Southern California

International Review
Volume 2, Number 2 • Fall 2012

Dedicated to the memory of a beloved teacher and respected leader:
Robert L. Friedheim
Professor of International Relations, 1976-2001
Director of the School of International Relations, 1992-1995

Southern California International Review
scinternationalreview.org

Staff
Editor-in-Chief
Samir Kumar
Assistant Editor-in-Chief:

Andrew Ju
Editors:

Natalie Tecimer
Matthew Prusak

Taline Gettas
Rebecca Braun

Cover Design: Samir Kumar
Layout: Rebecca Braun

The Southern California International Review (SCIR) is a bi-annual interdisciplinary print and online journal of scholarship in the field of international
studies generously funded by the School of International Relations at the
University of Southern California (USC). In particular, SCIR would like
to thank the Robert L. Friedheim Fund and the USC SIR Alumni Fund.
Founded in 2011, the journal seeks to foster and enhance discussion between
theoretical and policy-oriented research regarding significant global issues.
SCIR also serves as an opportunity for undergraduate students at USC to
publish their work. SCIR is managed completely by students and also provides undergraduates valuable experience in the fields of editing and graphic
design.

Copyright © 2012 Southern California International Review.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any
form without the express written consent of the Southern California International
Review.
Views expressed in this journal are solely those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily
represent those of the editorial board, faculty advisors, or the University of Southern California.

Contents

1.

The 16 Year Crisis
Security, Geopolitics, and Conflict Management in the Arctic
Kelsey Bradshaw, Jason Finklestein, Nicholas Kosturos

9

2.

Expressions of Nationalism
Exploring the Implications of Russian Gemeinschaft
Tyler D. Tyburski

29

3.

The Ethnic Korean Population in Japan
The Last Frontier?
Alyssa Min

43

4.

Genocide, Identity, and the State
The Dire Potential for Conflict in Colonial Identities
Erik Peterson

57

A letter from the editor:
Dear Reader,
It is with great pleasure that I introduce the fourth issue of the Southern California
International Review (SCIR). This bi-annual undergraduate journal based at the University
of Southern California seeks to create a unique opportunity for students to publish their
research and other academic work in order to spread their ideas to a wider audience. By
fostering such dialogue between students of international relations and related fields both
on campus and throughout the country, SCIR seeks to promote a better understanding of
the global challenges facing our world today. As our world becomes increasingly interconnected through technology, trade, and diplomacy, it is evident that events occurring anywhere on the globe have worldwide effects. The need to not only study, but also interrogate,
international relations and related disciplines, has never been more important. Thus, this
journal desires to contribute unique and innovative ideas to this fascinating and essential
field of study.
I am happy to write that this is the second issue in which SCIR accepted article submissions from students at universities other than USC. The pieces contained in the journal are
written by undergraduate students and were chosen by our six member editorial board. The
graphics, templates, and formatting was also designed by our editorial board. In an effort
to not restrict students in their submissions, SCIR welcomed submissions on a wide variety
of topics in the realm of international studies, thereby emphasizing our commitment to
interdisciplinary learning.
From a discussion of an emerging threat to international security in the Arctic to an
examination of identity manipulation in Rwanda, the content of this issue should engage
you and prompt further inquiry into these particular realms of study. As you read, ask yourself, “Why is this article important?” My hope is that your question is answered, and you
find yourself with a host of more incisive questions that would incite enthralling answers.
Additionally, in the future, please keep an eye out for the authors published herein, for they
might soon be in a position to influence the very issues that they have examined!

The capability and dedication of our authors and editors are what make this issue strong,
but USC’s faith in our abilities is just as valuable. SCIR would not exist without the generous
funding provided by the Robert L. Freidheim Memorial Endowment, and the support of the
School of International Relations. Significant appreciation goes to the Director, Dr. Robert
English, and the wonderful faculty and staff that have assisted us over the past three years.
I would particularly like to thank Linda Cole for her constant presence and her willingness
to see us succeed at our current endeavors and lay the groundwork to aim higher.
Finally, please do not underestimate our receptivity to your comments! We would love
to hear your feedback on this issue. Please send us your comments, questions, and suggestions at scinternationalreview@gmail.com, and we will do our best to take these into account
or offer a thoughtful reply.
Sincerely,
Samir Kumar
Editor-in-Chief

The 16 Years Crisis

Security, Geopolitics, and Conflict in the Arctic

Kelsey Bradshaw, Jason Finklestein, Nicholas Kosturos
“We don’t talk about conflict or else it might happen”
Jyrki Terva, Finnish Consul General to St. Petersburg, Russian Federation
Due to a changing global climate, the Arctic region of our globe is shifting from being icecapped to ice-free. Though the Arctic region is not regularly on the forefront of most Americans’ minds, the untapped resources at the bottom of Arctic Ocean in conjunction with the
potential for drastically cheaper shipping options makes the Arctic a region of utmost economic
and geostrategic significance for many nations across the globe. Claims on critical natural
resources and shipping routes are tenuous at best, which should lead diplomats and leaders to
be wary of possible disputes. This research paper finds a startling dissonance between regional
states’ behavior and state officials’ statements and positions with regards to the status quo of
affairs in the Arctic. In addition to a telling denial by diplomats of any potential for conflict,
a number of factors indicate a high risk of potential interstate conflict. These security risks include an evident military buildup in the Arctic region; lack of effective governing institutions;
post-Cold War tensions and the resulting realist-driven operational codes; internal domestic
political pressures; and the uncertainty of the Artic Council’s future leadership role. While this
report does not seek to be alarmist about a looming world war, it suggests that Arctic conflict
management has become increasingly critical to preventing the Arctic from transforming from
a zone of peace into a zone of conflict.

Introduction
“The Arctic is hot” is the fashion in which Russian diplomat Aleksi Ivanov recently
described the growing significance of the Arctic to the world.1 The depletion of worldwide
1  Aleksi Ivanov, interview held with University of Southern California researchers, Stockholm, Sweden, May 25, 2012.

Kelsey Bradshaw is a senior at the University of Southern California
majoring in International Relations.
Jason Finklestein is a senior at the University of Southern California
majoring in International Relations.
Nicholas Kosturos is a junior at the University of Southern California
majoring in International Relations.

10

Kelsey Bradshaw, Jason Finklestein, Nicholas Kosturos

The 16 Years Crisis

11

Background Information

oil and gas resources has caused many states around the world to pay increased attention
to the Arctic region, which holds 25% of the world’s natural gas2, 13% of its oil3, and 20% of
its technologically important rare-earth elements.4 In addition to containing critical natural resources, the Arctic’s melting ice has allowed for new shipping routes to become more
accessible, such as the Northwest and Northeast passages.5 The successful navigation of
these passages could result in an up to 40% decrease in shipping costs when compared to
conventional shipping routes.6 These new estimates of rich natural resource reserves and
increased shipping efficiency possibilities in the Arctic have resulted in the applications of
states including China, India, Italy, the European Union (EU), and South Korea to obtain
Permanent Observer status in the Arctic Council. With high stakes and numerous states
vying for position in the region, the Arctic certainly seems to be growing “hot.”
In 1939, Edward Hallet Carr published The Twenty Years Crisis, a work central to
the canon of modern day international relations theory. Carr advanced the argument that
excessively idealistic thinking following the World War I acted as the primary cause for
World War II. Carr postulated that world leaders of the period were subject to a “crisis of
idealism,” where they fell prey to “the dangerous and glaring defect of nearly all thinking:
neglect of power.” In Carr’s eyes, these leaders placed excessive trust in liberal internationalism and the role of international organizations, and therefore were victim to the classical
realist motivations for human behavior. What some may term “wishful thinking” failed to
prevent the rise of fascism and subsequently World War II.
We see this could be considered analogous to the situation developing in both the official positions and the thought processes of the vast majority of Arctic diplomats. As will
be shown in this paper, there is near universal denial among diplomatic officials of any possibility of interstate conflict in the Arctic. While this paper does not intend to be alarmist
about a looming World War III, diplomats and researchers who grapple with Arctic issues
appear to dangerously disregard the prospect of interstate conflict. This research paper seeks
to evaluate the significant security challenges that exist in the Arctic region, specifically
the possibility of interstate conflict, and to identify problem areas that, if left unaddressed,
could lead the Arctic to become a center of strife in this century. This paper will also propose
recommendations to improve multilateral negotiation in the realm of security in order to
prevent the possibility of a large-scale armed conflict.

Before exploring current politics and security concerns in the region, it is prudent to
discuss how the history of the region informs the present day. Many explorers have attempted to conquer the Arctic and the northern passages, most to no avail. In 1845, Sir John
Franklin and two British Navy ships set out to explore the Northwest Passage and never
returned. More than forty search expeditions were sent to look for the explorers, but it was
not until 1981 that evidence, such as graves and bodies that explained the ship’s demise, were
found near King Williams Island, 70 degrees latitude.7 On April 6th, 1909 another team of
explorers, made up of Americans and Inuits, arrived at the North Pole. They had made the
long journey from Cape Columbia on Ellesmere Island by dogsled.8 Cold-weather capabilities have expanded drastically since that time. Today, explorers investigate the Arctic via
icebreaker ships and floating scientific stations and venture off the semi-permanent structures using use aircraft, dog sleds, skis, and snowmobiles to learn more about the region.
While there has been interest in the Arctic as an unexplored region for centuries, it was
not until recently that ecological and environmental factors began to capture the awareness
a broader audience than explorers. Sea ice coverage fluctuates throughout the year, with the
high in March and the low in September. This trend has only increased in its intensity in
recent times. Research shows that a sharp decline in summer sea ice occurred in September
of 2007, shrinking the total ice-covered area down down to 4.28 million square kilometers,
a record low.9 This dramatic decline in summer sea ice opened coastlines throughout northern Russia and the northern Canadian islands, making the possibility of using northern
sea routes for shipping and tourism more plausible. Furthermore, New deposits for oil and
natural gas drilling were discovered because of the shrinking sea ice, and many Arctic states,
including Russia, the United States, and Norway, have began researching possible deposits
and drilling sites.
However, increased possibilities within the region have not been without their price.
The nation-states with Arctic coastlines remain “at odds over how to divide up the region,”
perhaps more so than ever before.10 Both Canada and Russia claim the territory connected
to the Lomonosov ridge and have appealed to the Arctic Council with scientific evidence
that purportedly shows the ridge extending from their shoreline. Although no decision has

2  Ekaterina Klimenko, “Ambitious Plans and Domestic Policies for the Arctic in Russia,” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Meeting with University of Southern California researchers (Stockholm, Sweden), May 21, 2012.
3  “90 billion Barrels of Oil and 1670 Trillion Cubic Feet of Natural Gas Assessed in the Arctic,” U.S. Geological Survey, accessed June 6, 2012, http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=1980#.T89KA-068UU.
4  Matteo Rongione, “Role of Resources in the Arctic- Rare Earth Elements,” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
(Stockholm, Sweden), May 21, 2012.
5  Tom Arnbom, “Arctic is Hot,” World Wildlife Fund (Stockholm, Sweden) May 22, 2012.
6  Alun Anderson, After the Ice, (Washington DC: Smithsonian, 2009).

7  Fitzpatrick, Kathleen, ‘Franklin, Sir John (1786–1847)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography,
Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/franklin-sir-john-2066/text2575, accessed 20 October 2012.
8  “Robert Peary: To the Top of the World.” PBS. PBS, 1999. Web. 20 Oct. 2012. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/ice/sfeature/
peary.html>.
9  Renfrow, Stephanie. “Arctic Sea Ice Shatters All Previous Record Lows.” NSIDC Arctic Sea Ice News Fall 2007. National Snow
and Ice Data Center, 1 Oct. 2007. Web. 20 Oct. 2012. <http://nsidc.org/news/press/2007_seaiceminimum/20071001_pressrelease.
html>
10  Bennett, Jody R. “Vying for Power in the High North.” International Relations Security Network. ISN Security Watch, 6 Sept.
2012. Web. 15 Oct. 2012.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

Kelsey Bradshaw, Jason Finklestein, Nicholas Kosturos

12

been made, and none will be made in the near future, both countries are scouring the ridge
to find the natural resources required to bolster their cases for an extension of their Exclusive
Economic Zone.
Between other nation-states in the region, a renewal of historical antipathy has occurred. The United States and Russia, the two nation-states at the center of the Cold War,,
both maintain a significant presence in the Artic and have considerable interest in projecting power within the region. Russia has already sought to strengthen its Arctic presence by
announcing plans to build naval infrastructure hubs along the Northern Sea Route to act
as rescue centers and military bases.11 In turn, other states are also ramping up their Arctic
military capabilities in order to protect borders, conduct training exercises, and provide
search and rescue assistance. This military buildup appears bourn out of a desire to project
power rather than to conduct routine patrolling or search and rescue operations. The nature
of this arms race will be addressed further in the “Security Concerns” section of this paper.
Since 2007, the Arctic has once again been identified as a new hot spot for exploration.
A renewed effort to conduct scientific studies and to map the region has brought the world’s
attention to the tantalizing prospects of a resource-rich Arctic. Arctic states are aware of the
economic and geopolitical significance of the region and are putting forth a great effort to
secure their national interests.

National Interests
Each Arctic state has significant national interests in the region. As mentioned previously, the economic factors including oil, natural gas, and fishing stock are major motivations for Arctic states. In addition, strategic interests such as control of crucial shipping
territory also play a prominent role. In addition to these incentives, other areas of interest
fuel the behavior of the Arctic states. Each Arctic state has outlined their priorities for the
Arctic as the region gains greater attention. By looking at these motivations, greater clarity
about the overall situation can be attained.

United States

The United States defines itself as an Arctic state due to Alaska’s location within
the Artic. The United States has publicly identified its Arctic priorities as homeland security, economic security, international governance, extended continental shelf and boundary
finalization, the promotion of international scientific cooperation, maritime transport, and
environmental protection. The United States also has publicly stated its desire to strengthen
cooperation among the eight Arctic states.12
11  Ibid.
12  Lassi Heininen, “Arctic Strategies and Policies: Inventory and Comparative Study.” The Northern Research Forum and the
University of Lapland (2012) pp. 53-57, 68-69, 69, 70-71, 78.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

The 16 Years Crisis

13

Russian Federation

Russia’s self-proclaimed Arctic strategy revolves around maintaining their role as
a leading power within the Arctic, as roughly half the coastal area of the Arctic Ocean lies
within their territory. Besides Russia’s obvious energy interests in the region, the nation-state
has ten strategic priorities relating to the Arctic: active interaction with sub-Arctic states to
delimit maritime areas with international law, fostering the creation of Arctic search and
rescue regimes, to strengthen bilateral relationships within regional organizations, assist in
organization/management/use of cross polar air and sea routes, contribute to international
arctic forums, delimit maritime spaces in the Arctic and maintain mutually advantageous
presence in Spitsbergen Archipelago, improve state management of social and economic
development, improve quality of life for indigenous peoples, develop arctic resource base
through technological capabilities, modernize and develop the infrastructure of transportation and fisheries. Russia plans to contribute to international cooperation by strengthening bilateral relationships with regional organizations and participating in international
forums.13

Norway

Norway has various national interests in the Arctic, including state security, economic development, and regional cooperation. Its declared priorities are helping to promote knowledge about climate change and environmental security, improving monitoring,
emergency response, and maritime safety systems, promoting sustainable use of offshore
petroleum and renewable resources, promoting onshore business development, further developing infrastructure, continuing to strengthen cooperation with Russia, and safeguarding the cultures and livelihoods of the indigenous peoples. It should be noted, however,
that Norway’s foremost diplomatic priority is to maintain stable diplomatic relations with
Russia.14

Denmark (Greenland)

Denmark’s stake in the Arctic and seat on the Arctic Council is driven by its national interests in Greenland. Denmark and Greenland’s joint arctic strategy identifies their
priorities as supporting and strengthening Greenland’s development toward autonomy and
maintaining the commonwealth’s position as a major player in the arctic. Denmark’s plan has
four separate priorities: creating a peaceful, secure, and safe arctic; self-sustaining growth
and development; developing with respect for the Arctic’s fragile climate, environment, and
13  Heininen, “Arctic Strategies and Policies: Inventory and Comparative Study.” The Northern Research Forum and the University of Lapland (2012) pp. 42-49, 68, 69, 70, 78.
14  Heininen, “Arctic Strategies and Policies: Inventory and Comparative Study.” The Northern Research Forum and the University of Lapland (2012) pp. 35-42, 68, 69, 70, 77-78.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

Kelsey Bradshaw, Jason Finklestein, Nicholas Kosturos

The 16 Years Crisis

nature; and cooperating closely with international partners. Denmark and Greenland also
believe that the role of the Arctic Council should be emphasized and extended, and international organizations, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), should be
included in international cooperation discussions.15

environmental protection, transportation, peoples and cultures, and research and monitoring. International cooperation, specifically with Nordic states can be considered one of
Iceland’s top Arctic priorities.19

14

Finland

Finland asserts itself as a natural Arctic power with both a Northern and Arctic
identity. The Finnish government seeks to emerge as a major power in Northern Europe
as well. Its priorities in the Arctic are the environment, economic activities such as fishing,
transportation and infrastructure advancements, and the protection indigenous peoples.
They see international cooperation as a way to lay the groundwork for Finland’s activities in
the Arctic and promote intergovernmental organization.16

Sweden

Sweden emphasizes the historic, geopolitical, economic, environmental, scientific,
and cultural ties connecting them to the Arctic. The priorities of their strategy are climate
and environment protection, economic development. Sweden seeks well functioning multilateral cooperation within the Arctic states.17

Canada

Canada asserts that being a “Northern Country” is central to the Canadian
National Identity, and it declares itself a global leader in Arctic science. Exercising arctic
sovereignty, promoting social and economic development, protecting the North’s environmental heritage, and improving and evolving northern governance are Canada’s priorities.
Canada places a strong emphasis on international cooperation at different levels and wants
to cooperate with international organizations and partners.18

Iceland
Iceland is the only country that claims to be located entirely within the Arctic. As a maritime nation, it depends on resources from the surrounding seas, including a large supply
of fish. Iceland prioritizes international cooperation, security, resource development and
15  Heininen, “Arctic Strategies and Policies: Inventory and Comparative Study.” The Northern Research Forum and the University of Lapland (2012) pp. 17-23, 68, 69, 77.
16  Heininen, “Arctic Strategies and Policies: Inventory and Comparative Study.” The Northern Research Forum and the University of Lapland (2012) pp. 23-28, 68, 69, 77.
17  Heininen, “Arctic Strategies and Policies: Inventory and Comparative Study.” The Northern Research Forum and the University of Lapland (2012) pp. 49-53, 68, 69, 70, 78.
18  Lassi Heininen, “Arctic Strategies and Policies: Inventory and Comparative Study.” The Northern Research Forum and the
University of Lapland (2012) pp. 13-17, 68, 69, 76-77.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

15

European Union

The European Union also wants a stake in the energy-rich Arctic. It places a high
priority on protecting/preserving the Arctic environment and population, promoting
sustainable use of resources, and contributing to enhanced multilateral governance. The
governing body promotes international cooperation and is seeking Permanent Observer
status.20
These Arctic states and regional bodies share similar priorities in the region. Each state
declares a peaceful desire to foster environmental responsibility, multilateral governance,
among other noble priorities. However, each state also has momentous economic and political interests in the region, such as the natural resource deposits and shipping routes available
in the Arctic. An examination of current Arctic security issues reveals that the political and
economic interests in the region seem to overshadow other appealing priorities, including
the promotion of global governance and ecological security. Indeed, the actions of these
states even seem to contradict their official priorities. Geopolitical and economic interests
have driven states to sacrifice cooperation in favor of national interests, an shift that has led
to serious security concerns in the region, including the possibility of heavy militarization.

Security Concerns
There exists strong evidence of a military build-up in the Arctic on part of every nationstate within the Arctic Circle. A report published by the Stockholm International Peace
Research Institute (SIPRI) entitled “Military Capabilities in the Arctic,” reveals enlightening information regarding this militarization.21 Canada is increasing Arctic troop levels and
setting up new bases in the Arctic region facing Greenland. Denmark adopted a special
Arctic strategy in 2011 and has since developed a military Arctic Response Force comprised of aircraft and naval vessels adapted for the Arctic climate. Norway, a member of
NATO, has directed its Arctic defense policy towards Russia, according to SIPRI. Norway
seems more interested in maintaining formidable military presence in the Arctic Circle. It
has completed 5 military training exercises with NATO in the Arctic since 2006 and moved
19  Heininen, “Arctic Strategies and Policies: Inventory and Comparative Study.” The Northern Research Forum and the University of Lapland (2012) pp. 29-34, 68, 69, 70, 77.
20  Lassi Heininen, “Arctic Strategies and Policies: Inventory and Comparative Study.” The Northern Research Forum and the
University of Lapland (2012) pp. 57-64, 71, 78-79.
21  Siemon Wezeman, “Military Capabilities in the Arctic,” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Background Papers
2012: 13-14.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

Kelsey Bradshaw, Jason Finklestein, Nicholas Kosturos

The 16 Years Crisis

its armed forces headquarters nearer to the Arctic Circle in 2009. Russia has also increased
military presence in the Arctic region by regularly deploying bomber aircraft and reconnaissance missions over the Arctic after a 15-year hiatus. In 2011, the U.S. also conducted in a
submarine warfare exercise, and the U.S. Coast Guard has been deploying more National
Security cutters to the Arctic region. According to an article published by the Center for
Climate and Energy Solutions, “Climate Change and International Security: The Arctic as a
Bellwether,” “The[se] new military programs have been geared towards combat capabilities
that exceed mere constabulary capacity.”22 This information suggests Arctic states may be
bolstering their militaries to prepare for conflict between state actors, not just for routine
offshore patrolling purposes.
This militarization brings about a security dilemma, where a perceived or actual military build-up in one state instills insecurity in another, causing an escalating arms race to
ensue. There exists a high potential for this security dilemma to become a reality among
Arctic states if high-intensity militarization continues. The build up itself seems contradictory to the hopes for a state of continued peace. If, “no one thinks about Arctic as a military zone,” such an emphasis on preparing national armed forces for an Arctic engagement
would not be occurring. Militarization in conjunction with diplomats downplaying any
security threats is certainly dangerous. These non-transparent and security maximizing attitudes on behalf of states are a threat to peace- however “natural” this process may be.
Despite the grim indications of the continued regional militarization, the possibility for
armed interstate conflict is vigorously denied or downplayed by diplomats and researchers.
Beyond cursory nods, Dr. Siemon T. Wezeman of SIPRI places little emphasis on the threat
of interstate conflict despite a notable military build-up. Dr. Wezeman writes the changes
“have little or nothing to do with power projection,” and may instead be aimed at the “patrolling and protecting of recognized national territories that are becoming accessible, including for criminal activities,” or towards supporting “civilian research.”23 When questioned
further about his report, Dr. Wezeman stated, “no one is planning to go to war.”24 Kristopher
Bergh, another SIPRI researcher, stated, “Security is not a concern to the U.S. when it comes
to the Arctic.”25 On April 12th and 13th, a meeting of the Arctic Chiefs of Defense Staff- a
grouping of Arctic nations’ military commanders for the region occurred at what is known
as the Goose Bay Conference. However, this conference did not discuss issues of “hard

security,” as defined by Professor Lomagin of St. Petersburg State University as security
issues relating to defense against state actors.26 Instead, the discussed security issues focused
solely on “search and rescue, northern environmental challenges and military-aboriginal
relations.”27 Ambassador Gustav Lind, the Swedish chair of the Arctic Council, recently
opened an informational presentation with a proclamation that any rumors of conflict were
simply media exaggeration. In regards to a possible military build-up in the Arctic region,
Ambassador Lind stated, “Military resources are only being used to support civilians.”28
Russian Ambassador to Sweden Igor Neverov was adamant about the impossibility of militarization when he said, “No one thinks about militarization of the Arctic.”29 The Russian
Ambassador’s top political adviser, Aleksi Ivanov, added, “The Arctic is a zone of peace,” and,
“No one thinks about the Arctic as a military zone.”30 When discussing a possible resurgence
of a 20th century great power rivalry between the U.S. and Russia, Mr. Ivanov noted how
the two nations are “totally in sync” and have “aligned interests.”31 Dr. Ekaterina Klimenko,
a Russia expert at SIPRI, added that “there is nothing to be scared of ” in the Arctic.32 These
statements seem to suggest that there exists no possibility whatsoever of any interstate conflict occurring in the Arctic. Perhaps, as the Finnish Consul General to St. Petersburg, Jyrki
Terva suggested, simply talking about conflict is the first step to bringing it about.33 With this
principle in mind, any talk regarding conflict is avoided and vigorously denied by official
representatives of each Arctic state.
Some scholars and diplomats, however, acknowledge that there is high tension in the
region. Consul General Aasheim took a less optimistic view about current interstate relations in the Arctic. He stated, in response to questioning on security and cooperation in the
Arctic, “There is a fight … there is a battle.”34 Especially prominent is a Cold War legacy resulting from the East-West divide that dominated the region for forty years. As Dr. Wezeman
stated, “The Cold War is not over.”35 Tom Arnbom of the World Wildlife Fund Sweden is

16

17

22  Rob Huebert, et al., “Climate Change and International Security: The Arctic as a Bellwether,” Center for Climate and Energy
Solutions, May 2012: 23.
23  Siemon Wezeman, “Military Capabilities in the Arctic,” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Background Papers
2012: 13-14.
24  Siemon Wezeman, “Discussion of Military Capabilities in the Arctic,” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
Meeting with University of Southern California researchers (Stockholm, Sweden), May 21, 2012.
25  Kristopher Berg, “Domestic Drivers for Canadian and U.S. Arctic Policy,” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
Meeting with University of Southern California researchers (Stockholm, Sweden), May 21, 2012.

26  Nikita Lomagin, “Russia’s Perception of the Arctic and International Cooperation,” Lecture with University of Southern
California Researchers (St. Petersburg, Russia), May 28, 2012.
27  Olin Strader, Arctic Chiefs of Defence Staff Conference- An Opportunity to Formalize Arctic Security, The Arctic Institute:
Center for Circumpolar Security Studies, http://www.thearcticinstitute.org/2012/04/arctic-chiefs-of-defence-staff.html?m=1
(April 6, 2012).
28  Gustav Lind, interview held during meeting with University of Southern California researchers, Stockholm, Sweden, May
23, 2012.
29  Igor Neverov,, interview held during meeting with University of Southern California researchers, Stockholm, Sweden, May
25, 2012.
30  Ivanov, Interview with University of Southern California Researchers, May 25, 2012.
31  Ivanov, Interview with University of Southern California Researchers, May 25, 2012.
32  Klimenko, “Ambitious Plans and Domestic Policies for the Arctic in Russia.”
33  Jyrki Terva, Meeting with University of Southern California Researchers, St. Petersburg, Russia, May 28, 2012.
34  Jyrki Terva, Meeting with University of Southern California Researchers, May 28, 2012.
35  Wezeman, “Discussion of Military Capabilities in the Arctic.”

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

Kelsey Bradshaw, Jason Finklestein, Nicholas Kosturos

The 16 Years Crisis

wary that, “Canada is going to be very nationalistic” when it takes the Chairmanship of the
Arctic Council.36 SIPRI expert Dr. Neil Melvin believes that “Greenland is one oil strike
away from independence.”37 These numerous pressures create stark divisions between Arctic
states and heighten tensions that are continuously denied by diplomats. The acknowledgement of certain conflict potential and the denial of overall security challenges show a certain
dissonance that deserves further exploration.
The current militarization of the Arctic seems obvious, but many officials counter that
the buildup is necessary for combating soft security issues such as illegal fishing. However,
a closer look at the nature of the preparations show them to be more geared toward the
possibility of interstate conflict rather than routine offshore patrolling. Indeed, no serious
threat of transnational crime exists in the Arctic and there has been no evidence to suggest
that transnational crime has increased in recent years in the region. While some states and
researchers declare the Arctic to be an undisputed “zone of peace,” other researchers seem
to doubt such an optimistic assessment and comment on the areas of tension. Though interstate-armed conflict on a grand scale does not seem likely, diplomatic rows and military
skirmishes are possible, which could lead to increasingly volatile circumstances. These circumstances could in turn cause these newly reinforced military forces to engage in conflict
and turn the Arctic into a zone of instability.

top priority is showing to the world that it can match the United States in broadly defined
power capabilities and projections. This Russian mindset, referred to as an “inferiority complex” by Dr. Lomagin hampers communication efforts between Russia and NATO states in
regards to its behavior in the Arctic.40 The legacy of the Cold War is still very prevalent in
the region and has led to a divide between Russia and Western states.
The extant Cold War tensions continue to dominate foreign policy decisions made on
behalf of NATO-affiliated states and Russia. Russian energy security researcher, Konstantin
Leschenko of St. Petersburg State University, noted that this presence of NATO missiles and
strategic commands in central Europe is a key factor in promoting distrust between Russia
and NATO states.41 This lack of trust is reflected in Russia’s decision to bolster its military
forces in the Arctic. As noted in SIPRI’s report, Military Capabilities in the Arctic, Russia’s
decision to increase its military presence is driven by a desire to “’balance the situation’ with
NATO forces in the Arctic.”42 Russian Diplomat Aleksi Ivanov called this military bolstering
a “natural response” to protect Russian sovereignty.43 It is no surprise Russia would want
to project power in the region since NATO forces have carried out military exercises in the
region that have excluded Russia.44
While this storied tension may seem obvious, it is important to recognize the inhibitory
effect it is having on military coordination and cooperation in the Arctic region. If Russia
continues to feel that it is marginalized or needs to prove its power, the Arctic could transform into an area of heightened tension and result in, at the very least, intense diplomatic
conflict reminiscent of Soviet and American tensions during the Cold War.

18

Cold War Politics
A major obstacle to cooperation and coordination between Arctic states is the result of
a post-Cold War tension that exists between North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
member-states and the weakened Russian Federation. The conclusion of the Cold War has
resulted in a great power rivalry between Russia and the United States. This rivalry is a major
contributing factor to the lack of communication and mistrust on hard security issues in the
region. Indeed, as Dr. Nikita Lomagin of St. Petersburg State University noted, “We are still
hostage to the Cold War.”38 The recent developments of Russia’s general distrust of NATO
forces, especially the United States, is driven by the presence of NATO forces in former
Soviet territory. This already existing wariness of NATO was exacerbated when U.S. forces
broke an agreement made with Russia over the reunification of East and West Germany by
subsequently including former Soviet satellites in the NATO coalition.39 Because of the dismantling of the USSR’s military forces at the conclusion of the Cold War, Russia’s apparent
36  Arnbom, “Arctic is Hot.”
37  Neil Melvin, “Conflict and Cooperation,” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Meeting with University of
Southern California Researchers (Stockholm, Sweden), May 22, 2012.
38  Lomagin, “Russia’s Perception of the Arctic and International Cooperation.”
39  Robert English, “German Reunification,” Meeting with University of Southern California researchers (Los Angeles, CA),
May 16, 2012.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

19

Structural Obstacles to Multilateral Security Cooperation
While many countries claim to be working multilaterally on all issues related to the
Arctic, there remains no official forum for security cooperation. The only official forum, the
Arctic Council, is ill-suited to mediating security concerns in the region. The institutional
structure lacks the critical decision-making or communicative bodies pertaining to military
action. The Ottawa Declaration, which established the Arctic Council, included a clause
stating that “the Arctic Council should not deal with matters related to military security.”45
Therefore, no forum currently exists for the Arctic states to address these critical issues. As
of now, the Arctic Council functions more as a “chat shop” rather than a decision making
body; when it comes to producing diplomatic accords, it has passed only a single legally
40 
41 
42 
43 
44 
45 

Nikita Lomagin, interview with University of Southern California researchers, St. Petersburg, Russia, June 1, 2012.
Konstantine Leschenko, interview with University of Southern California researchers, St. Petersburg, Russia, May 31, 2012.
Wezeman, “Military Capabilities in the Arctic,” 9.
Ivanov, interview with University of Southern California Researchers, May 25, 2012.
Wezeman, “Military Capabilities in the Arctic,” 7.
Declaration on Establishment of the Arctic Council: The Ottawa Declaration - 1996, (Ottawa: Arctic Council, 1996), 2.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

Kelsey Bradshaw, Jason Finklestein, Nicholas Kosturos

The 16 Years Crisis

binding agreement.46 Indeed, because of the Ottawa Declaration’s footnote, this “chat shop”
is prohibited from even discussing security matters. Even though Ambassador Lind has
stated the Arctic Council is a “decision shaper” but is “evolving” into a decision-maker, the
region still lacks a decision-making body and a forum for addressing security challenges.47
Dr. Neil Melvin explained that the Arctic states need to choose whether or not they are willing to have the Arctic Council as a union with decision-making power and legally binding
agreements, if a decision is left unmade, the nation-states of the Arctic risk predicating security challenges for decades to come.48

For Russia, their vast stake in the Arctic region fuels this realist mindset. Russia has the
longest coastline of any Arctic state; in fact, this coastline encompasses nearly half of the
land surrounding the Arctic Ocean. This heightens security concerns: a lack of ice provides
easy access to Russia’s coastal borders. Since maintaining state security and sovereignty is
a chief concern of Russia, potential access to its borders could open up a Pandora’s box of
security concerns. Russia’s stake in the Arctic is further motivated by its economic interests,
which is severely dependent on natural resources. Russia is the world’s chief producer and
exporter of oil, and ranks second in natural gas output. Despite government attempts to
decrease dependence of the energy sector, Russia’s economy continues be held hostage to
global energy prices. With a decreasing population, rampant corruption, poor infrastructure, and lack of capital beyond the energy sector, Russia’s economic diversification attempts
have not yielded significant results and the current economic outlook in this area appears
bleak.51 According to estimates of Russia’s currently tapped oil and gas reserves, projections
show that energy output is headed for a dramatic decrease over the next twenty years. In
order to salvage its economy, Russia increasingly looks northwards to exploit new resources,
where, as mentioned previously in this paper, a large portion of the world’s untapped oil
and gas reserves lie. With such vital economic and security concerns in the Arctic, Russia is
acting and is expected to act with a realist mindset.
In comparison, Canada is generally thought of as a more moderate state, but under the
leadership of Stephen Harper, it has chosen the Arctic as an area in which to heavily pursue
its national interests. Harper’s has proved himself capable of inducing people to “rally ‘round
the flag,” forcing a hardline policy towards the Arctic. Canada’s realist operational code is
illustrated through a territorial dispute over the Northwest Passage, a new potential shipping route along Canada’s north rim. This route could dramatically reduce transcontinental
shipping costs and be very profitable to the state that controls the waterway. The U.S. and
Canada currently have an unresolved conflict over this passageway. The U.S. and Canada
share one of the most amicable international borders in the world, and for the two states to
publicly disagree about this issue reveals how important this waterway would serve each of
their national interests. Canada believes its sovereignty is directly threatened by the current
territorial disputes in the Arctic, and will therefore work to defend its perceived borders and
retain as much territory as possible.
The remaining littoral Arctic stakeholders of Sweden, Finland, Denmark (Greenland),
Iceland, and Norway fall into somewhat more murky territory concerning their governing
philosophies. Many consider these social democracies to be more in favor of liberal institutionalism. However, these states remain under the realist umbrella, albeit in a different form.
Realism is primarily concerned with great powers -- after all, John Mearsheimer,one of the

20

Conflict of Ideologies
One key determinant in shaping the future of the region rests in the philosophies of
the involved nation-states: the dominant realist philosophy these countries follow may pose
a threat to continued peace. The bolstering of armed forces occurring in the Arctic region
is partly a result of a realist operation code that emphasizes military power projection as
a means of protecting sovereignty. Though a potential security dilemma has already been
mentioned, an examination of its underlying theoretical and philosophical issues is warranted in order to understand the motivations behind the status quo.
As briefly mentioned, realism became the world’s dominant philosophy following World
War II. Political theorists such as E.H. Carr, Hans J. Morgenthau, and Reinhold Niebuhr,
pushed a renaissance of realism to the forefront of international relations theory. These writers looked critically at the causes of the second World War, and settled largely on several
fundamental mistakes made by thought-shapers and policy makers in the interlude following World War I. Concisely, this new strain of thought “emphasized the ubiquity of power
and the competitive nature of politics among nations”49 E.H. Carr looked at institutions and
diplomatic proclamations and saw that rather than ameliorating conflict, they were in fact
impeding the goal of peace. These conditions were dangerous because they created a false
belief that exceedingly complex interstate conflicts could be smoothly dealt with by the creation of a community of states that held shared interests and goals.50
A solid realist identity is held by states such as the Russian Federation, United States,
and Canada when it comes to Arctic policy. Through actions across the world, both recently
and historically, the U.S. and Russia have repeatedly demonstrated these tendencies. There
are few that would argue that the operational code of realism does not dominate U.S. or
Russian decision makers.
46 
47 
48 
49 
50 

Therese Jakobsen, Meeting with University of Southern California researchers (Stockholm, Sweden), May 24, 2012.
Lind, interview held during meeting with University of Southern California researchers, May 23, 2012.
Melvin, “Conflict and Cooperation.”
John Baylis, Steve Smith and Patricia Owens “The Globalization of World Politics,” 81.
Edward Hallet Carr, “The Twenty Years Crisis.”

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

51 

The World Factbook, Economy ::: Russia, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/rs.html

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

21

Kelsey Bradshaw, Jason Finklestein, Nicholas Kosturos

The 16 Years Crisis

chief realist thinkers of the 20th century, entitled his seminal work on realism The Tragedy
of Great Power Politics. Acts of power projection by minor states tend to be ignored, so they
band together in order to have their positions heard on the international scale. In pursuing realist goals, these weaker states have no choice but to embrace liberal internationalist
policies.
These Nordic states have also shown themselves willing and able to pursue their national interests through other means other than traditional realist power projection. Norway, for
example, has a long-standing and historical dispute with Russia over fishing territory. With
much to gain from a stake in Arctic oil, Norway is offering the technological expertise of
its parastatal oil company Statoil (formerly StatoilHydro) to Russian Gazprom concerning
the Shtokman drilling project. In this way, Norway advances its national interests without
directly challenging a great military power.
Another example of a non-great power using other sources of leverage besides military
might is Greenland, Denmark’s land within the region.. Greenland is endowed with the
second largest amount of rare earth minerals in the world. Since these minerals are crucial
to the functioning of technology and therefore the trappings of modern life, Greenland’s
deposits are extremely valuable commodities in the Arctic. These resources are not currently
being tapped for several reasons, including a lack of technological expertise. According to
rare earth minerals expert Dr. Matteo Rongione, the only way for Greenland, a 58,000person state that lacks full independence from Denmark, to mine these minerals would require enlisting outside help. One source it is currently considering is China; Reports indicate
that Greenland may be reaching out to China to assist in the mining of these rare-earth elements, a state eager to increase its stake in the Arctic region. By allowing great powers such
as the EU and China to bid for its rare earth minerals, Greenland is increasing its relative
power and wealth. Even if they bypass traditional realist tactics to reach their goals, smaller
states continue to hold the same end goal of increasing power and influence in the Arctic.

Despite the evidence that realist theory dominates decision-making among Arctic
states, diplomats and leaders continue to make statements that imply otherwise. Arctic rhetoric continues to tend toward a more liberal internationalist viewpoint. The chairman of the
Arctic Council, Ambassador Gustav Lind, is documented to believe the efficacy of the Arctic
Council is increasing. His belief that the Arctic Council will move towards more binding
decisions, goes against the tenets of the dominant realist thought in the region and world. It
is well known that states are very hesitant to sacrifice sovereignty, so his assertion seems to
be overly optimistic under a realist paradigm. In addition to Ambassador Lind, diplomats
including state officials of Russia, Finland and Norway say they would a more powerful
Arctic Council. Indeed, many state priorities, as shown earlier in this paper, suggest a desire
to increase cooperation with the Arctic Council.

However, Arctic state actions show that the rhetoric may be more wishful thinking
than serious policy changes. Despite the call for more binding agreements, only one has
been passed regarding search and rescue. Though the argument can be made that such
low politics issues can encourage more proper integration, the dominant realist mindsets
that are apparent in these Arctic states, especially the U.S. and Russia, indicate that fruitful, legally binding agreements do not seem likely. To a realist, these agreements in very
low politics areas- those that do not relate to security- represent a willful attempt to placate
diplomats and liberal internationalist observers without sacrificing any state sovereignty.
Perhaps the footnote in the Ottawa Declaration excluding military issues from the Arctic
Council’s agenda is the best indicator of a dominant, state-centric realist attitude towards
security issues. In preventing security from being discussed at this regional institution, realist powers made sure that they would not sacrifice any state sovereignty. Based on this, the
Arctic nation-states’ unwillingness to move beyond realist operational codes may in fact be
doomed to repeat the same mistakes of their post-WWI counterparts.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

22

23

Domestic Factors and Diplomatic Challenges
International relations are not the only area running the risk of destabilizing the Arctic;
domestic concerns also pose a threat to Arctic peace and stability. The connection between
domestic factors and international politics comes to light when examining state behavior using “two-level games” theory, a concept coined by Dr. Robert Putnam of Harvard
University. These two-level games occur when leaders bargain on one level with their own
citizens and on the second with other foreign leaders.52 These are dangerous games to play
when the fate of the Arctic Circle is at stake. In Canada, the issue is already at the forefront
of the Canadian psyche. As Dr. Michael Byers suggests, the Arctic is dear to the Canadian
people. Discussing the Arctic “is a personal, even emotional experience, because the Arctic
gets into [Canadians’] hearts and minds and becomes part of who [they] are.”53 Mr. Byers
also remarks that, “Conceptions of sovereignty are often wrapped up in national identities,
and nowhere is this more true than with Canada’s North,” for even the national anthem
emphasizes “The True North Strong and Free.”54 Byers introduces the concept of Harper’s
politicization of the Arctic, stating that Mr. Harper has “made Arctic sovereignty part of his
successful election campaigns.”55 Harper told the National Post on May 16 that, “nothing
comes before [Arctic sovereignty].”56 In 2010, Harper proclaimed to CBC that, “The first
52  Robert Putnam, “Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: The Logic of Two-Level Games,” International Organization 42(Summer 1988):427-460.
53  Michael Byers, Who Owns the Arctic, (Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre 2010), 19.
54  Byers, Who Owns the Arctic, 20.
55  Byers, Who Owns the Arctic, 23.
56  John Ivison, Stephen Harper’s Arctic Sovereignty Legacy Starting to Cool Off,

Kelsey Bradshaw, Jason Finklestein, Nicholas Kosturos

The 16 Years Crisis

and highest priority of our northern strategy is the protection of our Arctic sovereignty.
And as I have said many times before, the first principle of sovereignty is to use it or lose
it.”57 Harper seminally adds that Canada’s Arctic sovereignty is “non-negotiable.” These and
other statements by Mr. Harper show a dangerous politicization of Arctic security, in which
the Canadian people could be clamoring for hardline solutions for the slightest of Arctic
problems or territorial infringements.
While Canada has an extremely strong Northern identity, Russia expert Dr. Robert
English of the University of Southern California, raises the point that Russia may have a
claim even more intrinsic to its national identity. With 18% of their territory, 20,000 kilometers of border, and 95% of their oil and gas reserves in the north, the Russian Federation’s
fate is tied closely to that of the Arctic.58 Russian President Vladimir Putin has also taken
a similar political tack. Harper and Putin have both put themselves in quite complicated
positions when it comes to international bargaining. In the event that some small security
issue does arise in the Arctic, we may see Canadian and Russian citizens pushing for more
aggressive action, domestic pressures which could complicate multilateral cooperation at
the international level. Indeed, when Canada assumes the chair of the Council in 2013, its
nationalistic behavior and policy may reverse Sweden’s previous gains setting the stage for
multilateral cooperation. Also, a change in U.S. leadership following the 2012 presidential
election could have similar effects either immediately or when the U.S takes the helm of
the Arctic Council in 2015. Without leadership advocating for cooperation, the Arctic will
inevitably become a zone of increased tension.

to each Arctic state can reveal how harsh political rhetoric can hurt state officials’ ability to
negotiate with each other and mitigate disputes. In addition, the Arctic Council is due for
changes in leadership that will lead to greater uncertainty. A combination of these factors
may result in diplomatic crises and small-scale armed disputes among involved states, which
could potentially result in a large-scale armed conflict. Because of the core risk involved in
ignoring these serious security risks, dialogue between Arctic states is critical.
With this dire scenario in mind, it is critical to posit ways to reduce the prospect of
future instability. The singular most important factor to avoiding conflict is that open communication and acknowledgement of risk. Since the Ottawa Declaration prohibits the Arctic
Council from addressing any security issues, an additional forum for hard and soft security
matters should be established. This forum must dedicate itself to addressing security concerns and must include representatives from the civilian and military leadership of each
Arctic state. Since another semi-legislative regional organization seems implausible due to
the realist philosophies dominating each state’s behavior, a conference or summit that includes all Arctic states would be a more likely multilateral channel in which to open dialogue
on security matters. The goal of this much-needed security summit would be to build positive relations and lay the groundwork for further cooperation.

This research paper does not assert that major interstate conflict will necessarily
occur, however, it does suggest that small skirmishes and diplomatic tensions between state
actors are possible. These, in turn, could spark Arctic nations to engage in armed and/or
diplomatic conflict due to lack of coordination and communication. Arctic states need to
increase their efforts in seeking consensus in the realm of hard and soft security matters in
order to prevent tensions from rising in the region. If this recommendation is not met, an
Arctic crisis of alarming magnitude could result, and the world may face a war that is very
cold indeed.

24

Conclusion
In analyzing the behavior of Arctic states, this report finds that the Arctic region has
a high likelihood of future instability. Each Arctic state involved has strong economic and
geopolitical interests in the region; to defend their interests, these states have contributed
significant resources to building up their Arctic military forces and improving regional deployment capabilities – only further compounding the issue. In spite of this clear military
buildup, state officials have continuously denied any possibility for interstate conflict. The
singular comprehensive governing body in the region, the Arctic Council, is insufficiently
structured to mediate security disputes if a conflict should it arise. Moreover, The strong
tensions and great power rivalry vestiges of Cold War, especially between Russia and NATO
countries, also represents a threat to international cooperation. A dominant realist mindset
seems to frame the decision making of leaders in all involved states, causing national interest to triumph over liberal institutionalism cooperation. Applying two-level games theory

Works Cited
“90 billion Barrels of Oil and 1670 Trillion Cubic Feet of Natural Gas Assessed in the Arctic,” U.S. Geological Survey, accessed June 6, 2012, http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/
article.asp?ID=1980#.T89KA-068UU.
Alun Anderson, After the Ice, (Washington DC: Smithsonian, 2009).
Arnbom, Tom, “Arctic is Hot,” World Wildlife Fund (Stockholm, Sweden) May 22, 2012.
Bennett, Jody R. “Vying for Power in the High North.” International Relations Security Network. ISN Security Watch, 6 Sept. 2012. Web. 15 Oct. 2012.

57  Peter Sheldon and Terry Mileweski, Arctic Sovereignty a Priority: Harper, CBCNews, http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/
story/2010/08/23/harper-north.html. (August 23, 2010).
58  Klimenko, “Ambitious Plans and Domestic Policies for the Arctic in Russia.”

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

25

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

Kelsey Bradshaw, Jason Finklestein, Nicholas Kosturos

The 16 Years Crisis

Berg, Kristopher, “Domestic Drivers for Canadian and U.S. Arctic Policy,” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Meeting with University of Southern California
researchers (Stockholm, Sweden), May 21, 2012.
Byers, Michael, Who Owns the Arctic, (Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre 2010), 19.
Carr, Edward Hallet, “The Twenty Years Crisis”
Declaration on Establishment of the Arctic Council: The Ottawa Declaration - 1996, (Ottawa: Arctic Council, 1996), 2.
English, Robert, “German Reunification,” Meeting with University of Southern California
researchers (Los Angeles, CA), May 16, 2012.
Fitzpatrick, Kathleen, ‘Franklin, Sir John (1786–1847)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography,
National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/
biography/franklin-sir-john-2066/text2575, accessed 20 October 2012.
Heininen, Lassi, “Arctic Strategies and Policies: Inventory and Comparative Study.” The
Northern Research Forum and the University of Lapland (2012)
Huebert, Rob et al., “Climate Change and International Security: The Arctic as a Bellwether,” Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, May 2012: 23.
Ivanov, Aleksi, interview held with University of Southern California researchers, Stockholm, Sweden, May 25, 2012.
Jakobsen, Therese, Meeting with University of Southern California researchers (Stockholm,
Sweden), May 24, 2012.
John Ivison, Stephen Harper’s Arctic Sovereignty Legacy Starting to Cool Off, http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/05/17/john-ivison-stephen-harpers-arctic-sovereigntylegacy-starting-to-cool-off/ (May 17, 2012).

Lomagin, Nikita, interview with University of Southern California researchers, St. Petersburg, Russia, June 1, 2012.
Melvin, Neil, “Conflict and Cooperation,” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
Meeting with University of Southern California Researchers (Stockholm, Sweden),
May 22, 2012.
Neverov, Igor, interview held during meeting with University of Southern California researchers, Stockholm, Sweden, May 25, 2012.
Putnam, Robert “Diplomacy and Domestic Politics: The Logic of Two-Level Games,” International Organization 42(Summer 1988):427-460.
Renfrow, Stephanie. “Arctic Sea Ice Shatters All Previous Record Lows.” NSIDC Arctic Sea
Ice News Fall 2007. National Snow and Ice Data Center, 1 Oct. 2007. Web. 20 Oct. 2012.
http://nsidc.org/news/press/2007_seaiceminimum/20071001_pressrelease.html
“Robert Peary: To the Top of the World.” PBS. PBS, 1999. Web. 20 Oct. 2012. <http://www.
pbs.org/wgbh/amex/ice/sfeature/peary.html>.
Rongione, Matteo, “Role of Resources in the Arctic- Rare Earth Elements,” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Stockholm, Sweden), May 21, 2012.
Sheldon, Peter and Mileweski, Terry, Arctic Sovereignty a Priority: Harper, CBCNews, http://
www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2010/08/23/harper-north.html. (August 23, 2010).
Strader, Olin, Arctic Chiefs of Defence Staff Conference- An Opportunity to Formalize Arctic
Security, The Arctic Institute: Center for Circumpolar Security Studies, http://www.
thearcticinstitute.org/2012/04/arctic-chiefs-of-defence-staff.html?m=1 (April 6, 2012).
Terva, Jyrki, Meeting with University of Southern California Researchers, St. Petersburg,
Russia, May 28, 2012.
The World Factbook, Economy ::: Russia, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/theworld-factbook/geos/rs.html
Wezeman, Siemon, “Military Capabilities in the Arctic,” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Background Papers 2012: 13-14.
Wezeman, Siemon, “Discussion of Military Capabilities in the Arctic,” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Meeting with University of Southern California researchers (Stockholm, Sweden), May 21, 2012.

26

Klimenko, Ekaterina, “Ambitious Plans and Domestic Policies for the Arctic in Russia,”
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Meeting with University of Southern
California researchers (Stockholm, Sweden), May 21, 2012.
Leschenko, Konstantine, interview with University of Southern California researchers, St.
Petersburg, Russia, May 31, 2012.
Lind, Gustav, interview held during meeting with University of Southern California researchers, Stockholm, Sweden, May 23, 2012.
Lomagin, Nikita, “Russia’s Perception of the Arctic and International Cooperation,” Lecture
with University of Southern California Researchers (St. Petersburg, Russia), May 28,
2012.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

27

Expressions of Nationalism

Exploring the Implications of Russian Gemeinschaft
Tyler D. Tyburski

Nations, nationalism and national identity are complex forces in the contemporary international system. This study seeks to explore the phenomenon of nationalism as it has occurred
within one of the most notoriously nationalist states of modernity: Russia. Toward this end,
the first order of business will be to construct the conceptual edifice of nationalism that is
necessary for pursing such process tracing. Following this introductory section, the paper will
sketch the history of Russia’s primordial nationalism. This historical look at Russia’s utilization of nationalism as a tool will be cast over the broad sweep of time extending from the precommunist period up to the yet unraveling years of the Putin era. The discussion will highlight
what will be termed the ‘critical periods’ of Russian nationalism. Interlocking these elements
will bind tightly the theoretical principles of nationalism and their real-world implications for
Russia. This will provide a conceptually durable basis for preliminary conclusions and future
research. Ultimately, it will be contended that outbreaks of Russian nationalist fervor occur at
times when the rule of strong, autocratic leaders intersect with a weak economy; and further,
that in almost every such instance, an outside ‘other’ is blamed to absorb populist backlash
that would otherwise thrash the Russian state itself. The paper closes with a brief reflection on
contemporary Russian nationalism, the significance of this study and what is at stake for those
pursuing continued research.

Conceptualizing the Notion of Nationalism: An Introduction

The discourse of nations and nationalism is necessarily rooted in that of the modern
state. In the flow of history following from the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, the state has come
to assert itself as the most efficient organizer of power in the international system. Today,
almost every inhabited area on earth is assigned to a state. But what, exactly, is the state?
Max Weber, in his 1919 Politics as a Vocation, dubbed the state, in its most minimalist
sense, “the monopoly of legitimate physical violence within a particular territory”1. This,
definition—which has garnered great consensus across academia since its conception—will
be employed hereafter. In accepting Weber’s conclusion, one comes to view nationalism as
neither natural nor essential, but as a product manufactured by state authority. Often times,
it is so skillfully produced that it ensures its continued reproduction by taking emotional
1 

Max Weber, The Vocation Lectures. (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 2004), 33.

Tyler Tyburski is a senior at the University of Southern California majoring
in Political Science and International Relations.

Tyler D. Tyburski

Expressions of Nationalism

possession of the peoples to which it is peddled. As E.J. Hobsbawm argued, an esteemed
pioneer of nationalist thought, it is almost always the case that a state will forge its nation2.

A state’s ability to do so, however, is bound by its authoritative capacity. States that
only achieve Weber’s definitional threshold might be thought of as ‘weak states,’ whereas
those well surpassing it can be called ‘strong states.’ Some characteristics of state weakness
include “low tax revenues, [flagrant] corruption, and a lack of law and order”3. Others, include a weak military, a low gross domestic product, and high debt. The opposite qualities
are perceived as natural indicators of state strength. This is not to say that ‘strong states’
are entirely without any of the characteristics of weak ones; they simply counterbalance
their weaknesses with other points of exceptional strength. Especially in strong states, the
notion of the nation is a concept with which all peoples—thinkers and tinkerers alike—find
themselves intimately familiar. This speaks to the underlying desire of state-based power
structures to expand and deepen their influence. Indeed, leaders in weak states share this
same goal, but are without comparable resources and influence. Therefore, It could, be suggested that an engrained sense of national identity ought to be counted among the qualities
of a strong state, and vice versa for weak states.
The concept of nationalism, however, remains in its relative infancy. In fact, Hobsbawm
indicates that, the notion of gobierno (government) was not specifically united with the
concept of the naciòn (nation) until 1884, more than two centuries after the forging of the
Westphalian Peace4. Moreover, this association did not develop similarly or simultaneously
all throughout the international system. Nor has it since developed regularly even within
the borders of particular states. To be sure, there is little consensus among Americans about
what it means ‘to be American.’ Nationalism, therefore, cannot be envisaged as a homogenous construct. Rather, it must be considered a multifaceted abstraction. Indeed, it emerges
differently in different places, and it has the ability to express itself in a variety of unique
ways.
Primarily, nationalism presents itself in two forms, both of which were first explored
and explained in 1887 by the German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies. Gemeinschaft. The
base and primordial face of nationalism stems from the notion that every person within a
nation carries with them attachments, which are both tangible and real. Blood bonds, shared
linguistic roots, adherence to common cultural customs, hereditary territorialism and the
defense of an essential community are the essence of this primal theory of nationalism.
Contrarily, gesellschaft offers a more civic design of nationalism—one that is constructed

though common education and is constituted by both legality and shared virtues5. Although
united by common objectives, these two theories of nationalism are deeply divergent with
regard to the means that they suggest to best achieve these objectives. This is to say that,
while gemeinschaft and gesellschaft are similarly employed toward the authorship of a grand
myth, intended to unite disparate peoples into ‘a people,’ or ‘the people,’ they approach
this task with fundamentally different tactics. In his 1992 inquiry into French and German
citizenship, Rogers Brubaker, a Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Los
Angeles, characterized those of the former as strong-armed government policies and the implementation of programs for divisive ethno-national citizenship. Those of the latter, he said,
are tied to state-based assimilation into in a philosophically-rooted political community6.

Provided these understandings, one might come to better grasp the canonized definition of nationalism that was first proposed by the late French philosopher, Ernst Gellner.
In his Nations and Nationalism, a work that inspired the subsequent writings of Hobsbawm,
it was offered that nationalism is “primarily a principle which holds that the political and
national units should be congruent”7. This definition which, to be sure, is first and foremost
a political definition, carries with it truly great implications. It insinuates that the political
duty of a given people is, first and foremost, to its polity, and that this duty to the polity
necessarily supersedes all other national obligations8. Indeed, it is this degree of intensity
that distinguishes nationalism as an extreme form of group identity that is capable of commanding the radical power of mass mobilization towards state-centric endgames.
In harnessing the forces of social construction, strong states masterfully produce and
manipulate the raw power of nationalism vis-à-vis goals relating to self-preservation, security, economy and international prowess. In doing so, they most usually come to rely on the
existence of—or the invention of—a distinctive ‘other.’ The sociological principle underlying this trend is the essential relativity inherent within every notion of the self. Indeed, as
was famously noted by Benedict Anderson, Professor Emeritus of International Studies at
Cornell University, the existence of an ‘us’ is essentially contingent upon the notion of a
‘them’9. When conceptualizing this abstract notion, it can be useful to think of how people
often define their associations to sports teams. In many cases, one will define their athletic
allegiances by making reference to the teams they denounce rather than those that they support. Love of the ‘us’ thereby becomes conflated with hatred of the ‘them.’

30

2  E.J. Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism Since 1780. (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 44.
3  Neil Englehart, “State Capacity, State Failure, and Human Rights,” in Journal of Peace Research, (2009), 163.
4  Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism Since 1780, 15.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

31

5 Vladimir Tismaneau, “Fantasies of Salvation: Varieties of Nationalism in Postcommunist Eastern Europe,” in Envisioning
Eastern Europe, (1994), 118.
6  Rogers Brubacker, Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992),
35.
7  Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism. (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1983), 1.
8  Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism Since 1780, 9.
9  Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. (London, UK: Versa, 2006),
25.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

Tyler D. Tyburski

Expressions of Nationalism

Some theorists, such as Henk Dekker, Darina Malová, and Sander Hoogendoorn, believe that there exists “a particular set of variables” that can be examined to explain broader
trends of nationalism within particular states and individuals10. This claim is contentious
because it attempts to model a complex relationship by applying a single, simple formula.
Such a broad attempt to understand nationalism makes use of too wide a scope. As Brubaker
suggests, nationalism in France is not at all analogous to nationalism in Germany – nor is
nationalism in the United States an analog for nationalism in Iraq. This being the case, it
is sensible to a refine this broad-based approach by tracing the historical development of
nationalism within the context of only a single state. Cross-examination between such case
studies could then provide a truly durable basis for comparative analysis. Abiding by this
logic, from here onward, Russia11 will become this paper’s sole frame of study.
The Russian state has fluctuated in its authoritative capacity over time, reaching its
height as a ‘Great Power’ during the Cold War years (roughly 1947-1991). Having since declined in stature following the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union,
there is today an ongoing debate about whether Russia’s status as is that of either a strong
or weak state. However, when it comes to Russia’s its ambitions of self-strengthening, there
is no debate. This aspect of the Russian identity has remained a constant since the RussoTurkish War (1787-1792) to win control over Ottoman-controlled, warm-water ports in
the Black Sea. Indeed, Russia has developed into one of history’s most uniquely nationalist
states, and, as such, has long been subjected to a great degree of truly transformative political processes. Nevertheless, Russian nationalism has not been painted in even coats; rather,
layers of varying thicknesses and composition have colored the national identity differently
over time. Certain ‘critical periods’, however, do seem to stand out as clear checkpoints in the
development of Russian nationalism. The following will examine the forces at play during
three such time periods: (1) the ‘Tsarist Era’ (1721-1917), (2) the ‘Stalinist Era’ (1924-1953)
and (3) the ‘Putinist Era’ (2000-present).

religion,’ and famously referred to by Karl Marx as “false consciousness,” ideology has always
been a central tool of the state in manufacturing the formal constructs implemented towards
the mass production of Russian identity12. To be sure, historically, it has always been a wellbred faith in, and of, the state—even more so than the doctrines of Orthodox Christianity—
that controls Russian culture. It is no coincidence, therefore, that Russia has branded its own
denomination of orthodoxy that is headed by the Church in Moscow: Russian Orthodoxy.
Channeling Hobsbawm, one is compelled to conceive of Russians as true inventions of
the Russian state. Historically, there was never a definite and recognized Russian homeland,
culture, or essence. Rather, Russia began as collection of cities, belonging to various kingdoms, which gradually coalesced into something like a state around the time of Ivan the
Terrible13. Russian history was imbued with an abbreviated and fractured nature due to its
turbulent experiences with regime changes, revolutions and invasions. This unstable political environment only exacerbated preexisting societal splintering which had already spelled
difficulty for the cohesion of a unified people.
Considering the intense forces of discontinuity that have been so long at work, standing governments were led to pursue more overt and deliberate methods of social unification
to overcome them. Especially in the early phases of Russification—the process by which
Russian identity was (and is) created—the tactics of gesellschaft were simply not viable.
Given the lack of a binding social contract, a strong civil society and stable borders, these
more civic approaches would have been difficult to implement and unlikely to succeed. The
realities of Russian political history, combined with the centralizing tendencies of fluctuating governments, prompted the adoption of the more primordial methods of gemeinschaftbased nationalism. Once steadily in place, and proven to be effective (at some point roughly
between 1868-1873), these programs began to propagate themselves, even across shifting
regimes14. In fact, although these rotating governments were different structurally as well
as ideologically, the precedent of gemeinschaft-based nationalism received their universal
adherence.

32

Considering the Russian Context

33

However, despite its fractures, in many ways, the development of Russian nationalism can be viewed as a single, coherent phenomenon. Trends from the distant past seem to
be echoed in both recent times as well as the present. Therefore, to understand the contemporary dynamics of Russia’s identity-driven politics, one must first indulge in an examination of the historical development of Russian nationalism. This rhetorical framework necessitates that special attention be paid to the role of ideology. Often conceived of as ‘secular

Gemeinshaft Begins: The Tsarist Era

10  Henk Dekker, Darina Malová, Sander Hoogendoorn. “Nationalism and Its Explanations,” in Political Psychology, (2003),
349.
11  For the purposes of this essay, “Russian” will refer to whatever lands fell under the central authority of the Kremlin during
the particular time that is being discussed.

12  Robert Tucker, The Marx-Engels Reader. (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 1978), 111.
13  Vilhelm Thomsen, The Relations Between Ancient Russia and Scandonavia And the Origin of the Russian State. (New York,
NY: Burt Franklin, 1877), 12.
14  Richard Pipes, The Formation of the Soviet Union. (Boston, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997), 4.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

The two centuries preceding the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 were dominated by
the rule of the Russian Tsars. These autocrats, seeking to expand their influence and unify
their peoples, began the tradition of Russian gemeinschaft. In so doing, their primary goal
was to differentiate between those groups which they thought could and could not be easily

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

Tyler D. Tyburski

Expressions of Nationalism

Russified. Thus, they set themselves to the task of developing a certain pan-Russian identity
that these groups would then be given the opportunity to either accept or reject. By doing
so, the autocrats hoped to be able to differentiate members of the Russian ‘us’ from those
who would be relegated to association with the contemptible ‘them.’ The rationale behind
creating this stark divide was twofold: (1) it provided a baseline population for the Russian
nation and (2) it satisfied the ‘us’-‘them’ that dynamic that is critical to identity formation.
Indeed, had the Tsars simply pursued a totalistic policy of forced Russification, the resulting
national identity—devoid of a clear ‘other’ with which to contrast itself—would have likely
collapsed under the weight of its own ambiguity.
The identity that the Tsars chose to create was designed to unite the Russian people
(the ‘us’) under two overarching criteria: (1) an “unqualified submission to the [Orthodox]
Church” and (2) “the same devotion and obedience to the ruler [(the Tsar)].15” By anchoring
Russian identity to an already formalized and well- respected institution—the Church—the
Tsars endowed it with a certain degree of intrinsic legitimacy. Moreover, this divine connection provided a sort of moral imperative for individuals to associate themselves with
the Russian identity. This group-based system of identification established the process of
Russification and a means for induction into an imagined community that has been emulated—in Russia and elsewhere—across the generations.
Interestingly, this system of social sorting seemed to accelerate itself as Russia progressed into the later phases of Tsarist rule16. In fact, by the time that Russia transitioned
from Tsarist domination to Bolshevik domination, the formulation of the ‘us’-‘them’ dichotomy had reached a crescendo. This is almost certainly linked to the fact that, at that
very time, the country found itself plunging into relative chaos. In fact, in 1917, Russia was
in the throes of not only World War I, but also a severe economic downturn and a bloody
revolution. These troubles were all interconnected, and, when mixed, spelled out the perfect
recipe for intensified Russification. The Tsar spun the situation as a national hardship that
required a national solution.
In so doing, Nicholas II (1868-1918)—the last Tsar of the Russian Empire—kept with
the imperial traditions of his 18th Century predecessors by labeling his great war, World War
I, “an expansionist conflict”17. The Tzar expressed his unyielding determination to fight on,
at all costs, toward the goal of expanding Russian territory, population and regional influence. Stalwart commitment to the same quickly became the hallmark of a ‘good’ Russian.
Thus, the nation was mobilized under the idea of the state, carrying with it some religious
undertones, dictated directly by the ruler. This theme was to be echoed in generations to

come. Indeed, the very forces that came to replace the Russian Tsars later employed similar
directives to produce still greater centripetal forces of nationalism. Moreover, their wars of
conquest would continue to organize themselves around the notion of the nation combating
‘others’ under the banners of state leaders and the Russian Orthodox Church. In fact, these
patterns would only come to strengthen themselves as the state’s powers and capabilities
evolved. The Tsars, although they were the founders of Russian gemeinschaft, never experienced the power of their invention to the same extent that later generations of Russian
leaders would. Indeed, the Tsars were, in a sense, bound by an inability to reject their own
traditions. The Soviets, having had ousted the Tsars, were not.

34

15 
16 
17 

Nicholas Riasanovsky, “Nationality in the State Ideology During the Reign of Nicholas I,” in The Russian Review, (1960), 39.
Andrey Sinyavsky, and Dale Peterson. “Russian Nationalism,” in The Massachusetts Review, (1990), 477.
Peter Gatrell, Russia’s First World War: A Social and Economic History. (New York, NY: Pearson Longman, 2005), 2.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

35

Gemeinschaft in Action: An Examination of Stalinist Era Nationalism

Joseph Stalin replaced Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924)—the famed leader of the
Bolshevik Revolution—in 1924. A native Georgian, he ruled the Russia-based Union of
Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) between 1924 and his death in 1953. His tenure was
one marked by bitter brutality. To mask and soften the violence, Stalin relied on the forces
of primordial nationalism, Soviet Great Power status and the popular effects of substantial
economic advancements. Assuming power in the wake of Bolshevik rule, Stalin sought to
rebrand Russians in his own image. To do so, he made use of a variety of classic tools and
tactics. For instance, as noted in David Rowley’s Russian Nationalism and the Cold War,
Stalin masterfully leveraged the idea of the ‘other’ by repeatedly portraying the West,18 specifically the United States, as an enemy to be feared and hated.19 Undeniably, his onslaughts
of rhetoric and paraphernalia were effective hypnotizers for a society already inundated by
fear flowing from the Kremlin’s oppressive and sadistic policies. However, beyond simply
drawing on the politics of fear, he relied heavily upon bold ideological claims and promises
of economic growth to further his nationalist program. Thus, the Soviet people were met
with an impossible choice: work toward Soviet success, either out of love or fear. Death was
the only alternative. Moreover, if opting to work, their personal motive had always to appear
genuine and trustworthy.

Indeed, these tactics—although reprehensible and corrupt—were well tailored to
the contexts in which Stalin was operating. For instance, the interbellum period between
1918 and 1939 was ripe for the extreme exploitation of emotion and the practice of intense
‘othering’. Just as Hitler in Germany was condemning the Jews, Stalin in Russia cursed the
capitalists of the West. Moreover, being that the Soviet economy had significantly retracted in the post-World War I years, Stalin’s radical collectivization plans came across not as
frightening, but as hopeful. Indeed, at least immediately, his infamous five-year plans were
18 
19 

For the purposes of this essay, “the West” will be limited to the United States and the democracies of Western Europe.
David Rowley, “Russian Nationalism and the Cold War,” in The American Historical Review, (1994), 156.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

Tyler D. Tyburski

Expressions of Nationalism

gazed upon with great appeal as “retail prices in Moscow [had] doubled in the first two years
of the war and then accelerated dramatically in 1916 and early 1917.”20 Indeed, Stalin’s scare
tactics seized upon the melancholy zeitgeist of interwar Russia. Later, he adapted them to
inspire mobilization during the Second World War.
In the throes of World War II, Joseph Stalin, an atheist, invigorated a campaign of antiGerman gemeinschaft by allowing a resurgence of the Russian Orthodox Church. This maneuver, however, was not a move towards liberalism. Rather, it was a coy political ploy aimed
at exploiting the nationalist feelings of the religious Russian peasantry—and it worked.21
What one sees here is an impressive display of state power. Indeed, the Kremlin, a body that
had ruthlessly pushed a program of non-religion, was able to forcibly shape Orthodoxy, a
holy faith, into a facet of the secular ideology of nationalism. Ultimately, this resulted not in
a Russian religious revival, but in a spike of nationalist sentiments, rooted in a shared religious affiliation, and a dramatic increase in the enlistment rate of the Russian Red Army. A
testament to the power of the state’s gemeinschaft, in Russia, World War II came to be known
as ‘The Great Patriotic War.’ In fact, Daniel Chirot, an esteemed sociologist and Professor of
International Studies at the University of Washington, has suggested that, even until 1975,
“the only remaining old-fashioned European empire…was the Russian one.”22 The term
‘old-fashioned,’ it seems, is quite apt when describing the character of Russian nationalism.
Indeed, the complexities of gesellschaft, which were not viable at the outset of the Russian
experiment with statehood, never developed parallel to the Russian state—gemeinschaft was
always reinforced.
Stalin’s tactics of gemeinschaft were exceptionally base. They might well be conceived
of more simply as the ruthless promotion of a particularly volatile cult of personality. Stalin
was far more than merely a powerful autocrat; he was, in fact, what Dr. Richard Hrair
Dekmejian, of the University of Southern California’s Political Science Department, calls a
“malignant narcissist.” This form of narcissism, Dekmejian says, is an extreme pathology by
which one is convinced that they had been specially selected, by some providence, to impose
their rightly-guided will upon those less perfect than themselves23. True to form, Stalin—the
self-titled “Man of Steel”—conceived of himself as more than the just the Soviet General
Secretary, but as the very embodiment of the Russian nation. Rather skillfully, he combined
conflicting messages of fear and hope to bind tightly the idea of collective progress with that
of individual punishment. The ultimate result was the formation of a society shocked into

productivity, toward a single end, and against a common ‘other’, not out of true devotion
to the Soviet interest, but out of the human interest of self-preservation. To a large extent,
it is this same instinct toward self-preservation—the struggle to remain relevant—that has
guided the politics of the post-Soviet Russian state.

36

20  Gatrell, Russia’s First World War: A Social and Economic History, 25.
21  Phillip Walters, “Religion and the State: The Struggle for Legitimacy and Power,” in Annals of the American Academy of
Political and Social Science, (1986), 135.
22  David Chirot, “National Liberations and Nationalist Nightmares: The Consequences of the End of Empires in the Twentieth Century,” in Markets States and Democracy, (1995), 44.
23  Hrair Dekmejian, Spectrum of Terror. (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2007), 161.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

37

Gemeinschaft in Action: An Examination of Putinist Era Russian Nationalism
Most of the history of post-Soviet Russia has been a continued narrative of the lateSoviet decline. The nation’s gross domestic product “contracted steadily up to the late 1990s”
and the state itself splintered as its various “republics and regions took as much sovereignty
as they could swallow.”24 These deteriorated conditions, analogous to those that were present at the outset of Stalin’s reign, seemed to have induced conditions that were favorable to
the rise of Vladimir Putin, an ex-Komitet Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti (KGB) nationalist.
This is no insignificant coincidence. To be sure, Putin’s current power play is colored with
shades of Stalinism. Putin appealed to the yearning of the Russian people to restore lost
Soviet prowess and has subsumed factional identities under that of an overarching nationalist vision. The people have responded favorably. Indeed, despite whatever election frauds
might be contended, Putin has certainly proven himself to be “‘the people’s choice’ with a
support base that [is] remarkably close to a cross-section of the entire society.”25 Spurred by
his reinsertion of Russian national interests into its dealings with the international community, talk of unilateral action and a reinvigorated military, the Russian people have clung to
the hope he has provided for an upswing in national esteem.
The face of contemporary Russian nationalism bears striking resemblance to that of
yesteryear. Undoubtedly, the tactics employed under Putin have been much the same as
those put forth under Stalin. Shifting the national dialogue away from that of the early 1990s,
a time when “the discourse of Russia ‘rejoining Western civilization’ was paramount,” Putin
has adopted a traditional style of gemeinschaft-based nationalism to reign in the disparate
elements of the Russian geopolitical spectrum.26 This task, although weighty, has been made
more manageable through Putin’s skillful application of the ‘other’ as a fulcrum in gaining
leverage over the opinions of the Russian masses. Not surprisingly, Putin has targeted the
United States – Russia’s Cold War nemesis – as the object of contempt in popular Russian
culture.
Indeed it is true—and most especially in Russia’s case —that there is a definite difference between ‘history’ and the ‘past.’ History, in fact, is often no more than a distorted
version of the past that is offered, through education, as truth. Historical interpretations,
24  Stephen White, and Ian McAllister. “Putin and His Supporters,” in Europe-Asia Studies, (2003), 383.
25  Ibid., 384.
26  John O’Laughlin, Gerald Toal, and Vladimir Kolossovt. “Russian Geopolitical Culture and Public Opinion: the Masks of
Proteus Revisited,” in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, (2005), 322.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

Tyler D. Tyburski

Expressions of Nationalism

which are intended to be taken as facts about the past, are integral in supporting the myth
of the state: nationalism. Putin, to be sure, has construed significant events of the recent
past through a fundamentally anti-American lens. Thereby, he has masterfully transferred
blame for the failures of post-Soviet Russia away from the Russian state and has placed it
squarely on the shoulders of the United States. This strong-armed tactic of power politics
offers a clear demonstration the totality of forces encapsulated within the political capabilities of modern states.
To Russians, this message is rather reassuring. Indeed, it is this aspect of Putin’s program
that allows the Russian people to experience the program not as the raw power of the state
being exercised on or through them, but as a collective buildup of hope within society writ
large. . Thus, one finds truth in Chirot’s 1995 contention that “Nationalism, which has been
a force of liberalization in the west will not necessarily be such a force in the east.”27 Putin’s
program’s central mission is to reinforce traditional cycles of nation-building toward the
ends of furthering his own personality and restoring Russia to its past place of prominence
as a leading actor on the global stage. The envisioned end state driving these objectives is
hardly the quality of life of the Russian people, but simply the pure material benefit of an
ever-centralizing, and perhaps re-Sovietizing Russia.
The end of the Cold War was truly the end of an era. The early 1990s were characterized
by great uncertainty about what was to become of the faded Soviet state in the new, unipolar world. Nevertheless, there were grand expectations—in both the West and the East—for
the reincarnation of the Soviet command economy in the form of a Westernized, privatized
market economy. Great uncertainty remains as to why the West held such great hopes for
the prospects of economic restructuring and growth in post-Soviet Russia. Indeed, this
discrepancy has become a weapon against the West in Putin’s arsenal of nationalistic rhetoric. Where there is no consensus, Putin has claimed clarity in his knowledge of the truth.
In Russia, Putin says, expectations for Post-Soviet growth had been fueled by a sense of
rejuvenation associated with the emergence from the political brutality of communism and
the economic instability of socialism. More substantially, though, he claims that they were
furthered by optimistic estimates for potential growth that had been confidently floated by
Western organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)28.
Indeed, these organizations had proposed ambitious plans designed to bring about mass
liberalization virtually overnight. Putin says that these numbers, which had emerged from
the West, had been deviously fabricated to induce Russian participation in plans that had
been engineered to crush its economy.

Many economists, including the famed American economist and Professor of economics at Columbia University, Joseph Stiglitz, have stated that these predictions are as impossible as pipe dreams. Stiglitz contends that these ‘shock-therapy’ approaches, which were
fundamentally weak to begin with, were also predisposed to fail on the basis that they simply
did not allow for any sort of transitional period to occur. This is to say that the IMF recommendations demanded too great of a rollover in too brief of a time period.29 The World Bank
and the IMF, however, never reported these concerns in their pitches to the Russian government. Not recognizing the hazards themselves, the Russians bought in. When implemented,
however, the stresses of the World Bank and IMF programs overwhelmed the system they
were acting on and plunged the state into dire economic straits. Perhaps this failure resulted
as an unintended consequence of a well-meaning plan, but perhaps it came about because it
was engineered to do so. Nevertheless, as Stiglitz says, the “ultimate irony” lies in the fact that
many of the states who opted for gradual approaches to economic restructuring (i.e. Poland
and China) ended up reforming more rapidly than those that followed the prescribed program of shock-therapy.30 Indeed, the mere presence of this unexplained fact has created the
political space necessary for Putin to spin a convincing tale of American betrayal.
In this instance it is not the truth (the past) that is of paramount significance, only what
is perceived to be the truth (history). Whether the yet unresolved source of enthusiasm in
the West was the result of sheer benevolence or of veiled deviance, it does not matter. All that
is of importance is the manner in which Putin has painted history. His colorful commentary
on the matter has rendered Russians more likely to become believers in this well-crafted
myth of the state. Many Russians believed that the United States had willfully destroyed
the Russian economy through the advice that it administered and so absolved the Russian
state of any blame for the creation of the problems they now face. They have instead been
trained to loathe, and to mobilize against, the contemptible ‘other.’ As part of Putin’s plans
for Russian reemergence, this energy is now being channeled not only into the economy, but
also—in sizeable amounts—into the Russian military.

38

27  David Chirot, “National Liberations and Nationalist Nightmares: The Consequences of the End of Empires in the
Twentieth Century”, 44.
28  Janine Wedle, Collision and Collusion: The Strange Case of Western Aid to Eastern Europe. (New York, NY: Palgrave, 2001),
45.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

39

Substantiating Claims & Expanding Frames: A Conclusion
Historically, up-ticks in Russian nationalism seem to be positively correlated with the
presence of three key variables: (1) the presence of an easily identifiable ‘other,’ (2) a commanding political cadre and (3) a destabilized economy. These conditions existed during
all three critical periods, and they are readily apparent in Russia today. Perhaps then, these
factors could be used as central variables in some sort of predictive model for forecasting
upswings in this abstract phenomenon that has been tied to so much conflict and loss of life.
29 
30 

Joseph Stiglitz, Globalization and its Discontents. (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 2002), 181.
Ibid., 185.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

Tyler D. Tyburski

Expressions of Nationalism

Without a true national history, or historically sense of self, Russia seems to have always
needed a strong ‘other,’ usually in the form of an enemy, to sustain Russia’s constructed
identity. Taken from this perspective, Russia’s wars of conquest and Cold War enlargements
seem natural. By constantly pitting the nation against clearly defined ‘others,’ especially in
the context of pitched battle or stark ideological struggle, she greatly reinforced her own
self-image. Indeed, Russia has always sought ‘others,’ and, in their absence, she has tried to
create them. This is because they complete her; Russia requires the presence of an ‘other’ to
sustain herself.
Yet, the mere presence of an ‘other’—even a hated other—is not enough to forge a unified self-identity out of such an incoherent mosaic. Strong, often ruthless, leaders often had
to apply the full force of the Russian state to make this fusion possible. Brutal campaigns of
terror, rigid cults of personality and omnipresent propaganda campaigns have been staples
in the regimes of such rulers. Furthermore, it seems as if there may be a certain regenerative
cycle at play, whereby the reign of one dictator legitimizes the rise of another. So goes the
creation of tradition in a state so ardently adherent to the principles of gemeinschaft-based
nationalism. However, not all of Russia’s rulers have fit this autocratic mold. Therefore, while
it is arguable that, to some extent, Russian leaders have always tried to expand and project
Russia’s regional and global influence, it is only extreme leaders—those whom might be considered malignant narcissists—that seem to indulge in the truly gross campaigns of nationalism that characterize the three critical periods. Indeed, one will surely recall, that amidst
all of the economic troubles plaguing Mikhail Gorbachev’s 1989 Soviet Union, he refrained
from such a brutal program of gemeinschaft.
This phenomenon, however, speaks to more than just the importance of strong, autocratic leaders in spurring Russian nationalism. It also suggests something about the relative
value of the third variable, a destabilized economy. Specifically, it unequivocally strips it of
its potentiality of causality. Nevertheless, one is still compelled to include it as a primary
factor contributing to spikes in Russian nationalism because of the clear correlation that
can be found in each of the three critical periods. Although not a necessary condition, a
down-turned economic climate has proven conducive to brutal campaigns of Russian gemeinschaft. To be sure, a poor economy is a path of low resistance to implementing an effective program of nationalism. By exploiting the fact that the economy impacts the entire
nation, leaders bolster nationalism by rhetorically linking national solidarity to universal
economic gain. Therefore, while this might be the least significant of the three aforementioned variables, it ought not to be disregarded. Indeed, in Russia, no such variable deserves
to be completely abandoned. Toward the end of continually reinforcing and reasserting the
myth of the nation, one should assume that the state will exploit any means available.
With an eye toward the future, the true value of this study lies in what new information might be mined from continued research. To be sure, the above conclusions are strictly

preliminary. They are the products of a relatively limited investigation and would certainly
benefit from deeper academic inquiry. The stakes, however, seem to be quite high for those
willing to take on this task of continued research. Indeed, to trace nationalism is, in some
ways at least, to trace the likelihood of conflict. Especially in the context of Putin’s exceptionally military-minded programs of gemeinschaft, the correlation between nationalism and
the potentiality for international conflict seems uncomfortably high. Thus, those progressing with this study should be warned that nations and nationalism are not static concepts—
diligent researchers must be ready to take aim at moving targets. The necessity of hitting
these targets, however, is absolutely paramount.
Understanding the extent to which nationalism permeates all levels of the modern
state—not just in Russia, but in all state it is important to truly understand nationalism itself.
The central hope is that improved knowledge of this obscure abstraction could help states
create an international climate of mutual respect and political benefit. Such an environment
might foster peaceful increases in every nation’s sense of self-esteem. In the event of a lessthan-ideal future, this knowledge could be repurposed and used to aid in developing tactical and strategic countermeasures to be taken against states moving towards more violent
expressions of nationalism. Regardless of what may come, however, one thing seems clear:
it will come of nations, and through nationalism.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

40

41

Works Cited
Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Versa, 2006. Print.
Brubacker, Rogers. Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992. Print
Chirot, David. “National Liberations and Nationalist Nightmares: The Consequences of the
End of Empires in the Twentieth Century,” in Markets States and Democracy, (1995),
pp. 43-68.
Dekmejian, Hrair. Spectrum of Terror. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2007. Print.
Dekker, Henk, Darina Malová, Sander Hoogendoorn. “Nationalism and Its Explanations,”
in Political Psychology, (2003), pp. 345-376.
Englehart, Neil. “State Capacity, State Failure, and Human Rights,” in Journal of Peace Research, (2009), pp. 163-180.
Gatrell, Peter. Russia’s First World War: A Social and Economic History. New York: Pearson
Longman, 2005. Print.
Gellner, Ernest. Nations and Nationalism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983. Print.

42

Tyler D. Tyburski

Hobsbawm, E.J. Nations and Nationalism Since 1780. New York: Cambridge University
Press, 1990. Print.
O’Laughlin, John, Gerald Toal, and Vladimir Kolossovt. “Russian Geopolitical Culture and
Public Opinion: the Masks of Proteus Revisited,” in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, (2005), pp. 322-335.
Pipes, Richard. The Formation of the Soviet Union. Boston: Harvard University Press, 1997.
Print.
Riasanovsky, Nicholas. “Nationality in the State Ideology During the Reign of Nicholas I,”
in The Russian Review, (1960), pp.38-46.
Rowley, David. “Russian Nationalism and the Cold War,” in The American Historical Review, (1994), pp. 155-171.
Stiglitz, Joseph. Globalization and its Discontents. New York: W.W. Norton & Company,
2002. Print.
Sinyavsky, Andrey, and Dale Peterson. “Russian Nationalism,” in The Massachusetts, Review, (1990), pp. 475-494.
Thomsen, Vilhelm. The Relations Between Ancient Russia and Scandonavia And the Origin
of the Russian State. New York: Burt Franklin, 1877. Print.
Tismaneanu, Vladimir. “Fantasies of Salvation: Varieties of Nationalism in Postcommunist
Eastern Europe,” in Envisioning Eastern Europe, (1994), pp. 102-125.
Tucker, Robert. The Marx-Engels Reader. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1978. Print.
Walters, Phillip. “Religion and the State: The Struggle for Legitimacy and Power,” in Annals
of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, (1986), pp. 135-145.
Weber, Max. The Vocation Lectures. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2004. Print.
Wedle, Janine. Collision and Collusion: The Strange Case of Western Aid to Eastern Europe.
New York: Palgrave, 2001. Print.
White, Stephen, and Ian McAllister. “Putin and His Supporters,” in Europe-Asia Studies,
(2003), pp. 338-399.

The Ethnic Korean Population in Japan
The Last Frontier?
Alyssa Min

The sustained maintenance of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic
of Korea, more commonly known as North Korea and South Korea, respectively, is the last
remaining remnant of the Cold War struggle. While direct interaction between the two states
has been subject to much scrutiny and analysis, this paper examines how political contestation
between North and South Korea has played a role in the formation of identity and loyalties of
the “Zainichi” ethnic Korean population in Japan, who trace their roots to the period of Japanese colonialism in Korea. I argue that the opportunity to influence this small but significant
population has been utilized as an alternative channel through which both states can vie for
its own modern diaspora community and advance its own version of the Korean identity. This
paper also highlights the complexities of modern identity for the Zainichi Koreans, who live in
tight-knit communities and have retained a strong sense of Korean nationality, despite their
acclimation to Japanese society. To embrace their Korean heritage and identity, they have
largely aligned themselves with one of two prominent alliance organizations: the pro-North
Chongryon or the South-affiliated Mindan. Through their representative groups, each state
has sought to create a nostalgic memory for itself, one that has been deliberately constructed
through various movements and campaigns, which I outline in my paper. Yet in the last decade, South and North involvement in the Zainichi population has waned since the two states
have begun engaging in formal, inter-Korean dialogue; the creation of a new, evolving identity,
straddling the Korean duality of Mindan and Chongryon and the Japanese features of societal
upbringing, is also explored in the conclusion.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), more commonly known as
North Korea, made headlines all around the world this past summer when it qualified for the
2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa for the first time since 1966. North Korea’s first game
was against five-time champion Brazil and the team’s performance impressed even the most
doubtful of soccer insiders. Its 1-2 loss was characterized as an impressive loss and regarded
as one of the big surprises early on in the tournament. The star of the team was undoubtedly Jong Tae Se, hailed in the football circle as the “People’s Rooney.”1 Born and raised in an
ethnic Korean enclave in Japan, Jong was educated in North Korean state-sponsored schools
1  Duerden, John, “Jong Tae-se Is North Korea’s Answer to Wayne Rooney,” The Guardian (London), May 30, 2010. http://www.
guardian.co.uk/football/2010/may/30/jong-tae-se-north-korea-wayne-rooney (accessed April 16, 2011).

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

Alyssa Min is a senior at the University of Southern California majoring in
International Relations.

Alyssa Min

The Ethnic Korean Population in Japan

that fostered a pro-North Korean mentality, one that ultimately prevailed over the technical
South Korean citizenship that he inherited from his parents in his decision to represent the
North in the World Cup. North Korea, seizing the opportunity to acquire one of the up-andcoming footballers in Asia, provided Jong with a North Korean passport. According to FIFA
dual-citizenship rules, Jong was deemed eligible to participate on the side of the North2.

Jong is an example of the complexities in modern Korean identity, muddled by
the technicalities of citizenship and sharp distinctions between a North and South Korean
identity. Aligning oneself with one state or another has very distinct significance not only
in terms of separate nationalities, but also in terms of ideology and values – nowhere else in
the world is that more visible than with the “Zainichis Koreans,” the ethnic Korean population in Japan who trace their roots back to the period of Japanese colonialism in Korea. In
light of this population, it is important to answer the question: how has political contestation
between North and South Korea played a role in the formation of identity and loyalties of
the Zainichi Koreans in Japan? In addressing this question, the historical backdrop of the
political contestation in the Korean peninsula will first be established to provide an overview
of the origins of the ethnic Korean population in Japan. This paper argues that the opportunity to influence this small but significant population has been utilized as an alternative
channel through which both states can vie for a modern diasporic community and advance
its own version of the Korean identity, a by-product of the political contestation between the
two states. This paper will also evaluate the response of the Zainichis, especially within the
context of their social standing and circumstances in Japan. The concluding remarks will
briefly discuss the future prospects of the Zainichi population.

The identity issue of the Zainichi Korean population can best be viewed through
the lens that academic C. Davis provides. C. Davis provides a comprehensive look at national identity. Traditional definitions rely on the concept of “imagined communities” or
binding socio-historical features such as dress, language or customs, but Davis argues that
the individual-group identification is central to the concept of national identity: “the essence
of national identity [...] is the self view of one’s group, rather than the tangible characteristics, that is of essence in determining the existence or non-existence of a nation”3. Rather
than characteristics that contribute to the construction of a particular identity, elements
such as belonging and self view have a greater role in determining the concept of national identity. Such is the case for the Zainichi Korean population, whose latter generations
speak fluent Japanese, celebrate Japanese holidays, and pursue higher education and work
in the Japanese system. Yet, despite their cultural acclimation, Zainichi populations live in
extremely tight-knit communities and have retained a strong sense of Korean nationality,

which has contributed to the tension with Japanese ethnics in the region. While existing
“ethnic divisions [between the Zainichi Koreans and ethnic Japanese] are built upon visible
biological differences among populations or rest upon invisible cultural and ideological
distinctions,” Davis points out that “the boundaries around the meanings attached to ethnic
groups are pure social constructions”4.

Accordingly, it is necessary to examine the historical backdrop and the social constructions in which the Zainichi Korean population exists in Japanese society. In particular,
the mass diaspora of Korean ethnics to Japan began during the Japanese colonization of the
Korean peninsula in the early 1900s. As Japan’s dominance in the Pacific Rim materialized
with its victory over China in the Sino-Japanese war, it colonized the Korean peninsula in
the early 1900s. Among the implemented measures was the forced immigration of as many
as 2.3 million Koreans to Japan, many of whom had no choice but to relocate as cheap
labor. While most Koreans chose to return to their homeland at the end of World War II,
postwar political and economic circumstances discouraged an estimated 600,000 Koreans
from returning5. The delay of Korean independence, as determined by the Allied Powers,
complicated the issue of repatriation further, as many did not want to return to a land that
would not offer a “semblance of the lives they had built since crossing over. Many [...] who
returned to the Korean peninsula arrived with little, if any, economic, social, or even cultural
foundation upon which to start new lives”6. The lack of a domestic governmental authority
to handle such issues thoroughly in the Korean peninsula solidified the presence of a permanent diaspora community in Japan.

The ensuing conflicts in the Korean peninsula which resulted in the Korean War
in 1953 complicated the technical and legal status of the Korean residents in Japan. The byproduct was the creation of two separate states, the Republic of Korea (ROK) in the south
and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the north. The Korean War ended in
an armistice agreement in 1953, which called for a cessation of violence and the establishment of a border at the 38th parallel; much else, however, has been left up to the judgment
of the two sides. The political contestation referred to throughout this paper is the result of
the open-ended, unclear agreement that has been left to the devices of the two vastly different states.

Accordingly, the legal status of Korean residents in Japan has changed over the
years to reflect the establishment and development of the two separate Koreas. While they
were effectively considered Japanese nationals during the period of colonization, they lost
this Japanese nationality with Japan’s defeat in World War II. In 1965, the Zainichi Koreans
who identified themselves as South Korean nationals qualified for permanent residency

2  Duerden, “Jong Tae-se Is North Korea’s Answer to Wayne Rooney,” The Guardian, May 30, 2010.
3  Davis, Thomas, “Revisiting Group Attachment: Ethnic and National Identity,” Political Psychology 20.1 (1999): 25-47. http://
www.jstor.org/ (accessed November 23, 2011).

4  Davis, “Revisiting Group Attachment: Ethnic and National Identity,” Political Psychology.
5  “World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Japan : Koreans,” Minority Rights Group International.
6  Ryang, Sonia, and John Lie. Diaspora without Homeland: Being Korean in Japan, Berkeley: Berkeley, 2009.

44

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

45

Alyssa Min

The Ethnic Korean Population in Japan

status after Japan normalized relations with South Korea. The legal status for those who
identified with North Korea remained ambiguous until 1982, when they were finally granted
permanent residency by the Japanese Ministry of Justice7. Because Japan’s concept of nationality is based on the principal of ancestry rather than territoriality, subsequent generations
of Zainichi Koreans have not been automatically naturalized. In fact, the number of foreign
nationals that are granted Japanese citizenship is very small. By the 1980s, there was an estimated two million people of Korean heritage living in Japan; only about 100,000 of them
had been naturalized as Japanese citizens.8

Legal status and technicalities aside, more important to the formation of the
Zainichi identity is the social context and circumstances under which ethnic Koreans live
in Japan. According to Watts and Ofer, there is a sense of Japanese nativism that is prevalent within the culture, meaning that “however well a non-native is adjusted to the society,
speaks the language, and understands the culture, he or she can never be fully assimilated
into the Japanese people”9. This is clearly the case with ethnic Koreans in Japan. A CIA
report entitled “Aliens in Japan,” presented an assessment of Japan’s foreign population. The
relationship between the ethnic Korean population and ethnic Japanese nationals was characterized as such:

insurance, pension programs and unemployment benefits.11 The Japanese Constitution bans
institutionalized racial discrimination – yet, because of the perpetual outsider status that
has carried over from generation to generation, Zainichi Koreans have faced discrimination
within Japanese society. This conflict between “formal democratization and xenophobic
tendencies”12 has created an environment generally hostile to those deemed foreigners and
has consequently put the Zainichi Koreans in a disadvantaged position within society.

However, it is important to recognize that many Zainichi Koreans themselves do
not want to become naturalized, especially because the “process can be quite oppressive for
non-Japanese.”13 The granting of citizenship is a symbol of total assimilation and acceptance
of Japanese culture and customs, and is difficult when marginalization and discrimination
are central components of living in Japan. The director of the Japanese National Department
of Civil Affairs of the Ministry of Justice expressed that “naturalization would be permitted for those who have acquired the Japanese lifestyle and who have succeeded in reducing
their original traits, as it is a matter of course that naturalization requires assimilation of
the applicant.”14 As perpetual outsiders who have often been shunned in Japanese society,
Zainichi Koreans have taken to affirm their Korean heritage in the few opportunities and
ways that is available to them. Thus, when taking the social context of the Zainichi Koreans
into account, they have retained a rather compelling sense of Korean identity that has separated them, not necessarily by choice, from the rest of Japanese society. The backlash to the
limits of naturalization has been a resistance to assimilation, and in turn, an embrace of the
Korean identity. As academic Shipper writes: “Living in a country with no active policies to
fully incorporate foreigners into its society, Koreans [...] inevitably feel vulnerable as outsiders and turn to building closer ties with their co-ethnics and their own countries. Therefore,
they focus their activities mainly around the politics of long-distance nationalism”15.

Thus if the concept of identity is revisited, the social construct of the Japanese nativism coupled with the perpetual outsider status has advanced a strong Korean nationalism within the Zainichi Korean population, despite a way of life and behavior that might
reflect Japanese tendencies. At issue are feelings of “membership, inclusion and commitment, where the bonds between individuals and nations are rightly regarded as essential

46

The Koreans, with few exceptions, are a distinct minority group, with a low social position . . . . Those who go to Japan are, in the main, very poor, uneducated, and unskilled,
even by low Korean standards. Koreans do not possess the Japanese fever for hard
work, and to the energetic Japanese Koreans appear to be slow moving and lazy . . . . It
is also said that Koreans are not as conscious of cleanliness as the Japanese and that the
Koreans live under miserable conditions in Japan because they know nothing better in
Korea.10

With this background, perhaps it is not surprising that despite their assimilation
into Japanese society, Zainichi Koreans have been discriminated against in employment in
national and local public service, as well as in large corporations and news media. They
have been excluded from receiving basic benefits, such as social welfare, national health

7  Motani, Yoko, “Towards a More Just Educational Policy for Minorities in Japan: the Case of Korean Ethnic Schools,” Comparative Education 38, no. 2 (2002): 225-237. www.jstor.org (accessed November 23, 2011).
8  Shipper, Apichia W., “Nationalisms of and Against Zainichi Koreans in Japan,” Asian Politics and Policy: 55-75.
9  Watts, Meredith W., and Ofer Feldman, “Are Nativists Different Kind of Democrat? Democratic Values and “Outsiders” in
Japan,” Political Psychology 22.4 (2001): 639-663.
10  Watts and Feldman, “Are Nativists Different Kind of Democrat? Democratic Values and “Outsiders” in Japan,” Political
Psychology.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

47

11  Tsutsi, Kiyoteru, and Hwa Ji Shin, “Global Norms, Local Activism, and Social Movement Outcomes: Global Human Rights
and Resident Koreans in Japan,” Social Problems empty (2008): 291-418. www.jstor.org (accessed November 23, 2011).
12  Watts, Meredith W. , and Ofer Feldman, “Are Nativists Different Kind of Democrat? Democratic Values and “Outsiders” in
Japan,” Political Psychology 22.4 (2001): 639-663.
13  Motani, Yoko, “Towards a More Just Educational Policy for Minorities in Japan: the Case of Korean Ethnic Schools,”
Comparative Education 38, no. 2 (2002): 225-237. www.jstor.org (accessed November 23, 2011).
14  Motani, Yoko, “Towards a More Just Educational Policy for Minorities in Japan: the Case of Korean Ethnic Schools,”
Comparative Education 38, no. 2 (2002): 225-237.
15  Shipper, Apichia W., “Nationalisms of and Against Zainichi Koreans in Japan,” Asian Politics and Policy, 55-75.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

Alyssa Min

The Ethnic Korean Population in Japan

components in the development and maintenance of ethnic and national communities”16;
increasingly the Zainichi Koean population has looked toward the two states in the Korean
peninsula to provide this sense of membership, inclusion, and commitment.

The sense of inclusion and membership can be found through two organizations
for Zainichi Koreans: Chongryon and Mindan. Although ethnic Koreans in Japan are not
situated physically in either of the two Koreas, the ability to form an identity around one or
the other has led to the emergence of the two starkly different alliance groups. Formed in
the aftermath of World War II, these expatriate organizations make their allegiances clear.

Approximately 25 percent of Zainichi Koreans belong to the pro-North Chongryon,
which was established in 1955 amidst North Korean leader Kim Il Sung’s calls for closer ties
with the ethnic Korean population in Japan. So close are the ties, in fact, that the current
Chongryon leader Seo Man Sul, as well as other senior officials, are members of North
Korea’s parliament, the Supreme People’s Assembly. Because there are no formal diplomatic
ties between Japan and North Korea, it has “functioned as North Korea’s de facto embassy
in Japan”17. Chongryon members primarily consist of those who identify their nationality
as Chosun, a nationality developed by the Japanese government in the aftermath of World
War II when the Korean peninsula was in an undetermined state. They profess a love of the
Kim Jong Il regime and accept the ideologies of the Communist state. Although politically
affiliated, the organization is also associated with numerous business enterprises in Japan
and operates about 60 Korean schools and a University18.

Mindan, the South Korean-affiliated organization, claims another 65 percent of
the Zainichi Koreans as members. It was established in 1946 to foster close ties between the
Zainichi population and South Korea, much like Chongryon. Normalization of diplomatic
relations between Japan and South Korea in 1965 allowed Mindan to become more active
by “acting as an overseas agency for South Korea”19. Today, it has a vast network, with 23
local headquarters and 356 branches in total.

The rivalry that has resulted from the polarity of the two groups has produced
bouts of hostility and clashes in the Zainichi Korean population. Each group accuses the
other of being a puppet organization with the sole agenda of advancing the objectives of the

home government20. Ironically, the very fact that both organizations were established with
such agendas make them guilty of the accusations of the other.

It is understandable that inclusion in either one of these groups would be attractive
to the Zainichi Koreans and would rouse a strong sense of loyalty, especially within the social
context examined previously in the paper. However, the question arises as to why South and
North Korea direct so much attention to the formation of nationalism in this diaspora community; more simply, why do they care so much? A strictly realist approach would disregard this population altogether, because engaging with, much less winning over, a minority
population will not do much in the power game that the two states are perpetually locked
in. The money and effort spent on this population, deemed unremarkable by the eyes of the
Japanese, could very well be channeled into another avenue to gain a competitive advantage
over the other. There are no economic or military benefits to be had, and investment in this
population may not be the wisest. Yet, historical evidence illustrates that both states have
steadily maintained close contact with the Zainichi community, insofar as developing and
implementing campaigns directed at this group.

In a report entitled “Engaging Diaspora Communities in Peace Processes,” the
Public International Law & Policy Group explores the role of states in engaging with a diaspora community. The report conveys that many states participate in these communities
in order to build internal and external political support for a peace process, but that the
opposite can also be true: “post-conflict political and economic development endeavors
are a useful tool to engage the diaspora when the conflict is too contentious [...] to directly
address its root causes”21. In the case of South and North Korea, the political contestations
on the peninsula are too sensitive to address directly, if the military security dilemmas and
reliance on foreign alliances are any indication of the shaky relations. In fact, inter-Korean
dialogue only formally began with the 1991 “Agreement on Reconciliation, Nonaggression
and Exchanges and Cooperation between the South and the North,” otherwise known as
the “Basic Agreement,” which acknowledged that reunification was the goal of both governments, and the 1992 “Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula”22.
Before then, communication was indirect; the phrase ‘actions speak louder than words’ rang
quite literally in South-North Korea relations. The opportunity to influence this small but
significant population, then, has been utilized as an alternative channel through which both
states can vie for a modern diaspora community and advance its own version of the Korean
identity.

48

16  Davis, Thomas, “Revisiting Group Attachment: Ethnic and National Identity,” Political Psychology 20.1 (1999): 25-47.
17  Agence France-Presse, “Stage Set for Japan to Seize North Korea’s ‘embassy,’” The Inquirer (Manila), June 18, 2007. http://
newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/world/view/20070618-71942/Stage_set_for_Japan_to_seize_North_Korea’s_’embassy’ (accessed April 14, 2011).
18  Ryang, Sonia, and John Lie, Diaspora without Homeland: Being Korean in Japan, Berkeley: Berkeley, 2009.
19  Ember, Melvin, Carol R. Ember, and Ian A. Skoggard, Encyclopedia of Diasporas: Immigrant and Refugee Cultures around
the World, New York: Springer, 2005.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

49

20  Ember, Ember, and Skoggard, Encyclopedia of Diasporas: Immigrant and Refugee Cultures around the World. New York:
Springer, 2005.
21  Public International Law & Policy Group. “Engaging Diaspora Communities in Peace Processes.” PILPG: Global Pro Bono
Law Firm 1 (2009): 3.
22  “South Korea.” U.S. Department of State. http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2800.htm (accessed November 23, 2012).

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

Alyssa Min

The Ethnic Korean Population in Japan

The competition between the two states in vying for the loyalties of a modern diasporic community, though not as risky or consequential as issues on the peninsula, can be a
source of competition that validates one over the other. Though Zainichi Koreans may not
adhere to the traditional standards of identity, “memory is something constructed, and the
homeland can become more real in the construction of imagined communities of memory
by nostalgic [...] communal identities”23. Each state has sought to create a nostalgic memory
for itself, one that is deliberately constructed. From Chongryon’s inception, North Korea has
promoted itself as the authentic national government, typecasting South Korea as a puppet
government of the US. As a result, Chongryon was very successful initially; a 1955 Japanese
intelligence report claimed that 90% of Koreans in Japan support the North Korean regime.
This aura of nostalgia sparked the Chongryon movement, which heralded the “joys of returning to North Korea” 24. North Korean propaganda encouraged Zainichi Koreans to relocate, hailing the homeland as a worker’s paradise. Some 90,000 heeded the call, only to realize upon arrival that North Korea was starkly different than as painted in propaganda reels.

In response to this movement, Mindan launched efforts to hinder the Chongryon
movement. In August 1959, Mindan members in Nigata attempted to forcibly obstruct
the train that would shuttle Zainichi Koreans to the harbor, where they would board ships
to North Korea. To this day, the organization claims that had the “death-defying struggle of Mindan not taken place, the number of compatriots forced to live in North Korean
‘living hell’ [would] have further increased”25. In 1975, Mindan carried out its own ‘Visit the
Motherland’ project, aimed at the Zainichi population. The trip consisted of visits to major
South Korean landmarks and ancestral graves and granted them the chance to meet their
relatives in the South.

The project was a huge success. Many visitors, previously entrenched in Chongryon
propaganda, were astonished to see that South Korea was not as poverty-stricken and barren
as they had been told. Between 1975 and 2005, more than 50,000 Zainichi Koreans traveled to South Korea as the project grew in popularity. Through this initiative, the organization was able to monitor Koreans who traveled to South Korea and ensure that anyone
who traveled there would become a member of Mindan26. Thus, the Korean Zainichi community, previously dominated by Chongryon, started leaning heavily towards Mindan. A
former Chongryon official told The Daily NK in a telephone conversation: “Before that
Mindan project, people believed the propaganda released by Chongryon; that South Korea

is a colony of the U.S. and the South Korean people live in a real hell. However, after visiting
South Korea, they were shocked at South Korea’s economic development, and those facts
circulated rapidly among other Korean residents”27.

As Mindan grew rapidly in number, North Korean dictator Kim Il Sung reacted
by instructing Chongryon to strengthen its organization28. In the 1970s, Chongryon began
to focus on the educational system as a new venue to win the loyalties of the people. Today,
Chongryon runs about 60 schools across Japan, many of which are funded by the North
Korean government. Kang Hwa Jong, the principal of a Chongryon-run middle school,
said: “You teach them he is the highest leader of modern North Korea. At the same time,
for common residents who live in Japan, we teach that he sends scholarship money and
financial aid to our educational system” 29. Education occurs on two levels: first is the education of the students on North Korean ideology and the cult of Kim Jong Il; the second,
perhaps more subtle yet just as powerful, is the reminder to the community that Kim Jong
Il is the perennial father figure, one who is supporting their children’s education and taking
care of their needs despite discrimination and hardships in Japan. Many parents who send
their children to Chongryon-run schools are grateful that the Great Leader supports their
children’s education. Clearly, targeting education, a field in which Zainichi Koreans are discriminated, has been a strategy of the North to gain favor with the community.

The relationship works both ways, especially for Chongryon, which faces added
difficulties for being “communist sympathizers”30. Chongryon’s “… maintenance [...] is
linked to the continued existence of the nation. Thus, individual efforts are directed toward
the national interest, thereby serving to reinforce both the nation and its associated social
groups, institutions, and organizations…”31. North Korea’s financial support has been dwindling in recent years, however, and the organization is facing difficulties in sustaining domestic activity. On February 26, 2011, the Chongryon headquarter in Tokyo was seized by
the government-backed Resolution and Collection Corporation (RCC) over a loan repayment case. Financial troubles have plagued the organization since 2007, when it was ordered
by the Japanese courts to pay back 62.7 billion yen to the RCC. A testament to the difficulties
they face today, the legal battle came to an end on June 27, 2012 when the Supreme Court
rejected Chongryon’s request to prevent the auction of the building by the RCC32.

50

23  Delanty, Gerard, “Cosmopolitan Community,” Community (London), November 23, 2010.
24  “Bend It Like Jong,” 101 East, Al Jazeera video, 23:19, August 19, 2010, http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/101ea
st/2010/08/2010817124710245411.html.
25  “Mindan: Korean Residents Union in Japan,” Mindan, http://www.mindan.org/eng/about/history.php (accessed November
23, 2012).
26  Ember, Ember, and Skoggard, Encyclopedia of Diasporas: Immigrant and Refugee Cultures around the World. New York:
Springer, 2005.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

27  Kim, Yong Hun, “South Korea Visits Weakened Chongryon,” The DailyNK (New York), December 10, 2009. http://www.
dailynk.com/english/read.php?cataId=nk00400&num=5761 (accessed November 23, 2011).
28  Kim, Yong Hun, “South Korea Visits Weakened Chongryon,” The DailyNK (New York), December 10, 2009. http://www.
dailynk.com/english/read.php?cataId=nk00400&num=5761 (accessed November 23, 2011).
29  “Bend It Like Jong,” 101 East, Al Jazeera video, 23:19, August 19, 2010, http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/101ea
st/2010/08/2010817124710245411.html.
30  Ryang, Sonia, and John Lie, Diaspora without Homeland: Being Korean in Japan, Berkeley: Berkeley, 2009.
31  Shipper, Apichia W., “Nationalisms of and Against Zainichi Koreans in Japan,” Asian Politics and Policy: 75.
32  Aokie, Manabu, “Court OKs auction of Chongryon Tokyo head office,” The Asahi Shimbun (Seoul), June 29, 2012.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

51

Alyssa Min

The Ethnic Korean Population in Japan

Without much financial support, the Chongryon-run school system also continues
to struggle. Because the schools were founded upon the notion of cultivating loyalty toward
North Korea and its leadership, the Japanese Ministry of Education does not provide any
sort of financial support, although other foreign schools, such as international schools, are
given aid. Thus, the lack of funds from either government has hit the schools hard and
many students have begun attending regular Japanese schools. In addition, graduates of
Chongryon-run schools are not allowed to take the entrance exam for Japanese public universities which has added to the difficulties of pursuing higher education. Though private
schools do accept them on the basis of their performance, discrimination and higher standards often restrict their opportunities for education. This situation has “led to an increasing distrust and loss of faith in Chongryon and its leadership among people who relied on
Chongryon as a center of unity for ethnic pride”33. With its deepening financial troubles and
limited resources, Chongryon is less effective in rousing North Korean allegiance.

On the other side of the spectrum, Mindan has also come under fire for monopolizing the access to South Korea for Koreans in Japan. It has been criticized for “capitalizing on the emotional trauma of national partition for first-generation Koreans, exploiting
their nostalgic sentiments for their long unseen home and turning it into political gain by
forcing them to join Mindan”34. Such sentiments have caused distrust among the Zainichi
population about Mindan, and its recent movement to identify with the term Kankoku, the
Japanese word for South Korea, has been met with chilly reception35. Chongryon’s troubles
with the Japanese state may be affecting Mindan’s pivot toward this new movement to identify with Kankoku, but for the younger generation whose identities are increasingly defined
by the interaction between South and North Korea instead of Mindan and Chongryon, this
shift can be deemed inconsistent.

While Mindan and Chongryon may not have as firm of a grip as they have had
in the past, the presence of both organizations and the respective governments behind
them can still be felt. In light of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan on March 11, 2011,
North Korea donated $500,000 USD to Chongryon members to help them recover from the
crisis36. For a state that is in dire need of aid itself, the gesture was an extremely generous
one. Mindan has also been utilized by the South Korean government to do goodwill activities in Japan, such as providing Korean food for the victims of the disasters37. Thus, both

organizations may be shifting from serving political roles to more subtle social roles for the
South and North Korean states.

In the last two decades, South and North Korean involvement in the Zainichi population has waned since the two states have started engaging in meaningful, formal inter-Korean dialogue, a relatively new approach. Direct contact began with the 1991 “Agreement on
Reconciliation, Nonaggression and Exchanges and Cooperation between the South and the
North,” otherwise known as the “Basic Agreement,” which acknowledged that reunification
was the goal of both governments, and the 1992 “Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization
of the Korean Peninsula”38. However, differences on the process of reunification, issues regarding North Korean nuclear weapons programs, unstable South Korean domestic politics,
and the 1994 death of North Korean leader Kim Il-sung contributed to the warming and
cooling of relations. When Kim Dae-Jung assumed the South Korean presidency in 1998, at
the top of his agenda was a different approach of engagement toward the North. He introduced the Sunshine Policy, a foreign policy initiative that proposed greater political contact
and advocated for more collaborative efforts with the North.

The Sunshine Policy brought about three terms of understanding and a subsequent
decrease in competition between North and South Korea over the Zainichi population.
First, both sides agreed that unification should be a process and not an immediate goal.
That is, it must be achieved peacefully without force or violence. Secondly, a “loose form
of federation” was proposed, and the vision for “one people, two systems, two independent
governments” was used as a point of convergence for further cooperation. Lastly, the two
sides agreed that continued US military presence is critical in stabilizing the peninsula and
Northeast Asia39.

With these three points of understanding, a historical summit meeting between
president Kim Dae Jung and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il in June 2000 signaled the
beginning of a series of collaborative projects between the two states: railroads were built to
connect the two states; a tourist site, Mt. Kumgang, was established in North Korea which
allowed for a flow of South Korean visitors to the North; South Korean companies were
allowed into Kaesong Industrial Complex, north of the demilitarized zone, to employ as
many as 10,000 North Korean workers to make a wide variety of products. Such a relationship was regarded as mutually beneficial, as South Korean companies were satisfied by the
cheap labor and the goodwill of the relocation of labor while North Korea gained economic
assistance on its own terms. Other initiatives included economic and humanitarian aid as
well as reunification between long-divided family members. Kim Dae Jung was awarded
the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 for his efforts, but was criticized heavily when it was revealed
that South Korea had paid the North $500 million dollars immediately before the summit

52

33  Ember, Ember, and Skoggard, 2005.
34  Ember, Ember, and Skoggard, 2005.
35  Tsutsi, Kiyoteru, and Hwa Ji Shin, “Global Norms, Local Activism, and Social Movement Outcomes: Global Human
Rights and Resident Koreans in Japan,” Social Problems, (2008): 291-418.
36  Yonhap News Agency (Seoul), “N.K. Leader Donates US$500,000 to Pro-Pyongyang Residents in Japan,” March 24, 2011.
37  Yonhap News Agency, (“피난민 ‘한국 곰탕.김치로 마음달래요’”), Yonhap News Agency (Seoul), April 4, 2011

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

38 
39 

“South Korea,” U.S. Department of State
“Kim Dae-jung - Nobel Lecture,” Nobelprize.org.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

53

54

Alyssa Min

through secret dealings with one of its biggest conglomerates, Hyundai. Whether this was
money paid to persuade Kim Jong Il to agree to the summit in the first place has been a
topic of contestation. Despite this, the succeeding South Korean president Roh Moo Hyun
has continued to engage the North through the initiatives of the Sunshine Policy40. While
its effectiveness can be debated, the policies have opened up the peninsula as an arena in
which to discuss and negotiate real issues. Thus, the need to utilize the Zainichi population
as a means of competing with one another is no longer necessary.

Meanwhile, later generations are becoming more indifferent to the bickering between Mindan and Chongryon, and see their identities more fluidly than past generations.
According to Oh Kong Don of the Institute for Defense Analysis, “The younger generation
[in Japan] sees North Korea as a hopeless case, even though they are indoctrinated and
raised in the North Korean system.”41 The irrelevance of Mindan and Chongryon is informing their decision to distance themselves from the institutions. Jong Tae Se, the heralded
soccer star and North Korean supporter, belongs to such a generation: “I respect Kim Jong Il
absolutely. I would like to believe and follow him whatever happens.” Yet, asked if his love
is great enough to one day permanently settle in the North, Jong shook his head, remarking:
“My friends and family are all in Japan; I wouldn’t know anyone. I would not like to live in
North Korea.”42 A far cry from the absolute brainwashed, can’t-live-without-the-Chairman
mentality of other North Koreans, Jong’s attitude clearly demonstrates that a North Korean
passport and an upbringing in North Korean sponsored schools do not make him a typical
North Korean.

Perhaps this is the lesson that North Korea has learned itself: that a modern diaspora community cannot fully absorb its own version of the Korean identity. For the Zainichi
Korean population, a new and evolving identity, straddling the Korean duality of Mindan
and Chongryon and the features of Japanese societal upbringing, should be interesting to
watch in the years to come. As the purpose of both Mindan and Chongryon begin to shift
within the Korean diaspora community, it will be important to observe what factors and
considerations influence the next generations of Zainichi Koreans. The findings could very
well prove valuable if the Sunshine Policy succeeds in bringing the two nations together
back as one Korean peninsula: though states and institutions may fail, identity is a fluid
concept that can greatly enhance or deter the hold of a nation on its people, and conversely,
the people’s faith in its nation. Whether South and North Korea can continue to engage in
identity construction with the Zainichi Koreans remains to be seen.
40  Xiang, Zhang, “China Hopes for Early, Fruitful Inter-Korean Talks,” English Xinhua News (Beijing), April 27, 2011.
41  Rosen.
42  “Bend It Like Jong,” 101 East, Al Jazeera video, 23:19, August 19, 2010, http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/101ea
st/2010/08/2010817124710245411.html.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

The Ethnic Korean Population in Japan

55

Works Cited
“Bend It Like Jong.” 101 East. Al Jazeera video, 23:19. August 19, 2010. http://www.aljazeera.
com/programmes/101east/2010/08/2010817124710245411.html
Aokie, Manabu. “Court OKs auction of Chongryon Tokyo head office.” The Asahi Shimbun (Seoul), June 29, 2012. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/
AJ201206290049 (accessed June 29, 2012).
Japan Today (Tokyo), “Chongryon Head Office, Premises Seized over Loan Repayment
Case,” February 25, 2011. http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/chongryon-head-office-premises-seized-over-loan-repayment-case (accessed April 15,
2011).
Davis, Thomas . “Revisiting Group Attachment: Ethnic and National Identity.” Political Psychology 20.1 (1999): 25-47. http://www.jstor.org/ (accessed November 23, 2011).
Delanty, Gerard. “Cosmopolitan Community.” Community (London), November 23, 2010.
Duerden, John. “Jong Tae-se Is North Korea’s Answer to Wayne Rooney .” The Guardian
(London), May 30, 2010. http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2010/may/30/jong-taese-north-korea-wayne-rooney (accessed April 16, 2011).
Ember, Melvin, Carol R. Ember, and Ian A. Skoggard. Encyclopedia of Diasporas: Immigrant and Refugee Cultures around the World. New York: Springer, 2005.
France-Presse, Agence. “Stage Set for Japan to Seize North Korea’s ‘embassy’ .” The Inquirer (Manila), June 18, 2007. http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/world/
view/20070618-71942/Stage_set_for_Japan_to_seize_North_Korea’s_’embassy’ (accessed April 14, 2011).
“Kim Dae-jung - Nobel Lecture.” Nobelprize.org. http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/
laureates/2000/dae-jung-lecture.html (accessed November 23, 2012).
Kim, Yong Hun. “South Korea Visits Weakened Chongryon.” The DailyNK (New
York ), December 10, 2009. http://www.dailynk.com/english/read.php?
cataId=nk00400&num=5761 (accessed November 23, 2011).
“Mindan: Korean Residents Union in Japan.” Mindan. http://www.mindan.org/eng/about/
history.php (accessed November 23, 2012).
Motani, Yoko. “Towards a More Just Educational Policy for Minorities in Japan: the Case of
Korean Ethnic Schools.” Comparative Education 38, no. 2 (2002): 225-237. www.jstor.
org (accessed November 23, 2011).
Yonhap News Agency (Seoul), “N.K. Leader Donates US$500,000 to Pro-Pyongyang Residents in Japan,” March 24, 2011. http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/northkorea/2011/03
/24/63/0401000000AEN20110324005100315F.HTML (accessed November 23, 2011).
Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

56

Alyssa Min

Office of Strategic Services. “Aliens in Japan.” In Occupation of Japan United States Planning
Documents Volume III. Washington DC: Office of Strategic Services, 1945. 1942-1945.
Public International Law & Policy Group. “Engaging Diaspora Communities in Peace Processes.” PILPG: Global Pro Bono Law Firm 1 (2009): 3.
Ryang, Sonia, and John Lie. Diaspora without Homeland: Being Korean in Japan. Berkeley:
Berkeley, 2009.
Shipper, Apichia W.. “Nationalisms of and Against Zainichi Koreans in Japan.” Asian Politics
and Policy empty (0): 55-75. www.jstor.org (accessed November 23, 2011).
“South Korea.” U.S. Department of State. http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2800.htm (accessed November 23, 2012).
Tsutsi, Kiyoteru, and Hwa Ji Shin. “Global Norms, Local Activism, and Social Movement
Outcomes: Global Human Rights and Resident Koreans in Japan.” Social Problems
empty (2008): 291-418. www.jstor.org (accessed November 23, 2011).
Watts, Meredith W., and Ofer Feldman. “Are Nativists Different Kind of Democrat?
Democratic Values and “Outsiders” in Japan.” Political Psychology 22.4 (2001): 639-663.
www.jstor.org (accessed November 23, 2001).
“World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Japan : Koreans.” Minority Rights
Group International. www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/49749cfd41.html (accessed November 23, 2008).
Xiang, Zhang. “China Hopes for Early, Fruitful Inter-Korean Talks.” English Xinhua
News (Beijing), April 27, 2011. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/china/201104/27/c_13848820.htm (accessed November 23, 2011).
Yonhap News Agency. (“피난민 ‘한국 곰탕.김치로 마음달래요’”) Yonhap News
Agency (Seoul), April 4, 2011. http://www.yonhapnews.co.kr/bulletin/2011/04/07/020
0000000AKR20110407128700073.HTML (accessed April 15, 2011).

Genocide, Identity and the State

The Dire Potential for Conflict in Colonial Identities
Erik Peterson

Colonial relationships create and propagate identities as a means of governance, resulting
in unstable societies and eventual conflict. The Rwandan Genocide represents one of the most
horrific instances of the purposeful corruption of a state’s society and culture via the colonial
powers that reigned over the state. The genocide was rooted in the historical background of
Rwanda’s colonization and the effects of the state’s aim to maintain power through societal manipulation. This article seeks to examine the development of identity conflict through colonial
relationships through the lens of the Rwandan genocide. This paper will explore the hypothesis
that the colonial subordination of one state to the control of another leaves the dominated
society vulnerable to a corruption that permanently alters the socio-cultural landscape and
function of the state through augmented identities.
In just four weeks, eleven percent of the Rwandan population was murdered. In just
four weeks, the world witnessed Rwanda demonstrate the true horrors of human potential
as neighbor beheaded neighbor and a nation’s people slaughtered its own. The Rwandan
Genocide of 1994 was a conflict rooted in the ethnic division between the Hutus and Tutsis
and took the form of dispersed but highly organized mass killings across the nation’s lands.
The subjugated majority Hutu group massacred the historically elite Tutsi group, leaving an
estimated 800,000 dead1. However, attribution to a solely ethnic basis for the conflict is an
oversimplification, one that does not adequately address the multifactorial development of
the genocide itself. The imperialist motivations of Belgian colonial powers sought control
through the utilization of structural and institutional tools that manipulated the cultural,
psychological, and ethnic framework of the Rwandan population. Colonial powers, with
the intent of increased ease of governance, attempted to categorize and quantify Rwanda
and thereby formed ethnic divides based on arbitrary distinctions. This manipulation of
the sentiments of the Rwandan people laid the foundation for the post-colonial authoritarian regime to dehumanize its victims by strengthening tensions between fabricated ethnic
groups. Ultimately, these sentiments sparked the violence that was seen as necessary to
maintain state control, culminating in the genocide of 1994.
The Rwandan Genocide thus represents the corruption of a society by the external
influence of a colonial relationship and the horrific consequences that can result. Belgian
1  Paul Magnarella, “Explaining Rwanda’s 1994 Genocide,” in vol. 21 of Human Rights and Human Welfare (2002), 25.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

Erik Peterson is a senior at the University of Southern California majoring in
International Relations.

Erik Peterson

Genocide, Identity and the State

colonialism in Rwanda created the structural basis for the subsequent Rwandan regime and
thereby demonstrates the immense power of the colonial state to shape and influence society
through the conscious creation and promotion of disparate identities. Colonial relationships
denote broad implications for the impetus and propagation of identity-based conflicts. In
1974, tensions between Greek and Turkish Cypriots led to a Turkish invasion that resulted in
“thousands of refugees, raped women, and aftermath consequences that continue to haunt
Cypriots to this day” 2 (Georgiades, p575, 2007). The decades of civil war between the terrorist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and Sri Lankan government forces sparked
myriad deaths, massacres, and widespread devastation. And, of course, in 1994, hundreds
of thousands deaths resulted from the Rwandan Genocide.
Each of these conflicts evidences the potential ramifications of colonial influence.
Colonial powers seek control through utilization of structural and institutional tools that
manipulate the cultural, psychological, political, social, and ethnic frameworks of each population. The British colonial authority in Cyprus exacerbated the tensions between Turkish
minorities and resentful Greek Cypriots seeking enosis. Likewise, British segregation of political representation on an ethnic basis built a structural foundation for the divide between
Sinhalese and Tamil ethnic groups that would serve as justification for future violence in Sri
Lanka. In Rwanda, Belgian colonial authorities categorized and quantified the state’s population and thereby formed ethnic divides based on arbitrary distinctions. This perversion
of the cohesive identity of the Rwandan people laid the foundation for the post-colonial
authoritarian regime to dehumanize its victims by strengthening tensions between fabricated ethnic groups. Ultimately, the nature of each of these conflicts is rooted in clashes of
disparate identities. Analysis of the creation and propagation of identity is crucial to understanding the nature of the conflict.
This paper will seek to examine the foundations and development of colonial influence
and identity formation through the lens of the Rwandan genocide. This paper will explore
the hypothesis that the subordination of one state to the dominance and control of a colonial
relationship leaves the society vulnerable to corruption that permanently alters the sociocultural landscape and function of the state.

Colonial authorities seek to coerce subordinate groups into participating in a paradigm in
which their subordination is inexorable. This is accomplished by operating within preexisting structural power differences of race and class, resulting in a reification and reaffirmation
of the subordinates’ position within society. Furthermore, the colonial authority seeks to
shape the dominated society toward progress, an idea that was “a central part of the ideological framework that supported European imperial projects and explained the hegemony
of European civilizations” 3. The colonial power’s primary means of shaping society is the
creation and propagation of disparate identities within a state, which can be wielded to organize its area of governance.
Often, in colonial relationships, this injection of a colonial ideology takes the form of
an attempt to modernize and transform the colony with Western and European ideals. This
is accomplished via the interplay between disparate identities and the resulting ideologies
that become embedded within society. Strong, structurally rooted identities can supersede
individual thoughts and beliefs, forming a collective identity. Yet, when such disparate identities are based off of hatred of the other, they result in dehumanization and conflict that
arises through the aegis of these populations themselves. The role of identity in conflict is
exemplified by one of John Cockell’s “six basic categories of preconditions for protracted
social conflict: …the polarization of social divisions around communal identity (ethnic,
religious, tribal)” 4. As divisions of identity are reaffirmed in successive generations, they
gain severity and significance. Tensions escalate and ultimately lead to protracted conflict
that is structurally rooted in the population’s identity. Colonial powers produce and embed
these identities within a society for a variety of purposes. Yet regardless of their intent, this
process permanently changes the face of a society and constitutively reinforces the importance of identity itself.

58

The Creation and Propagation of Disparate Identities
Conflicts such as those in Sri Lanka, Cyprus, and Rwanda are built upon historical
foundations. Colonialism creates a relationship in which the subordination of one state to
the control of another leaves the dominated society vulnerable to the effects of the colonial
power’s influence. This can permanently alter the socio-cultural landscape of a state and
build ethnic divides and tension where there was previously coexistence and stable peace.
2 

no citation for this

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

59

Rwanda’s Path to Genocide
Genocide is defined as “a form of one-sided mass killing in which the state or other
authority intends to destroy a group, as that group and membership in it are defined by
the perpetrator”5. The 1994 Rwandan Genocide falls precisely within these lines in its
specific planning, organized orchestration, and clear designation of the targeted group.
Furthermore, the genocide was by no means spontaneous, nor was it a sudden conflagration
of ethnic tensions. Rather, the Rwandan Genocide is rooted in the historical background of
Rwanda’s colonization and the effects of the state’s aim to maintain power through societal
3  Yiannis Papadakis, “Divided Cyprus: Modernity, History, and an Island in Conflict” in New Anthropologies of Europe, (Indiana University Press, 2006), 60.
4  Sarah Holt, Aid, Peacebuilding, and the Resurgence of War: Buying Time in Sri Lanka, (Palgrave Macmillan Publishers, 1977),
75.
5  D. Mirkovic, “Ethnic conflict and genocide: reflections on ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia” in Annals, (1996), 197.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

Erik Peterson

Genocide, Identity and the State

manipulation. Certainly, the genocide “by this logic, had its deepest roots in a pre-colonial
system based on the ‘premise of inequality’” and the manipulation of these structures toward
ease of governance6.
Beginning in 1894, Rwanda belonged to German East Africa. Yet after Germany’s defeat
in World War I, the League of Nations Mandate of 1916 appointed Belgium to become the
nation’s administrative authority, lasting from 1924 to 19627. The Belgian colonial power
exercised control through the established Tutsi monarchs and chiefs that had historically
ruled Rwanda. In its desire to organize Rwanda and further its indirect power in the Tutsi
monarchy, Belgium developed and promoted the concept of Tutsi superiority over the Hutu
majority. To a significant effect, “prejudicial fabrications inflated Tutsi egos inordinately and
crushed Hutu feelings, which coalesced into an aggressively resentful inferiority complex”8.
This development of a power divide was a Belgian manifestation of the Hamitic Hypothesis,
designating that the Tutsi superiority was grounded in their relation to the Hamites and
their creation of the first civilization and technology in Africa9. This divide was further
exacerbated by the 1933-1934 Belgian census and introduction of an identity card system
to mark each Rwandan individual as belonging to the Tutsi, Hutu or Twa ethnic categorizations. Qualifications for membership to any ethnicity were arbitrary in nature. Ethnic identification was determined on a patrilineal basis, regardless of the ‘ethnicity’ of one’s mother.
Furthermore, the Hutu-Tutsi designation was also determined by the Belgian “10 cow rule”:
“any male who owned 10 cows was classified as a Tutsi; those with fewer than 10 cows were
classified as Hutu” 10. Thus, ethnic designations closely followed existing sociopolitical and
economic structures, furthering the establishment of Tutsis as superior on an economic
basis as well. Likewise, colonial policy intensified this differentiation by “relegating the vast
majority of Hutus to particularly onerous forms of forced cultivation…and by actively favoring Tutsi in access to administrative posts, education, and jobs in the modern sector”
11
. Belgium’s direct involvement in Rwandan government ended in 1962 with Rwandan independence following the UN supervised national election of the Hutu President Gregoire
Kayibanda. However, Belgium’s colonial legacy would ultimately continue to color Rwanda’s
landscape a bloody red.

Tensions sparked shortly after independence, and by 1963, the Hutu violently overthrew the King Kigri V and expelled about 130,000 Tutsi to the neighboring countries of
Burundi, Zaire, and Uganda. Tutsi attempts to reenter Rwanda and regain control were
used as justification for the Hutu slaughtering of thousands of Tutsis living within Rwanda
between December 1963 and January 1964. July of 1973 marked the new, radical Hutu
dictator regime of Major Juvénal Habyarimana, whose supporters soon filled all-important governing positions. Most importantly, Habyarimana maintained and strengthened
the use of ethnic identity card systems, rejected the return of half a million Rwandan refugees, and stirred ultra-nationalist sentiments within Rwanda. The displaced Tutsi refugees
formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and eventually, backed by European pressure,
the Habyarimana government signed a series of agreements, called the Accords, which
reintegrated Tutsis into Rwanda and infuriated radical Hutu groups. This sparked a fervent campaign by Hutu extremists of anti-Tutsi propaganda in both print and radio broadcasts, exemplified by “Radio Milles Collines,” a station that broadcasted from the capital of
Kigali. Such broadcasts were particularly effective based on the abysmally low literacy rate
of Rwanda’s rural populations. Furthermore, the RPF’s return to Rwanda stirred the establishment of the Interahamwe, a Hutu militia that was dispersed across the nation.
The culmination of the tensions between the radical Hutu groups and the Tutsi populations began on April 6, 1994 when President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down near
the Kigali airport, killing the president and everyone on board. Although many scholars
attribute the assassination to pro-Hutu extremists within Habyarimana’s military, the Radio
Milles Collines blamed the RPF and UN soldiers for the attack. With such justification, the
Interahamwe quickly established roadblocks and brutally killed any Tutsis they found via the
state-sponsored identity cards. Exploiting radio and print propaganda campaigns, nationalist extremists and the Interahamwe incited Hutus across the nation to arm themselves with
machetes and slaughter any Tutsis they encountered. The opportunity to loot the economically superior Tutsis and overcome the Hutu’s sense of inferiority was a strong motivator for
neighbor to turn on neighbor. Thus began the genocide and one of the most concentrated
instances of state-supported murder since Nazi Germany. The genocide continued until July
18th, when the RPF successfully defeated the Interahamwe and declared cease-fire12. Shortly
after, the RPF and moderate Hutu groups reestablished control through the formation of a
new government that committed itself “to building a multiparty democracy and to discontinuing the ethnic classification system utilized by the previous regime”13. Rwanda reeled in
the aftermath of the genocide. Every established structure and facet of society was demolished and rebuilt with the intent to wipe clean Rwanda’s history and begin anew. Although
the horrors of the genocide would never be forgotten, Rwanda’s culture quickly bent itself

60

6  Neil Kressel, Mass Hate: The Global Rise of Genocide and Terror, (Westview Press, 2002), 97.
7  Magnarella, “Explaining Rwanda’s 1994 Genocide,” 25.
8  Ibid.
9  Sanders, Edith R, “The hamitic hyopthesis; its origin and functions in time perspecive,” in The Journal of African History,
(1969), 521.
10  Mahmood Mamdani, When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda, (Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, 2001), 99.
11  Catharine Newbury, “Background to Genocide: Rwanda,” Issue: A Journal of Opinion, vol. 23, no. 2, (African Studies
Association, 1995), 15.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

12 
13 

Magnarella, “Explaining Rwanda’s 1994 Genocide,” 27.
Ibid., 28.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

61

Erik Peterson

Genocide, Identity and the State

toward a rejection of previous ethnic classifications and popular sentiments widely ignored
the Hutu or Tutsi status. Ethnic labels are now outlawed by the Rwandan Government of
National Unity, yet their legacy of differentiation in morality, class, and status still permeates the framework of Rwandan social relationships and yields an unspoken, yet powerful,
hierarchy14.

dominance. Use of such structures enabled a subversive means of control and thus bolstered
the efficacy of Belgian policies and strategies of governance: “The Belgian colonial period
saw significantly more cooperation across the institutions comprising the colonial state
system”17. Belgian authority similarly gained dominion over and compliance from the Tutsi
ruling elite through adherence to traditional power structures, reinforcing the legitimacy
of Tutsi superiority. The historical and scientifically based superiority of the Tutsi people
became a tool for Belgium: “Mytho-historical imaginings often underpin state efforts to…
mandate their support for the state”18. Tutsi cooperation was assured by the structural, cultural, social, political, and economical benefits they received during the colonial era and the
Rwandan nationalistic sentiments promoted by Belgium. Compounded with the League of
Nations’ Mandate of 1916 that gave international legitimacy to the colonization of Rwanda
and the subjugation of its people, Belgium asserted and secured its authority in Rwanda by
solidifying its dominant-subordinate relationship.

62

The Dominant Perpetrator
The historical context and development of the Rwandan Genocide provides a unique
perspective into the power of states to shape and influence society. When the dominant
power exploits the subjugation of a society, it creates an opportunity to radically influence
its cultural, social, and political framework. The dominant power’s tool is the creation and
propagation of disparate identities within a society, which the state can wield to organize
its area of governance. These identities are produced and embedded within a society by a
variety of techniques and for a variety of purposes. Yet regardless of their intent, this process
permanently changes the face of a society and constitutively reinforces the importance of
identity itself. And as exemplified by Rwanda’s genocide, this embedding may present unintended consequences and directions for a society when such disparate identities become
malicious in nature.
Colonial states possess the ability to change the society of another, but require a dominant position. Accomplished through the establishment of a power divide between the dominant state and the subordinate, the colonial state can effectively exercise control and thereby
wield tools to influence the subordinate state’s society. The Belgian, and earlier German,
control in Rwanda filtered through structures of tribal rule and Tutsi monarchies. Belgian
officials, clergy, and soldiers implemented their directives with the voice of the Tutsi elite,
exploiting the preexisting concept of pre-colonial ‘premise of inequality’ which justified
and legitimated the Tutsi aristocracy’s power through a notion of “inherited and immutable
interracial differences in ability and make-up”15. In this way, the Belgian authority instated
a dominant-subordinate relationship between itself and Rwanda through the reification of
existing dominant-subordinate class structures between the Tutsi and Hutu. In its promotion of the ‘premise of inequality,’ Belgium linked itself to “forms of domination based on
a premise or claim to inherent superiority by ruling elites”16. Therein, Belgium garnered
power through the re-appropriation and strengthening of Rwanda’s historical structures of
14  Laura Eramian, Situating ethnic difference: Personhood, power, and the 1994 genocide in Butare, Rwanda, (York University,
Canada, 2011), ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 337.
15  J. J. Maquet, The Premise of Inequality in Rwanda: a study of political relations in a Central African Kingdom, (London:
Oxford University Press, 1961), 18.
16  James C Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts of Moorestown Friends’ School, (Yale University,
1990), 12.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

63

The Power of Identity as a Tool

The primary means of control and influence of a state to society lies in the state’s
ability to generate and shape the formation of identity. The dominant nature of the state
permits the influencing of the structural framework to create identity and inject the state’s
version of truth and reality into the collective thought of a society. The dominant ideology,
represented by the state, “operates to conceal or misrepresent aspects of social relations
that, if apprehended directly, would be damaging to the interests of dominant elites”19. The
state’s ideology seeks to deceive and coerce populations into cooperation with its ideals.
This is accomplished in two fashions: the establishment of thick and thin versions of false
consciousness. The state influences the dominant elite within a society (who are subordinate to the state) through thick false consciousness by “persuading the subordinate groups
to believe actively in the values that explain and justify their own subordination”20. This
process results from the elites’ cooperation with the state, promoted by their own increase
in power and control. The colonial state likewise exercises ideological power in the form of
thin versions of consciousness via the subordinates within society. It seeks to “achieve compliance by convincing subordinate groups that the social order in which they live is natural
and inevitable”21. The state can do so by abiding by preexisting structural power differentials, reifying and reaffirming the subordinates’ position within society. These reifications
17  Eramian, Situating ethnic difference, 86.
18  Barry Sautman, “Peking Man and the Politics of Paleoanthropoligical Nationalism in China,” in The Journal of Asian
Studies¸ vol. 60, no. 1, (Association for Asian Studies, 2001), 110.
19  Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance, 71.
20  Ibid.
21  Ibid.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

Erik Peterson

Genocide, Identity and the State

can become embedded and pervasive, and highly detrimental to the stability of the society.
Often, states wield the arousal of “nationalist and patriotic sentiments as a powerful tool in
mobilizing public support” and thereby bolster belief in the power of a colonial state, furthering its cause through the strengthening of state-created identities22. Thus, the process
and consequence of colonial interference marks a foundational aspect of the development
of the Rwandan Genocide in the Hutu extremists’ projection of their identity and anti-Tutsi
ideals to the larger Hutu majority.

power in Rwanda because of the differential access to ‘the modern’ and to colonial routines
of governance”26.
To a similar effect, colonial rule organized education, religion, administration and the
military around the accepted racial superiority of the Tutsi. With education, Tutsi were
enabled to fulfill roles of governance and administrative positions as well as to shape the
framework of Rwanda’s politics. Belgian placement of Tutsi in the leadership of the imposed
Christian religion conferred the ideological power of religion to the Tutsi people. And finally, Tutsi military leadership gave Tutsi control over the state’s means of direct coercion and
violence. Ultimately, the Belgian administration between 1916 and 1925 produced structural transformations that “contributed extensively to the consolidation of colonial power
and Tutsi-Hutu opposition,” demonstrating that the overall effect of the Belgians and Tutsi
elite “was the wholesale support and elevation of the Batutsi over the Bahutu”27.

64

The Fabrication of Identity in Rwanda

The colonial authority of Belgium sought to shape identities in Rwanda in order to
reinforce Belgian authority, increase ease of governance, and eventually bring Rwanda to the
modern era with an elite that could “put Rwanda among the ranks of modern nation-states
in the absence of European guidance”23. With a basis in the existing tribal Tutsi elite, this
production of a modernized ruling elite for Rwanda invariably forged power differentials
between rival ethnic groups. Thus, colonial ruling practices resulted in the establishment of
disparate identities between the Tutsi and Hutu, and were manifested in a variety of ways.
First, the Belgian census of 1933-34 introduced an identity card system that categorized
and quantified arbitrary distinctions into racial separations. The creation of previously unrealized categories gave Rwandans distinct identities that weakened the concept of a unified Rwandan national identity: “colonial authorities were using increasingly sophisticated
administrative means…building on the principle of ethno-racial hierarchies”24. The census
had the ultimate effect of naming and defining racial categorizations and uniquely distinguished between Hutu and Tutsi. These disparate Hutu and Tutsi identities were further
strengthened in by the promotion of a modernized Tutsi ruling class. The colonial power
set up boarding schools, “producing an educated elite who quite literally had one foot in the
world of the Rwandans and one in the world of the Europeans”25. Such schools gave access
only to an elite few, favoring and educating the historically powerful Tutsi. Furthermore, institutionalized language training beyond Kinyarwanda conferred power almost exclusively
to the Tutsi as virtually no Hutu were educated in French. Thus, only Tutsi were capable of
communicating with the Belgian colonizers, relying on the colonial language rather than
the common Swahili. Access to the French language quickly “became synonymous with

22  William I. Zartman, Peacemaking In International Conflict: Methods and Techniques, Rev. ed., (United States Institute of
Peace, 2007), 85.
23  Eramian, Situating Ethnic Difference, 81.
24  Benedict Anderson, “Census, Map and Museum” in Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Revised edition, (London, 1991), 247.
25  Eramian, Situating Ethnic Difference, 79.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

65

The Consequences of a Division in Identity

This establishment of a modernized elite essentially portrayed the Tutsi in
Rwandan society as foreign and more European than a true Rwandan. Therein, colonial
institutions based on Tutsi ethnic superiority “proved subversive of Batutsi and monarchial
hegemony”28. The elevated status of Tutsi legitimated Hutu displeasure and resentment of
their societal standing. The newly emergent Hutu elite sought an expression of societal
subjugation “in racial terms, and Catholicism gave added impetus to this crystallization of
a sense of group oppression and resentment against the Batutsi en masse”29. As traditional
tribal religious structures had been replaced by the colonial insertion of Catholicism, the
pre-colonial and historical component of Tutsi rule was lost. This occurred when colonial
power weakened religious belief systems and clan structures, creating a “monolithic division
between Hutu and Tutsi identities, and starting to dissolve the ideological glue of Rwandan
monarchial society”30. Economically disadvantaged and societally inferior, the Hutu emphasized the Tutsi relationship with the Belgian colonization and rejected the superiority
of their ‘modernization.’ The Tutsi elite was constructed as the alien invader unworthy of
status as Rwandan.
The void of an accepted elite in Rwandan society facilitated the intensification of the
Hutu “hidden transcript”,“a privileged site for nonhegemonic, contrapuntual, dissident,
26  Eramian, Situating Ethnic Difference, 80.
27  Eramian, 87.
28  Helen M Hintjens, “Explaining the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda,” in The Journal of Modern African Studies, vol. 37, no. 2
(1999), 253.
29  Hintjens, “Explaining the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda,” 253.
30  Hintjens, 254.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

Erik Peterson

Genocide, Identity and the State

subversive discourse”31. A subversive discourse enabled the Hutu to solidify and define their
resentment of the dominant power and their frustration with their subordinate position.
The consequence of this Tutsi alienation and Hutu frustration was expressed in the Hutu
Revolution of 1959, wherein power was wrested from the Tutsi elite and the Hutu ascended
to rule. In response to the rise of Hutu rule, Belgian authorities quickly changed allegiances,
supporting the Hutu ethnic group that could maintain its power. The same principles colonial authority had applied to the historically superior Tutsi class, now transferred to the
Hutu. Led by Abbe Kagame and Gregoire Kayibanda, the Hutu leadership created “The
Bahutu Manifesto of 1957,” which expressed the Hutu desire “to end Tutsi dominance once
and for all… [and] defended the need for racial markers on identity cards”32. Clearly, racial
categorizations were now firmly established and grounded in the social and cultural framework of Rwanda. The disparate nature of the Hutu and Tutsi identities stigmatized the other
and created significant tension that would lead to widespread violence: “The origin of the
violence is connected to how Hutu and Tutsi were constructed as political identities by the
colonial state, Hutu as indigenous and Tutsi as alien”33.

come. The pluralized Rwandan society impacted the relations between Hutu and Tutsi and
“constrain[ed] the ability of these groups to respond to one another in a constructive way”35.

After Rwandan independence from Belgian rule in 1962 and the creation of “The
Hutu Manifesto,” tensions between the two groups continued to escalate and violence began.
The Rwandan state, now controlled by the Hutu regime of Major Juvénal Habyarimana, employed a variety of tactics to further popular sentiments against the alien Tutsi and justify
state-sponsored violence. By redirecting the population’s strong sense of social solidarity
and cultural cohesion “toward a common ‘racial’ enemy within the country, the political
architects of the I994 genocide were to destroy almost totally any sense of social cohesion
within Rwanda”36. Fresh from their oppressive and subjugated position within Rwandan
society, Hutus fought “tooth and nail” to maintain their power and prevent any possibility
of losing it. Radio and print propaganda campaigns projected the extremist Hutu identity
throughout Rwanda, often fabricating stories of Tutsi violence and greed, convincing many
of the illiterate Hutu that the Tutsi were Rwanda’s enemy. Hutu leadership also re-appropriated the tenets of the Hamitic Hypothesis, declaring that the superior and foreign origins of
the Tutsi mandated their expulsion from Rwanda. Likewise, Tutsis were subjected to similar
limitations that the Hutus had experienced during the colonial era: strict quotas on higher
education and public employment. Violence that was entirely ignored by the state was likewise justified by the economic crisis that plagued Rwanda. The Hutu, adamant of their right
to prosperity and power, perpetrated violence against the Tutsi, evidencing how “minority
groups, particularly those excluded from dominant society, become an easy scapegoat for
the deprivation felt on the part of the major society and a visible target for those who wish
to plunder”37.
Violence and societal subordination jarred harshly with the Tutsi superiority complex.
Infuriated by their social standing and fearful of the Hutu attacks that were increasing in
frequency and severity, many Tutsi fled to the neighboring states of Uganda and Burundi
and created the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which took its power from its officials’ high
statuses in the Ugandan political structure. The RPF and newly established Interahamwe
clashed violently over years following Rwandan independence. The RPF ‘invasion’ into
Rwanda was the final justification needed for the Hutu regime to begin an orchestrated and
widespread removal of Tutsi within Rwanda. It’s clear that the ideology of the “hierarchy
of races” instituted by colonial powers “had far more devastating effects in Rwanda…than
could ever have been imagined by the…European ethnographers who first propounded

66

The Foundation for Genocide by Dominant Influence

An analysis of the rise and fall of Tutsi elites via the policies of colonial powers
evidences the unique ability of states to influence society and impose ideology. The creation
of identities through categorization and quantification with the intent of increased ease of
governance effectively transformed pre and post-colonial Rwandan society. Although scholarship disputes the specific terms used to describe the pre-colonial Hutu and Tutsi relationship, it is evident that “the Hutus and the Tutsis were probably two distinct ethnic groups
that time has culturally homogenized…and biologically mingled”34. Yet the aftermath of
Belgium colonialism demonstrates the ability of the state to erase cultural and biological
factors in a society. A previously cohesive population of Rwandans was stratified by specific techniques of governance and the creation of identities, regardless of the established
cultural homogenization and biological similarities. A unified Rwanda was broken in two.
Ultimately, this rift in Rwandan society laid the groundwork for the genocide that was to

31  Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance, 25.
32  Hintjens, “Explaining the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda,” 255.
33  Mamdani, When Victims Become Killers, 99.
34  John A Berry and Carol Pott Berry, editors, Genocide in Rwanda: A Collective Memory, (Washington, DC: Howard University Press, 1999), 28.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

67

35  Stacey Gibson, “The Role of Structures and Institutions in the genocide of the Rwandan Tutsi and the Armenians of the
Ottoman Empire,” in Journal of Genocidal Research, (Routledge Publishing, 2010), 508.
36  Hintjens, “Explaining the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda,” 249.
37  W. P Zenner, “Middlemen minorities and genocide,” in, Genocide and the Modern Age: Case Studies of Mass Death, editors,
I. Wallimann and M. N. Dobkowski (New York: Greenwood Press, 1991), 23.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

Erik Peterson

Genocide, Identity and the State

such theories”38. Indeed, in a “fantasy Africa without European intervention, the exploitative Tutsi monarchy might have persisted, and, in this manner, genocide would have been
avoided”39.

The significance of identity in protracted conflicts evidences the necessity for a
means for societies to restructure societies against the influence of colonial powers. Disparate
identities present a challenging obstacle to such interaction because structurally rooted sentiments of hatred, fear, and distrust create divisions between communities and individuals,
“constraining the ability of these groups to respond to one another in a constructive way”40.
Therefore, disparate identities must be overcome and clashing communities unified into a
cohesive society capable of coexistence. Overcoming identity conflicts can be accomplished,
not necessarily through a rejection of ethnic or historical differences or a denial of diversity in ideology, but rather through building a unifying peacemaking identity, facilitating
negotiations, and peace building. Such an attempt “does not imply that past grievances and
historical traumas have been forgotten… it simply implies that a process has been set into
motion that addresses the central needs and fears of the societies and establishes continuing
mechanisms to confront them”41.
These “continuing mechanisms” serve to establish a shared hybrid identity between two
groups, representing the most effective means of producing a structurally enforced environment conducive to successful negotiation and peacemaking. Identity conflicts are embedded within societal frameworks and perpetuated through narratives. If historical memory
and memory entrepreneurship can be channeled to influence perception of a shared identity, the root cause of conflict can be changed and the influence of colonialism’s societal
interference can be shaken. Through the acceptance of a mutually agreed upon historical
narrative, disparate communities can reconcile past grievances and undermine the constitutive effect of their clashes of identity. Such narratives enforce the formation of a hybrid
identity, which can be forged through a variety of techniques and strategies.42
The formation of hybrid identities must combat of the effects of attribution theory and
mirror imaging between groups. Attribution theory describes how, “when observing the
behavior of others, people have a strong tendency to make dispositional attributions – to

commit what has been called the ‘fundamental attribution error… when explaining the
causes of their own behavior, people are much more likely to make situational attributions”43.
Negative attribution of blame to another’s identity simply reinforces the division between
disparate identities, providing seemingly sound reasons for individuals and communities
to loathe and fear. Likewise, disparate identity groups tend to exhibit a mirroring process in
which “both parties tend to develop parallel images of self and other, except with the sign
reversed; that is, the two parties have similarly positive self-images and similarly negative
enemy images”44. Differing groups within society must not see each other as polar opposites
that only recognize the positive aspects in themselves and focus exclusively on the negative
aspects of the adversary. Hybridity within a new overarching identity can be encouraged by
“creating structural and psychological commitments to a peaceful, cooperative relationship,
breaking the conflict spirals initiated by mirror images and developing communication patterns to allow new information to challenge old assumptions”45.
Such a process mandates a reevaluation of a state’s education systems to build the foundation for a new unified peacemaking identity in future generations. The sentiments of
hatred and fear have become embedded within the framework and paradigm of older generations and can prove difficult to change. Though this remains the case, younger generations
provide a valuable opportunity to alter the pervasiveness of negative historical memory
and use memory entrepreneurship to reshape traditional negative perceptions and focus on
similarities between identity groups. Education systems are one of the most powerful ways
in which disparate identities are transmitted and propagated: “An education system can act
as a repository for a conflict, keeping alive memories and interpretations of history that support one side of a conflict and denigrate the other. Because education shapes and transmits
values, it can serve as a battleground where different communities compete over history and
the society’s narratives”46. Yet, since education “shapes and transmits values” it can likewise
instill a unifying identity in future generations. Historical memory and memory entrepreneurship paint history in accordance with specific viewpoints and paradigms. Education
that addresses historical memory undermines disparate identities in favor of hybrid ones
and therefore “can also provide a means out of the war, fostering attitudes of openness, tolerance, and responsibility and creating the skills necessary for a lasting peace”47. Furthermore,
education systems emphasizing conflict resolution can prepare generations to bring about

38  Hintjens, “Explaining the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda,” 255.
39  Kressel, Mass Hate: The Global Rise of Genocide and Terror, 98.
40  Gibson, “The Role of Structures and Institutions in the genocide of the Rwandan Tutsi and the Armenians of the Ottoman
Empire,” 508.
41  Zartman, Peacemaking In International Conflict, 67.
42  D. Becker, “Memory Entrepreneurship and the Reagan Legacy Project: Partisanship, Misinterpretation, Manipulation,” in
Global Governance: Political Authority in Transition, (International Studies Association, 2011), 1-45.

43 
44 
45 
46 
47 

68

The Resolution of Disparate Identities

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

Zartman, Peacemaking In International Conflict, 97.
Zartman, 92.
Zartman, Peacemaking In International Conflict , 101.
Zartman, 328.
Zartman, 339.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

69

Erik Peterson

Genocide, Identity and the State

peace by enabling an “understanding of the dynamics of conflict in the world and the role of
democratic international institutions in building a more peaceful global society.”48
Unifying hybrid identities can also be established by addressing how identity conflict
is “…a process driven by collective needs and fears, rather than entirely a product of rational calculation of objective national interests”49. Identities often coalesce around collective needs and fears. Perceived threats of the ‘other’ cause individuals to band together
around mutually shared concerns. These fears vary; they can be economic concerns, fears
of physical safety, or institutionally and generationally instilled misconceptions regarding
the ‘other’. Rwanda evidences the importance of addressing collective needs and fears as the
Hutu majority, perceiving the Tutsi as a biological and social threat, moved to exterminate
them and committed genocide. This genocide emphasizes the influence of economic and
political disparities between communities and the resentment that they can foster in the aftermath of a colonial power disparity. Rwanda’s future thus requires a combination of longterm economic and political development goals, as well as through the “transformation of
hatred through reflection and forgiveness, which could be encouraged by political leaders…
This perspective moves beyond the structural dimensions…and recognizes the inherently
human aspect of wars”50. By undermining the remnants of colonial societal interference, the
supporting foundations that enable identities to rationalize and justify their disparities can
be altered and the root cause of an identity-based conflict can be addressed.
Understanding identity provides a framework for analyzing the interactions of clashing
groups and, more importantly, illuminates the path toward effectively counteracting the detrimental consequences of a state’s subordinate position to a colonial power. The promotion
of a hybrid identity to be adopted by future generations represents the most effective means
of resolving an identity-based conflict. Reification of a new identity must encourage “the
parties to penetrate each other’s perspectives, to differentiate their image of the enemy…
and to generate ideas for resolving the conflict that are responsive to the fundamental needs
and fears of both sides”51. The creation of hybrid identities does not advocate pure homogeneity, but rather mutual understanding and respect. Refusing to acknowledge ethnicity or
difference, whether fabricated or natural, does not remove the underlying framework nor
does it change how strongly the ideologies of ethnic difference are still embedded within
society. Thus, hybrid identities must seek to preserve the sanctity of each separate group
while focusing the similarities that can serve to join them. The power of addressing identity
and undermining colonial influence lies in its efficacy in changing the structural, ideologi-

cal, and foundational barriers to negotiations and peace building. Historical memory and
memory entrepreneurship, trauma and forgiveness, can all serve to unite a people through
a hybrid identity to be reified and affirmed through future generations.

70

48  Campbell.
49  Zartman, Peacemaking In International Conflict , 64.
50  Holt, Aid, Peacebuilding, and the Resurgence of War, 33.
51  Zartman, Peacemaking In International Conflict , 102.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

71

Conclusions on the Power of the Dominant

The development of the genocide in Rwanda evidences the ability of a state to exploit the disparate identities within a society to achieve its own ends. Furthermore, it demonstrates the unpredictable potential of such fervent identity formation in a society at the
hands of a colonial state. The very tools used by colonial powers for increased governance
changed the structure of Rwandan society and thereby made possible the massive violence
that resulted once European governance was removed. This is exemplified in the process of
the vilification of one identity in opposition to state interests, which is used to stir hatred
and eliminate any threat to the state’s stability. The Hutu majority, perceiving the Tutsi as a
biological and social threat, moved to exterminate them and genocide began. This vilification became the majority opinion and was integral to Hutu identity and the justification for
individual murder: “any murder of the Tutsi came to be perceived as constituting an act of
self-defense, because evil incarnate was now threatening to destroy the peaceful agrarian
democratic Hutu republic…it was a matter of survival”52.
In this way, the true power of the state is revealed. By inserting its own ideology into the
social framework of another state, the dominant state creates disparate identities that can be
used to exercise control and establish power differentials. By working within the frame the
dominant state has created, it is enabled to govern efficiently. However, crisis can arise once
the original dominant-subordinate relationship is deconstructed, leaving behind a fabricated and unnatural system of interaction between imagined identities. This process, while
exacerbated by economic crisis or political turmoil, can take place in fully functioning and
stable states. The most necessary condition for a clash or crisis of identities is simply the fabrication of those identities themselves. Their artificial nature and their existence as a creation
of a powerful dominant state give such identities incredible persistence and pervasiveness.
They become so deeply embedded within society that the framework and capacity of the
society itself is constitutively altered by the interplay of the identities. Thus, when analyzing the Rwandan genocide and its development via the creation of inauthentic and artificial
ethnic identities, it becomes clear that any pre-colonial foundations for violence never could
have escalated to genocide without the influence of an external state. States garner control
via the revivification of ethnic identities, placing “ethnically defined categories in opposition
against each other…the intensification of ethnic conflict was not the result of a ‘collapsed
52 

G. Prunier, The Rwandan Crisis: History of a Genocide, (London: Hurst, 1998), 226.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

Erik Peterson

Genocide, Identity and the State

state’…in this case ethnic conflict served to illustrate state power in action; in Rwanda, the
‘ethnic conflict’ of 1994 was simply state sponsored terrorism against its own citizens”53.
Yet it can be argued that the decisions of individuals within the Rwandan Genocide
reveal a deviation from this concept. Many rural Hutus strove to hide and protect their
neighboring Tutsi from the rampaging Interahamwe and the roaming mobs of machetearmed Hutu extremists. Such Hutus were murdered next to Tutsi when directly confronted
by the Interahamwe and refused to commit genocide. However, the power of identity to stir
conflict is maintained. These Hutu, who deviated from the violence of their socially established identity, are simply those who escaped or rejected the adoption of an anti-Tutsi ideology. In refusing to acknowledge the Tutsi as inhuman and worthy of extermination, these
Hutu deviants linked their identity to that of the subordinate Tutsi. In the eyes of the Hutu
majority, this was a betrayal of the prevailing Hutu identity and thus these Tutsi sympathizers represented a similar threat worthy of extermination.
After the successful intervention of the RPF, the defeat of the Interahamwe and the
end of the 1994 genocide, Rwanda entered a period of reconstruction. The modern regime
“is officially opposed to ethnic identification of groups of peoples and individuals, and has
removed ethnic labels from identity cards”54. Such a rejection of ethnically based identities may be seen as progressing away from the divisive social framework of pre-genocide
Rwanda. However, this notion is flawed. While the power of these identities may diminish
over time as future generations become further and further removed from the genocide,
modern Rwanda still reels from their effects. The state-mandated and culturally supported
ignoring of all ethnic classifications actually reifies the power of these classifications and
marks ethnicity as hugely significant. Refusing to overtly acknowledge ethnicity does not
remove the underlying framework nor does it change how strongly the ideologies of ethnic
difference are still embedded within Rwandan society.
By tracing the progression of genocide through colonial Rwanda to the modern era, the
ultimate power of the state’s influence over society can be analyzed. The injection of ideology
via the formation of identity incites permanent structural changes that become embedded
within a culture and the minds of a nation’s people. The subordination of one state to another
enables the dominant power to inflict its will upon the subordinate’s society via the fabrication of artificial identity. Their permanence and pervasiveness emphasizes that identity is
one of the most powerful tools a state can wield, yet its effects can wreak devastating and
unpredictable consequences. Although the genocide occurred under the aegis of Rwandans
themselves, the external influence of colonial powers and their resulting effects must be

addressed to adequately understand how, in such a small period of time, the foundations
could be laid for neighbor to murder neighbor and a nation to slaughter its children.

72

53 
54 

Newbury, “Background to Genocide: Rwanda,” 13.
Hintjens, “Explaining the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda,” 279.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

73

Works Cited
Anderson, Benedict. “Census, Map and Museum”. Imagined Communities: Reflections on
the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Revised edition. London 1991, pp 163-185
Becker, D. “Memory Entrepreneurship and the Reagan Legacy Project: Partisanship, Misinterpretation, Manipulation” International Studies Association. “Global Governance:
Political Authority in Transition” 2011, p1-45
Berry, John A. and Berry, Carol Pott (eds.), Genocide in Rwanda: A Collective Memory.
Washington, DC: Howard University Press, 1999. 201 pp.
Eramian, Laura. 2011. Situating Ethnic Difference: Personhood, Power, and the 1994 Genocide in Butare, Rwanda. York University (Canada)). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses
Gibson, Stacey. The Role of Structures and Institutions in the genocide of the Rwandan
Tutsi and the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire. Journal of Genocidal Research.
Routledge Publishing. 2010.
Hintjens, Helen M. Explaining the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda, The Journal of Modern African Studies. Vol. 37, No. 2 (Jun., 1999), pp. 241-286
Holt, Sarah. Aid, Peacebuilding, and the Resurgence of War: Buying Time in Sri Lanka.
Palgrave Macmillan Publishers. 1977
Kressel, Neil. Mass Hate: The Global Rise of Genocide and Terror. Westview Press, Jan, 2002.
Magnarella, Paul. Explaining Rwanda’s 1994 Genocide. Human Rights and Human Welfare.
Vol 21, 2002.
Mamdani, Mahmood. When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the
Genocide in Rwanda. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001. 364 pp.
Maquet, J. J.1961. The Premise of Inequality in Rwanda: a study of political relations in a
Central African Kingdom. London: Oxford University Press.
Mirkovic, D.1996. ‘Ethnic conflict and genocide: reflections on ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia’, Annals.
Newbury, Catharine. 1995. Background to Genocide: Rwanda. Issue: A Journal of Opinion
, Vol. 23, No. 2, African Studies Association. Rwanda pp. 12-17
Papadakis, Yiannis. Divided Cyprus: Modernity, History, and an Island in Conflict. 2006,
New anthropologies of Europe. Indiana University Press.
Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2

74

Erik Peterson

Prunier, G. (1998) The Rwandan Crisis: History of a Genocide (London: Hurst).
Sanders, Edith R. 1969. The hamitic hyopthesis; its origin and functions in time perspecive.
The Journal of African History, 10 , pp 521-532
Sautman, Barry. Peking Man and the Politics of Paleoanthropoligical Nationalism in China.
The Journal of Asian Studies¸Vol. 60, No. 1 (Feb., 2001). Pp. 95-124. Association for
Asian Studies.
Scott, James C. Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts. Moorestown
Friends’ School. Yale University. 1990
Zartman, William I. (2007). Peacemaking In International Conflict: Methods and Techniques. United States Institute of Peace. Rev. ed.
Zenner, W. P. (1991) “Middlemen minorities and genocide,” in I. Wallimann and M. N.
Dobkowski, eds, Genocide and the Modern Age: Case Studies of Mass Death (New
York: Greenwood Press), pp 253–261.

Southern California International Review - Vol. 2 No. 2