Is every state a national property indeed?

31.03.10
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Is every state a national property indeed?

Эксперты МГИМО: Колдунова Екатерина Валерьевна, к.полит.н., доцент

Review. E. Ponomareva. The New Balkan States. M.: MGIMO-University, 2010.

Being a witness and sometimes even a direct participant of the fundamental shifts occurring in the world politics from the late XXth century onward the research community is paying special attention to the analysis of the radical transformation of state which can be named the most essential political institute of the present. The variety of forms and tendencies of this modification is taking place in two sometimes concurrent dimensions. On the one hand, states are uniting in larger-scale conglomerates (like the EU). On the other hand, they break up in a web of interethnic, political and economic struggle (like the USSR, the SFRY, Serbia and Montenegro).

The ambiguity of the courses of development which state as the main actor of the world politics can embark on and consequently the uncertainty of the world system progress itself logically entails a dynamic discussion on the evolution of state’s nature. Thus the state sovereignty concept is facing reconsideration, international law principles are becoming a subject of revision and the role and prerogatives of the supranational structures are being widely debated. This dispute has a direct relevance not only to the European states, but also to the non-Western world as well where the Western concept of the state was superimposed on the local specific features.

Therefore not majoring in the study of the Balkan states I consider the research undertaken by Dr. Elena Ponomareva (Department of Comparative Politics, MGIMO-University) to be important and informative. Her book does not only tries to explain the genesis of the new Balkan states taking into consideration both internal and external factors and highlighting their diverse significance (P.6), but to predict the foreseeable future of the region (and in this context of Europe) as well (for example, on the basis of Kosovo’s case).

Against the background of various research and journalistic studies devoted to the Balkan events of the two latest decades this monograph is distinguished by a true scientific approach to the main subject of the study — the statehood formation in the post-Yugoslavian space. The new Balkan states’ genesis is studied from the three perspectives — historical, political and economic one. Every new state is covered in a separate chapter which gives a complex analysis of the statehood genesis, internal and external factors of its formation, chosen or probable model of political organization. Thus the analysis of the nation-building in Slovenia and Croatia is based on the model of a «nation-state» (Ch.1, 2) while Bosnia and Herzegovina’s and Macedonia’s state development is analysed through the «state-nation» pattern (Ch. 3, 4). Serbia and Montenegro being the most stable cases of statehood in the historical perspective are studied with the emphasis made on the civic state concept (Ch. 5, 7). However, as it seems to me, the most informative and interesting chapter is devoted to Kosovo’s case. As the author fairly concludes the ongoing «balkanization» of the post-Yugoslavian space (visible in the protracted internal political crisis in Serbia, a more active process of Dayton agreements on Bosnia and Herzegovina revision, aggravated situation in Macedonia and Montenegro) is making the study of the new states development and the sovereignty transformation issue relevant and urgent.

As for Russia the situation in the Balkan region represents a matter of direct interest for our state, especially taking into account the «South stream» project realization. It is a common knowledge that the construction and operation of such energy corridors mean not only the million-strong investments but also the huge profit. Consequently, the external influence on the region will be reinforced. Dr. Ponomareva successively studies the role of external involvement in every case of the post-Yugoslavian states. External factors are especially evidently traced in the patterns of the phantom-state of Bosnia and Herzegovina and quasi-state of Kosovo. Exactly these very examples give a direct refutation of Cicero’s famous statement that «every state is a national property» (On the Republic, Book 1).

To conclude I would like to note that the monograph «The New Balkan States» is an interesting and timely book, which provokes many considerations on the present and the future of the state as a political unit, and first and foremost of the Russian state itself. Taking into account the uniqueness of the Balkan experience it is worth noting that quite a number of aspects pointed out by the author on the Balkan states’ examples are present to some extent both in the CIS countries, including Russia. Exactly this understanding is making us scrutinize closely the dramatic modern history of the post-Yugoslavian space in a quest for the answers on the most acute and unfortunately far not only Balkan questions. I am sure that the study in question will be interested not only to the students of Balkan region but also to everyone interested in the broad issues of political development as such.
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