History and Government Faculty Presentations

Document Type

Conference Presentation

Event Date



International Studies Association Annual Convention


New Orleans, LA


As a number of scholars have shown, institutions played a central role in the breakups of Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union in the 1990s. This paper builds on that work to explore in greater depth the variations across their experiences, including sub-cases within the former Yugoslavia, especially in the lens of violence accompanying the breakups. It does so by examining these variables: whether the dismemberment was the result of dissolution or secession, whether it was elite or mass-driven and whether and how it was contested. This paper finds that state dissolution produces more peaceful outcomes than the secession of a territory on the periphery. Moreover, mass-driven separatism and unofficial contestation through the use of paramilitary forces increase the level of violence during a contentious state breakup. The conceptual approach in the paper is therefore generalizable and will facilitate understanding of conflict around the world.


Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Soviet Union, dissolution, secession, Europe



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