time of the emergence of Modern Balkan States in the 19th‐century and the retreat of the Ottoman Turks. Balkanization was increasingly used by the rising Western powersduring romanticism, allegedly first by British diplomacy forced to revert itssupport of the Ottomans. Thus Balkanization is hand-in-hand withmodernization, if not early modernism, coming out as its casualty. The nextBalkanization emerged in 1875-76 with the squeezing and the thinning of theOttoman remains in the region. This caused the rapid change of multipleborders as the two competing treaties were held almost simultaneously. Trying to consolidate the borders for at least one quick generation, one washeld by Russia in San Stefano and the other by Otto van Bismarck in Berlin. The following Balkanization had to wait until the Balkan Wars and the Fall of Austro-Hungarian Empire. More specifically: two “Balkan Wars” occurred. Inthe first in 1912, small new nation states, which had gathered togetheragainst the long domination by the Ottoman Empire, cooperated in ethnicalcleansing of Slavic Muslims from the Balkan territory. The “Balkan War II”occurred just a year after in 1913 when the same Balkan nation states went
against each other in the race to win as much land for any given nationalterritory. Bosnia was special because of its earlier annexation by thedeclining Austrian-Hungarian Empire, which produced the first safe heavenfor European Muslims. It was only when post-WWI diplomacy consolidatedthese small Balkan nations into the compound kingdoms of Romania and Yugoslavia that the term was laid to rest. This lull even continued after WWIIthrough the second Yugoslavia granted to Tito by the Western sponsors,Churchill and Roosevelt, to keep them all safe from Stalin. However, with thedeath of Tito, the thread binding the country (and for many reasons, NAMtoo) withered away. Very recently, Kosovo also declared its freedom andfinds itself in the centre stage of international politics. The concern of Russia(which considers it illegal) and China (which has expressed concern) perhapspresent the real worry of large unions of ‘unsatisfiedparts of countryinsistent on declaring their independence.Ayn Rand quoted in Global Balkanization:
“As to the stagnation undertribal rule -take a look at the Balkans. At the start of this century,the Balkans was regarded as the disgrace of Europe. Six or eighttribes, plus a number of sub-tribes with unpronounceable names,were crowded on the Balkan Peninsula, engaging in endless warsamong themselves or being conquered by stronger neighbors orpracticing violence for the sake of violence over some microscopiclanguage differences. Balkanization - the break-up of larger nationsinto ethnic tribes - was used as a pejorative term by Europeanintellectuals of the time. Those same intellectuals were patheticallyproud when they managed, after World War I, to glue most of theBalkan tribes together into two larger countries: Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. But the tribes never vanished; they have been poppingup in minor explosions all along, and a major one is possible at anytime.”
 The case of Soviet Union propounds the context of centralized developmentin handful of regions. With the obsession of Cold War at hand, the Sovietgovernment concentrated on high end technology development in the fieldof defense, space exploration etc. The center of power was at Moscow andthe requirements of the remote areas of the union took back seat. By 1982the stagnation of the Soviet economy was obvious, as evidenced by the factthat the Soviet Union had been importing grain from the U.S. throughout the1970s, but the system was so firmly entrenched that any real changeseemed impossible. A huge rate of defense spending consumed large partsof the economy. The transition period that separated the Brezhnev and
Gorbachev eras resembled the former much more than the latter, althoughhints of reform emerged as early as 1983. After the Andropov and Chernenkointerregnum, Gorbachev rose to power amidst Afghanistan war. Glasnost andPerestroika took heavy casualties on the Soviet Union and the dissentionwhich was being piled up for two-three decade in the Soviet constituentstook a violent shape and dissolution of the USSR was just a matter of time. The gun powder was ignited by the act of Aijerbaijan on people of Armeniandescend. There was wide spread demand from the constituent Soviet unionsto get separated from the USSR and finally the inevitable happened on theChristmas day of 1991.When the government made steps to provide a little bit of autonomy thesmaller states in the Union were only too eager to cede away. But autonomycannot be completely blamed for this cessation because the desire to cedeaway was seeded in the era of heavy centralization and this centralizationonly gave water and manure to the seed. The era of autonomy only showedthe seed the path to bloom into a fully fledged tree. Whereas Soviet republicdissolved only when leeway in terms of freeness (glasnost and perestroika)was granted by the government and the dissolution was not too bloody astruggle; whereas on the other hand Yugoslavian dissolution was acompletely messy and bloody affair- a direct opposition to centralizedpower.United States of America seems to be exemplary model of how autonomycan curb balkanization. Each of the 50 states in America has their own set of law which, in many cases, is entirely different from the others – capitalpunishment, gun control, drinking age etc. The states are also at completeautonomy to formulate and execute their laws. However, the reasons fornon-cessations movement may not lie in autonomy alone. Consider the factthat the American economy industry, agriculture, services are highlydecentralized over the entire area of the country. The states also competewith each other to lure the industry to establish in their zones. Besides, theethnic conflicts based on origin, language are almost non-existent sinceapart from the native Indians, the ethnicity and origin of people is similar.Balkanization of America is generally presented as a call against USimmigrant rights to keep ethnic and religious origin intact. Largelyresponding to the growing Latin population in Northern America whichsucceeds in keeping its language autonomy, those calls echo racist calls forforced assimilation by spreading fear from emerging claim for difference.Balkanization here is particularly aimed as an accusation against Mexicans,

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