chapter  1
Pages 16

This book is a study of violent conflict. Its goal is to explain why violent conflict occurs, and describe the factors which produce it. In its search for the causes of violent conflict, it employs a comparative approach, contrasting a country which experienced civil war (namely Tajikistan) with a similar one which did not (Uzbekistan). In the literature on violent conflict, few studies make use of such a comparative approach to explain the presence or absence of civil war. This book asks how we can explain the occurrence of civil war in Tajikistan and, contrary to what the theories and explanations of violent conflict in the literature lead us to expect, its absence in Uzbekistan. The factors cited in the literature on violent conflict in general and on the Tajikistan civil war in particular as the causes of violent conflict were present both in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan; nevertheless only the latter experienced civil war. The fact that the same variables did not produce the same outcome presents an empirical puzzle. From 1992 to 1997 Tajikistan suffered a five-year civil war, which took an

estimated 60,000-100,000 lives and displaced almost 700,000 people. The civil war in Tajikistan was fought between the United Tajik Opposition (UTO)—an umbrella group composed of such parties as the Islamic Revival Party (IRP, Hizbi Nahzati Islomii Tojikiston), Rastokhez, the Democratic Party of Tajikistan (DPT, Hizbi Demokrati Tojikiston), and Lali Badakhshan-and supporters of the communist government. The war was basically intra-Tajik, although some minority populations were also involved (especially from among the Uzbeks, the most populous minority), mostly on the communist side. Meanwhile in Uzbekistan-which in many ways is the country most similar to Tajikistan among the Central Asian republics-no similar conflict occurred. When the five Central Asian republics gained independence from the Soviet

Union in 1991, expectations of violent conflict were widespread. Some scholars perceived a high probability of future conflicts in this region. As justification they pointed to such factors as ethnic heterogeneity, weak identification with the nation, ethnic clashes during the last years of the Soviet Union, economic problems, and high unemployment rates. Most analysts pointed to the differences among the population of the

region-including tribal, regional, ethnic, clan, and religious differences-as

threats to stability (Rumer 1993; Rumer and Rumer 1992; Kangas 1994; Haghayegdi 1995; Olcott 1993, 1994). Some scholars expected that ethnic identity would become the primary

factor motivating the actions of people and elites in the region. They expected Central Asian political elites to utilize their ethnic identities, mobilizing other people around them; and they foresaw that this would cause violent conflicts between the titular nation of the republics and other non-titular nations in the republics (Laitin 1991; Beissinger 1992; Brubaker 1994; Roeder 1991). Some expected inter-ethnic violence in Uzbekistan based on ethnic differences in the country (Kangas 1994). Others saw religious cleavages as the most important factor, and long before the dissolution of the Soviet Union expected that Soviet Muslims, with their different religion and culture, would be the first to rise against the Soviet regime (Bennigsen and Lemercier-Quelquejay 1967; Bennigsen and Wimbush 1986; D’Encausse 1979; Rywkin 1982; Rumer 1990). After the collapse of the Soviet Union, there were expectations of Islamic

insurrection against the post-Soviet regimes (Haghayegdi 1994, 1995; Olcott 1993, 1994). Among the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, only Tajikistan

experienced prolonged, state-wide, and regime-threatening violence. While some violent inter-ethnic clashes did occur in Uzbekistan, these occurred before independence, were not widespread, and were short-lived. Uzbekistan witnessed nothing like the events in Tajikistan-even though it shares with Tajikistan the same factors cited in the literature on violent conflict in general, and on the civil war in Tajikistan in particular, as the causes of violent conflict. The fact that the same variables did not produce the same outcome presents an empirical puzzle. How, then, can we explain the occurrence of civil war in Tajikistan, in contrast with its absence in Uzbekistan? This is an important question within the more general issue of why conflict erupts in some cases, but not in others with similar features. The wider literature on violent conflict suggests various factors as its

causes. Primordialist studies describe identity groups as having cultural differences which are deep-seated and very old. They attribute violent conflicts to differences of identity, and to the feelings of resentment that such groups characteristically have for each other (Van Evera 1995; Smith 1986; Isaacs 1975). One explanation stresses grievances concerning political exclusion, repression, and economic inequality (Gurr 1993, 2000; Gurr and Harff 1994). Other writers stress the context of a weak state as a causal factor: If a state is weak, the likelihood of violent conflict in that country will be high (Woodward 1995; Rubin 1995a).1 Some scholars have stressed the role of institutions, focusing on the presence or absence of democratic institutions; power sharing among groups; language laws; protection of minority rights; and institutions such as federalism. Such scholars have associated the existence of these institutionswith a low probability of conflict (Horowitz 1985; Gurr 2000; Lijphart 1977). Elite theories of violence stress the role of elites in creating and provoking violence for their own material and political interests, with the aim of gaining,

maintaining, and increasing their powers (Gagnon 1994-95; Brass 1997). In addition, there are studies which employ a multi-factor analysis to explain civil wars, based on large-N quantitative method. These large-N studies point to such factors as lootable resources, mountainous terrain, and political instability (Collier and Hoeffler 2001; Fearon and Laitin 2003). Chapter 2 of this book discusses these approaches. It also applies their

hypotheses on the causes of violent conflict to the cases of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, carefully analysing them to see if they are helpful in understanding why civil war would break out in one country but not the other. The scholarly literature specifically on the civil war in Tajikistan cites various

factors as its causes. Explanations cover the full spectrum of approaches in the wider literature on violent conflict: primordialist, grievance-based, and weakstate arguments are all represented. Scholars variously point to weak national identity; heterogeneous demographic structure; regional, ethnic, and tribal allegiances; attachment to Islam; and “old tribal animosities.” (Rumer 1993; Rumer and Rumer 1992; Tadjbakhsh 1994; Roy 1997). Some scholars see the war as an armed struggle among clans (Collins 2006). Most commonly, scholars emphasize regional differences within the country and see the outbreak of war as a result of conflicts between different regional groups. For them, the regional fragmentation of Tajikistan was the main cause of civil war (Jawad and Tadjbakhsh 1995; Roy 1997; Tadjbakhsh 1993a, 1994; Rubin 1993, 1994) Many scholars cite economic factors in the eruption of violence in Tajikistan.

Their explanations highlight shortages of food supplies, fuel, and housing; the disappearance of the welfare state; the end of subsidies by Moscow to the republic resulting from the dissolution of the Soviet Union; high unemployment; poverty and low per-capita GDP (Rubin 1993, 1994; Foroughhi 2002; Tadjbakhsh 1993a; Jawad and Tadjbakhsh 1995; Roy 1997). Some scholars emphasize the economic and political inequalities between

regional groups in Tajikistan, and discrimination against some of them. These scholars assert that economic and political discrimination against some regions resulted in poverty and resentment, which in turn provided an incentive for mobilization and rebellion, and that this was the reason for the civil war. (Tadjbakhsh 1993a; Jawad and Tadjbakhsh 1995). Another explanation stresses the competition between different regional

groups in the country. According to this view, groups were taken from their ecological niches through sedentarization policies and forced population transfers, and thereby placed in contact and competition with other groups. The result (we are told) was first, conflict and then, civil war (Roy 1997, 2000). Many scholars also invoke the weak-state argument, saying that, as a weak

state, Tajikistan lacked a strong state capacity to deal with the problems of the transition. Because of this, it was not able to resist challengers or pursue repressive policies against them (Rubin 1995b). Still others emphasize international factors such as the influence of Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and / or Russia in the occurrence of violent conflict in Tajikistan (Tadjbakhsh 1993a, 1994; Rubin 1994, 1995b; Foroughi 2002).