a1 Yale University
Does ethnicity matter for explaining violence during civil wars? I exploit variation in the identity of soldiers who conducted so-called “sweep” operations (zachistki) in Chechnya (2000–5) as an empirical strategy for testing the link between ethnicity and violence. Evidence suggests that the intensity and timing of insurgent attacks are conditional on who “swept” a particular village. For example, attacks decreased by about 40% after pro-Russian Chechen sweeps relative to similar Russian-only operations. These changes are difficult to reconcile with notions of Chechen solidarity or different tactical choices. Instead, evidence, albeit tentative, points toward the existence of a wartime “coethnicity advantage.” Chechen soldiers, enmeshed in dense intraethnic networks, are better positioned to identify insurgents within the population and to issue credible threats against civilians for noncooperation. A second mechanism—prior experience as an insurgent—may also be at work. These findings suggest new avenues of research investigating the conditional effects of violence in civil wars.
I thank Ana Arjona, Mark Beissinger, Rafaela Dancygier, Matt Evangelista, Dmitry Gorenburg, Kosuke Imai, Dominic Johnson, Karen Long Jusko, Stathis Kalyvas, Peter Katzenstein, Evan Lieberman, Eliza Musaeva, Elizabeth Levy Paluck, Wangyal Shawa, Scott Straus, Jessica Trounstine, Christopher Way, and Steven Wilkinson for helpful comments, and Sara Evans, Anna Weisfeiler, and Olga Weisfeiler for excellent research assistance. Thanks also to the anonymous reviewers and the APSR coeditors for extremely thorough reviews. I also thank Memorial for access to its data set and to the many journalists and human rights activists who agreed to be interviewed. Earlier versions were presented at Harvard, Cornell, Princeton, the 2008 ASN conference, and the 2008 Midwest Annual Political Science Meeting, where it received the Kellogg-Notre Dame Prize for Best Paper in Comparative Politics. For financial and institutional support, I thank the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP Grant No.042-06F) and Princeton University. All mistakes are my own.