War After Communism: Effects on Political and Economic Reform in the Former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia

Journal article

Horowitz, Shale (2003) War After Communism: Effects on Political and Economic Reform in the Former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, Journal of Peace Research 40 (1): 25–48.

How did war affect political and economic reform efforts across the post-communist world? War is hypothesized to have a negative political impact through three main mechanisms: distraction from any peacetime political and economic reform agenda; military defeat and disruption, and associated weakening or militarization of state authority; and postwar economic isolation. After controlling for cultural, economic, and institutional factors, statistical analysis confirms the negative effects of war on political and economic reform. The negative effect of war is robust across a range of model specifications and time periods, but is estimated to be stronger for the subgroup of initially democratic countries. The cultural variable of 'frustrated national ideals' is the most important control variable. There follow brief case studies of the eight post-communist countries torn by protracted, large-scale military conflict - Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Georgia, Moldova, Tajikistan, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The case studies focus on how initial conditions - particularly the cultural variable of frustrated national ideals - interact with longer-term effects of war to influence postwar revival of reform efforts. Among the subgroup of initially democratic countries, the dominant pattern is not one of democracy unleashing diversionary war, as it did in Slobodan Milosevic's Serbia. Rather, reform nationalist governments typically wanted to avoid war. But their political constituencies and ideological commitments typically prevented them from making concessions that might have avoided war, or at least stopped it more quickly. This entangled their countries in longer-term conflicts, with correspondingly greater adverse impacts on political and economic reform.

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