Статья опубликована в рамках: Научного журнала «Студенческий» № 24(44)

Рубрика журнала: Социология

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Библиографическое описание:
Pshegorskaia N. THE ETHNIC CINFLICT IN MACEONIA - ANALYZED WITH A SOCIAL CINSTRUCTION OF ETHNICITY // Студенческий: электрон. научн. журн. 2018. № 24(44). URL: https://sibac.info/journal/student/44/125403 (дата обращения: 19.09.2019).


Pshegorskaia Natalia

master student, Saint-Petersburg State University, faculty of Sociology,

Russia, Saint-Petersburg

1. Introduction

The upcoming conflict in the late 90's between the parties of orthodox christs and albanians in the post-soviet state Macedonia was first an unexpected occurrence, as the state stood for some years (not as many other post-soviet sates in the Balkan-region) for an 'oasis of peace'. [1]

There are many possibilities to analyze conflicts like this one through different types of political theories and with conflict research, for example by the analysis of root causes and conflict prevention. [2] While political science tries to explain connections in a narrow or a broader context by using theories and comparative models, sociological science creates definitions and puts facts or behavior in a certain order.

The conflict in Macedonia could be analyzed by considering the root causes and for example results of conflict-prevention. As the essays is doing here, it is also possible to have a look for the construction of the conflict-parties and the definition of the mostly used words and concepts.

Rogers Brubaker mentions in his paper “Ethnicity without groups” a concept of the social construction of ethnicity, in which he strictly differentiates, examines and critics the group-concept, which is besides topics like multiculturalism and gender also implicated in the construct of ethnicity.

This concept can be used in the analyzes of possible solutions of this conflict. Albanian minority lives compactly in rural areas in the north-western, western, and also in some central regions of the country. The largest number of Albanians live in Tetovo, Gostivar, Kichevo, Kumanovo and Skopje. If we pay attention to the Macedonia's map, we will see that some of these towns and rural areas around compose an "albanian" territory. This self-distancing and the desire to preserve the identity of the people, and at the same time to affirm the rights of the ethnic minority at the state level, have become the cause of the conflict.

The causes of this conflict can be understood with the help of the Brubaker theory. However, the settlement of many disagreements became possible only at the state level, because recognition of the fundamental rights and freedoms of the minority affirmed its official status. Here we can also note the phenomenon of the border social space. The proximity of a neighbor provokes and reproduces a national identity, so these differences become more acute. The border regions are a privileged place for articulating of national differences. The appearance of new boundaries alters the former perception of the world around. Now the nation state does not line up around the "state capital" and within its borders. Now it becomes possible to form a set of centers behind national limits. This cross-border position of two ethnic groups living in the country has made application of the theory of Brubaker is possible in this case.

2. Ethnos, ethnical values and inter-ethnic conflict

Ethnos is defined as the established community of people, united by intragroup norms of behavior, the peculiarities of which are fixed by linguistic, psychological, moral, aesthetic and other means of culture. [3, p. 21]

National-ethnic stereotypes are acquired by a person from childhood and subsequently function primarily at a subconscious level. Therefore, for ethnic conflicts, features of unconscious behavior, such as emotion, illogicality, symbolism and weak validity by rational arguments of the actions performed are inherent. Due to these features, the emergence, development and resolution of interethnic conflicts in any sphere of the life of society and at any level has its own specifics.

Inter-ethnic conflicts occur between individual representatives, social groups of different ethnic groups. The ethnos is driven by the need for self-preservation, the protection of its values and traditions. The most painful and emotionally saturated conflicts that arise as a result of infringement of the value of the ethnos. Value conflicts can take place in any sphere of society. But the specifics of value inter-ethnic conflicts are more clearly manifested in the contradictions related to differences in culture, language, religion and other socio-cultural features of ethnic groups. For example, according to experts, the main motive of the civil war in ex-Yugoslavia was religion, which, for certain historical reasons, divided people with single ethnic roots into several religious subcultures (Orthodox, Catholic and Muslim).

On the domestic level, ethnic conflicts can arise, caused by socio-psychological factors - a general subconscious dislike for representatives of a certain ethnos. In the course of a long confrontation, whatever its causes, among conflicting ethnic groups, such hostility towards each other acquires a mass character.

Often, conflicts between norms and values and between the values of different cultures occur at the everyday level, in the course of everyday communication.[4]

The most conflict-prone in this respect are regions with high population migration. Settlers, as a rule, do not take into account the sociocultural characteristics of local residents, what causes negative attitude of "aborigines".

It must be taken into account that there are virtually no purely inter - ethnic causes of conflicts in real life. Ethnic self-identification and solidarity are only ways to protect their interests, goals, values, etc.

3. Causes of the conflict in Macedonia: historical context

A substantial Albanian minority appeared on the territory of modern Macedonia during the time of the Ottoman Empire. In 1968, Albanian unrest took place in neighboring Kosovo, which spread to Macedonia. On December 22, 1968, about 200 Albanians came to the streets in Tetovo, who smashed several windows and hung an Albanian flag on the building of the communist committee of Macedonia, after which there were 87 criminal cases. In the 1980s, in the Federal Yugoslavia in Serbian Kosovo, the authorities made strong repressive measures against the Albanian minority. Similar measures were taken by the authorities in Macedonia. [5]

At the time of the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1991 in Macedonia, Albanians accounted for 21 % of the population, or 427 000 people. Albanians boycotted the referendum on the independence of Macedonia on September 8, 1991. In January 1992, the Albanian minority in its own referendum voted for the autonomy of the Albanian regions of the republic. The situation was aggravated by the arrival of more than 200,000 Albanian refugees from Kosovo. [6]

After the Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) succeeded in the south of neighboring Serbia in 1996-1999, and the international peacekeeping forces were introduced into the province, Albanian armed groups under the leadership of Ali Ahmeti began to be created in Albanian Macedonia, modeled on the KLA. The unification of these organizations was called the National Liberation Army. In January 2001, the militants began active operations.

4. Social construction of ethnicity by Rogers Brubaker

4.1.1 Concept of "groupism"

He wants to address the problem of the general assumption, that groups in the study of ethnicity are taken for granted, especially in topics like ethnic conflicts.”This tendency to treat ethnic groups as substantial entities to which interests and agency can be attributed and the tendency to reify such groups e.g. Muslims and Albanians in former Yugoslavia.” [7, p. 164] This is what Brubaker calls 'groupism'. He describes with it a tendency to subordinate social and cultural shapes to certain blocs. While Brubaker mentions, that the groupism-phenomenon extends beyond the field of ethnicity, race and nationalism and includes accounts of putative groups of e.g. gender, sexuality, age, class, religion and other kinds of culture, the main focus here is the construction of groupism in the study of ethnicity. [7, p. 164]

In his assumption it is mentioned, that ethnic groups are widely understood as entities and cast actors, and that mainly different constructivist approaches are dominant in the research of ethnicity. Whether in political reports or the media (even academical writers do it), ethnic conflicts routinely framed in groupist terms, as, for example, the struggles of ethnic groups. In this way, it exists a tendency to talk about groups by meaning ethnicities.

Following Brubaker, a complete rethinking of ethnicity and its definition is necessary. Ethnicity should not be conceptualized as things, entities or collective individuals, but more in relational, processual, dynamic and eventful terms. [7, p. 167] Thus thinking about it should not happen in terms of certain groups or entities, but in terms of categories, organizational routines, political projects and institutional forms. Also ethnicization as a process, and not a certain situation. Furthermore, Brubaker claims, a group should not be taken as an entity, but groupness as an fluctuating and moveable variable.

By defining these new criterias, the creator puts the topic in a more abstract context, which is not definable by using simple forms of categorizing structures for entities. The reality of ethnicity and the identification with it is furthermore not depending on the existence of ethnic groups as substantial groups or entities. In this way, Brubaker separates decisively the existence of ethnicity from forms of groups or entities.

4.1.2 "Groupism" in case of conflict in Macedonia

Concerning the ethnic-conflict in Macedonia, which began in 1991 and found an end of its violence in 2003, we can find some examples for existing groupism, and other elements of the theory. Macedonia has a population of around 2 million people with a share of more than 60 percent orthodox-christian macedonian slaves and around 25 percent of muslim Albanians. [8] Until the proclamation of an independent Macedonian state in 1989, imposed in 1991, the different ethnic parties lived together without any significant incidents. The new constitution, proclamated by the orthodox-Christian majority, contained certain rules, discriminating the arabic minority in practicing her culture.

This led to increasing tensions, supported also because of a underrepresentation of the Arabicethnicity in the Macedonian parliament and the government. Despite of international efforts through EU and also NATO, to deescalate the situation, the tensions increased with more and more provocations and actions of every site and in 2001 the lay escalated, when Albanian extremists attacked the state authority by entering and occupying a small town and different attacks in other places against army- and police units.

The following course of events took a changeable way and with different instruments of conflict prevention and peace-enforcement, in 2003 the lay in Macedonia end for the time being. [1]

By looking for the definition of ethnicity in this case, even in the research for this paper, it attract, that the used description of ethnicity is marked by the permanently use of the group-model. By distinguishing between groups and categories and by a view on groupness as a variable, as mentioned above, Brubaker describes the dynamic of group-making as a project, which has an aim of a transformation of categories into groups or a increasing level of groupness. According to this approach, the author describes, that in a conflict-cycle of attacks and counterattacks groupness can increase between the conflict-parties. He so accepts, that in those conflict-situations a certain group making strategy comes into being.

In the example of Macedonia a similar process can be observed. The conflict-parties of Albanians and orthodox-slaves turned especially in the beginning of the violent conflict with increasing violent discussions in such a conflict-cycle. As Brubaker also mentions, a “certain dramatic event, in particular, can serve to galvanize and crystallize a potential group, or to ratchet up pre-existing levels of groupness.” [7, p. 171] According to him, this is why deliberate violence and provocations can lead to group-making.

The begin of the violent conflict shows a similar behavior. The first step of the ethnic-party of the orthodox-christian Macedonian slaves, by proclamating a new constitution shows a certain step of deliberate, even if it was without violence, behavior. A following spiral of increasing tensions shows, that another party, here the ethnic group of Muslim Albanians, showed reaction and tried to defend themselves.

The certain point of de-escalation of the violence was built by the attack of Albanian extremists against the state and therefore the majority of the other big ethnical party. Thus it is possible, to speak here about a phenomenon of group-making.

4.2 Organizational approach

Another part of Brubakers structure which could be used here, is the approach of Groups and organizations. Following this view, the main actors in violent conflicts are less ethnic groups, but more various kinds of organizations, including states, interest groups of the conflict parties and also terrorist groups, churches and many others.So many attributes, which are seen as some of ethnic groups, are in fact those of organizations, doesn't matter if they are interest-groups or nation-states, when they try to claim to speak and act in the name of ethnic, racial or national groups.

In the Macedonian case, important actors in the conflict were the European Union and the NATO, while also the UNO tried to influence the lay by work on deescalation-programmes. [8] Beside these international organizations, also the ethnic-groups were represented through other organizations, in the Albanian case a paramilitary organization (UCK) which tried to achieve political power through violence and could therefore also be seen as a terroristic entity.

Altogether, the ethnic-conflict was strongly influenced by different organizations, which again, following Brubakers assumptions of the group-understanding, pushes the activities from ethnic groups or parties to other actors.

Correspondingly also this part of his approach can used by looking for the Macedonian conflict. The picture Brubaker draws with this assumptions, is a high analytical and differentiated construction of ethnicity without groups. In the end, this description is only a part of his whole social construction of ethnicity, but can proved itself as at least partly true.

5. Conclusion

To sum up, the conflict in Macedonia is a really complex one, which could be seen from different prospectives.

It strikes, that the strict differentiation in the concept can lead to such a critical point of view, that a clear analysis of ethnic-conflicts appears on a new difficult level. Altogether, the author shows that ethnic groups are social constructions and that the phenomenon of groupness appears in real conflicts. It also shows, that violence in so called ethnic-conflicts and ethnic wars, sometimes have less to do with the ethnicity itself, but more with conflicts between constructed organizations. The ethnical population of a region like the Macedonian country for example, is not at all the responsible party, cause certain interest groups are acting in the name of ethnics.

The author itself sees in his construct, that by questioning ethnic groups, he will end up questioning ethnicity itself, which leads to another research area. In my opinion, the main result of this constructed model of ethnicity mainly helps to minimize boundaries between ethnic-conflict groups. The distinction can help, to make things clear and to draw a more clear picture of conflicts and its participants, while politicians and the media often incline to show those conflicts as problems between accrued groups, which stimulates hate and negative power in the modern world.



  1. Oschlies, Wolf; Mazedonien als Opfer internationaler Ignoranz? Netzwerk Friedenskooperative 2003 Available at< http://archiv.friedenskooperative.de/themen/maz01-35.htm#marke0313>
  2. Matthies, Volker; Krisenprävention, Leske Budrich, Opladen, 2000
  3. Mukomel V., "Demographic Consequences of Ethnic Conflicts," Vestnik, 1992, no. 1
  4. Popov A., "The Ideology of Ethnic Conflicts," News Letter, Foreign Policy Association vol. 1, February 1992
  5. Ortakovski V., Interethnic relations and minorities in the Republic of Macedonia, 2001. Sts. Cyril and Methodius University, Skopje
  6. The Albanian Question in Macedonia: Implications of the Kosovo Conflict for Inter-Ethnic Relations in Macedoni. Avaliable at < http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a6d04.html> 
  7. Brubaker, Rogers; Ethnicity without groups, Harvard University Press, 2006
  8. Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung / State head office of political education Mazedonien Avaliable at <http://www.bpb.de/internationales/weltweit/innerstaatliche-onflikte/54789/mazedonien>

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