Conflict and Conflict Resolution in the Caucasus

This course is not offered.

Please see for our current offerings.
If you have questions about this course, please contact the department, see Contact.



Caucasus is characterized by territorial complexity and high ethnic diversity. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the region has witnessed a number of violent ethnopolitical conflicts with large refugee flows, increasing Islamic fundamentalism, escalating terrorism and other destabilizing effects. In the course, selected conflict cases in the region are analysed on the basis of existing conflict theories and models for conflict resolution.

Admission requirements

The special prerequisites for this course, besides general entry requirements for university studies, are a pass mark from the following upper secondary school courses: English B. 60 higher education credits.


credits 60% final grades 20% national university aptitude test 20%


Syllabus for students spring 2010, autumn 2009, spring 2009

Course Code:
IM201E revision 3
Level of specialisation
Main fields of study:
No main fields
Date of establishment:
24 January 2006
Date of ratification:
02 December 2008
Decision-making body:
Faculty of Culture and Society
Enforcement date:
19 January 2009
Replaces Syllabus ratified:
02 March 2007

Entry requirements

The special prerequisites for this course, besides general entry requirements for university studies, are a pass mark from the following upper secondary school courses: English B. 60 higher education credits.

Learning outcomes

The aim of the course is to familiarise the students with major theoretical approaches to violent intrastate conflicts and to investigate the explanatory power of these approaches applied to one or several cases selected from the conflict ridden Caucasus region.

Knowledge and understanding

After finishing the course, the student:

- will have obtained a basic understanding of major theoretical approaches to violent intra-state conflicts and conflict resolution;
- will have obtained relevant knowledge of the Caucasus area with respect to factors that generate conflict;
- will have obtained an understanding of specific as well as general problems related to conflict resolution in the Caucasus area and
- can show knowledge of Malmö University’s perspectives: environment, gender, and migration and ethnicity.

Applying knowledge and understanding

After finishing the course, the student:

- will have achieved skills in applying theoretical tools to analyses of violent intrastate conflicts;
- will be able to critically reflect over the basic assumptions of different approaches to intrastate conflicts and
- can apply knowledge of Malmö University’s perspectives to issues pertaining to Peace and Conflict Studies.

Making judgments and communication skills

After finishing the course the student:

- will be able to critically assess possible solutions to intrastate conflicts based on, and implicit in, the theoretical approaches discussed in the course.


The course is assessed online through written assignments and a course paper. The course presupposes active participation on the part of the students. During the first course module, written assignments are used to assess the students’ relevant knowledge of the Caucasus area, their understanding of major theoretical approaches to conflicts and conflict resolution, and their knowledge of actual conflicts in the Caucasus. The second part of the course (the course paper) requires the knowledge and understanding assessed in the first module, and, in addition, the ability of the students to propose their own analyses of conflicts and conflict resolution in the area. They must also be able to reflect critically over the theoretical assumptions of major approaches to intrastate conflicts.

Re-sit examinations
Students who do not pass the regular course exams have the minimum of two re-sit opportunities. Re-sits follow the same form as the original exams, apart from re-sits for group work, which take the form of individual written and oral assignments.

Course content

The course consists of two modules:
- Area-Specific Background and Theoretical Approaches (7,5 credits)
- Course Paper (7,5 credits)

The first course module Area-Specific Background and Theoretical Approaches covers the following areas:

Overview of the Caucasus region
The Caucasus region is located at a crossroad between Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East. Historically, the region has been dominated by different empires, including the Ottoman Empire, Persia, the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. Ethnically, the Caucasus is one of the most complex regions of the world. More than 50 languages, including Turkic, Iranian, Slavic and indigenous tongues, are spoken in the region. The Caucasus is also a meeting place for different Islamic, Christian and pre-Christian religious traditions. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the Caucasus region has gained a new strategic significance. Regional great powers again compete for political influence in the region and for control over its strategically important energy resources. New external actors, notably the USA and the EU, also seek to obtain influence in the region.

Keywords: geopolitical location between empires and regional great powers; states and substate actors; nations, national minorities, ethnic groups; migration; languages and religions; pre-Soviet, Soviet and Post-Soviet history; natural resources and ecological vulnerability; demographic trends and migration.

Conflict theories and approaches
The course includes approaches to intrastate conflicts, including ethnopolitical conflicts, and the conflict resolution strategies implicit in these approaches. It thus also focuses on the internationalisation of these conflicts.

Keywords: primordialism, instrumentalism, constructivism, conflict settlement, conflict resolution, peace building, autonomy, federal relations, ethnic partition, independence.

Conflicts in the Caucasus
After the dissolution of the USSR, the South Caucasus, encompassing Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the North Caucasus, within the territory of the Russian Federation, have been plagued by militarized ethnic conflicts. These conflicts have resulted in large refugee flows, growing Islamic fundamentalism, escalating terrorism and other kinds of destabilizing effects, which have been evident internally as well as regionally. The most complicated conflicts involve claims by ethnic groups for political self-determination and independence. In the North Caucasus, Chechens demand a state of their own. In the South Caucasus, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two ethnically defined regions within Georgia, demand their own states, or alternatively integration into the Russian Federation. The predominately Armenian populated enclave Nagorno-Karabakh within Azerbaijan claims independence, or alternatively integration into Armenia proper. Today, the Caucasus is the most separatist prone region of the world. The international community has endeavoured to mediate settlements of the many separatist conflicts; however, to date results have been poor.

The second part of the course is the Course Paper. For their course paper students may choose a comparative approach and explore similarities and/or differences between several of the conflicts in the region; alternatively, they may pursue a case study with a focus on one particular conflict.
The course equips the students with analytic tools, theoretical concepts and practical understanding of value for those aiming at a career in diplomacy, international organisations, non-governmental organisations and for working in the media or transnational business organisations

Learning activities

The course is offered as an IT-based course with instruction in English. A variety of resources are available online, including lectures, exercises, databases, video clips, facilities for group discussions and work on group assignments and online seminars. A large part of the tuition requires active student participation, and therefore the students are themselves responsible for their own learning, together with teachers and supervisors.

Grading system

Fail (U), Pass (G) or Pass with Distinction (VG).

Course literature and other teaching materials

Literature on South and North Caucasus
Selected readings
Bertsch, Gary K. et. al (eds.) Crossroads and Conflict. Security and Foreign Policy in the Caucasus and Central Asia, London, 2000.

Bremmer, Ian & Ray Tarras (eds.) Nations and Politics in the Soviet Successor States, Cambridge, 1993.

Broxup Bennigsen, Marie (ed.), The North Caucasus Barrier. The Russian Advance towards the Muslim East. London, 1994.

Cornell, Svante, E., Small Nations and Great Powers. A Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict in the Caucasus, Curzon World, 2001. (e-book)

Dawisha, Karen and Bruce Parrot (eds.) Conflict, cleavage, and change in Central Asia and the Caucasus, Cambridge 1977.

Faurby, Ib: International law, Human Rights and the Wars in Chechnya
Goldenberg, Suzanne, Pride of Small Nations. The Caucasus and Post-Soviet Disorder. London, 1994

Kobaidze, Manana and Karina Vamling, ”The Balance of Languages in Post-Soviet Georgia” in: Annika Rabo and Bo Utas: The Role of the State in West Asia. Stockholm 2006.

Krag, Helen and Lars Funch, The North Caucasus. Minorities at a Crossroads.
London 1994.

Lieven Anatol, Chechnya. Tombstone of Russian Power. London, 1998.

Lynch Dov, Engaging Eurasia’s Separatist States. Unresolved Conflicts and De Facto States. Washington DC. United States Institute of Peace Press, 2004.
Magnusson, Märta-Lisa. “Prospects for peace in Chechnya?” In: Rita Grünenfelder und Heinz Krummenacher (Eds.) Searching for Peace in Chechnya – Swiss Initiatives and Experiences. swisspeace Annual Conference 2005. Conference Paper, 1/2006.

Russia’s War in Georgia, The Buildup, Course of Events, and Aftermath. Institute for Security and Development Policy. Central Asia-Caucasus & Silk Road Studies Program, 2008.

Potier, Tim, Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. A legal Appraisal. The Hague, 1998.

Theisen, Søren, “Mountaineers, Racketeers and the Ideals of Modernity - Statebuilding and Elite-Competition in Caucasia” in: Ole Høiris and Sefa Martin Yürükel, (eds.), Contrasts and Solutions in the Caucasus, Aarhus University Press, 1998, pp. 407-433, available at

Literature on conflict and conflict resolution
Brown, Michael E. (ed.) The International Dimensions of Internal Conflict, London, 1996.

Carment, David and Patric James, “Escalation of ethnic conflict”, International Politics, 35, March 1998, pp. 65-82.

Eide, Asbjørn, “In Search of Constructive Alternatives to Secession”, in: Tomuschat, Christian (ed.), Modern Law of Self-Determination, Martinus Nijhofff Publishers, London 1993, pp. 139-176.

Harff , Barbara & Ted Robert Gurr, Ethnic Conflict in World Politics, Westview Press, Oxford, 2004, pp. 1-33; 95-115; 165-204.

Holsti, Kalevi, J., The state, war, and the state of war, Cambridge, 1996, pp. 82-122.

Horowitz, Donald, Ethnic Groups in conflictt, London, 1985, pp. 229-288.

Lake, David A. and Donald Rotchild, “Containing Fear. The Origins and Management of Ethnic Conflict”. International Security, Vol. 21, No. 2, 1996, pp. 41-75: (jstor)

Miall, Hugh eds., Contemporary Conflict Resolution, The prevention, management and transformation of deadly conflicts. Cambridge, 1999, pp.1-38.

Kaufman, Stuart J., Modern Hatreds. The Symbolic Politics of Ethnic War. Cornell Universtity Press, London 2001, pp. 1-47.

Kaufmann, Chaim, “Possible and Impossible Solutions to Ethnic Civil Wars”, International Security, Vol. 20. No 4 (Spring) 1996, pp. 136-175:

Kymlicka, Will, Justice and Security in the Accommodation of Minority Nationalism: Comparing West and Eastern Europe,
Pegg Scott, International Society and the De Facto State. Aldershot, 1988.
Pozen, Barry, R., “The Security Dilemma and Ethnic Conflict”, in: Michael E. Brown, Ethnic Conflict and International Security, Princetown University Press, 1993, pp. 103-124,

Robertson, Lawrence, “The constructed nature of ethnopolitics”, International Politics, 34, September 1997, pp. 265-283.

Smith, Anthony D., “Ethnic Nationalism and the Plight of Minorities”, Journal of Refugee Studies, Vol. 7, No 2/3 1994, pp. 186-198.

Saideman, Stephan M, “Explaining the International Relations of Secessionist Conflicts: Vulnerabilities versus Ethnic Ties” International Organization 51, 4 Autumn 1997, pp. 721-53.

Walter, Barbara, “Explaining the Intractability of Territorial Conflict”, International Studies Review, Vol. 5(4), 2003, pp. 137-153.

Van Evera, Stephen, “Hypotheses on Nationalism and War”, //International Security, Vol. 18, No. 4 (Spring), 1994, pp.

Case studies
(separate list)

Course evaluation

All students are offered an opportunity to give oral and written feedback at the end of the course. A summary of the results will be made available on the school’s web-pages. The students are also given a possibility to offer feedback for each module.

Student participation takes place through the course council.


The education is provided by the Faculty of Culture and Society at the department Department of Global Political Studies.

Further information

Karina Vamling, Course Coordinator
Phone: 040-6657391
Åsa Ulemark, Student Administrator
Phone: 040-6657212