Pål Kolstø

Pål Kolstø
University of Oslo · Department of Literature, Area Studies and European Languages

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90
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Publications

Publications (90)
Book
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The dynamics of peacemaking and the uneasy interplay of talks and violence in contemporary peace processes become increasingly nonlinear, complex, and unpredictable. In this special issue (no. 1(62), 2022), a mix of actors, dynamics and factors at the interface of peace processes and violence is narrowed down to contexts that involve de facto state...
Research
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"Traditional values" is a key trope in the conservative rhetoric dominant in Russian political and social discourse since Putin's return to the presidency in 2012. The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) has been a major source of this "conservative turn". Viewing moral and ethical questions as its special preserve, the ROC has sought, in relations with...
Article
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Do authoritarian regimes engage in active export of their political systems? Or are they primarily concerned about their geopolitical interests? This article explores these questions by examining Russia’s policy towards Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transnistria. In all three de facto states, Moscow is fully able to dictate election outcomes should...
Article
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What opportunities and trade-offs do de facto states encounter in developing economic ties with the outside world? This article explores the complex relationship between trade and trust in the context of contested statehood. Most de facto states are heavily dependent on an external patron for economic aid and investment. However, we challenge the w...
Article
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Contemporary Russian Conservativism consists of 15 chapters by diverse hands but nevertheless has a high degree of coherence. The volume rightly highlights the role of the Russian Orthodox Church in the promotion of conservativism and “traditional values”. Many of the participants in the media debates around this issue no doubt hold sincere views w...
Article
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The article discusses the post-Soviet de facto state of Abkhazia, and its relationship to its main patron, Russia. All patron–client nexuses are marked by a high degree of asymmetrical power – especially with de facto states, which depend upon the patron for their very survival. Thus, it is surprising to see how de facto client states repeatedly sh...
Article
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Iver Neumann begynte sin akademiske karriere som Russland-forsker, og selv om han senere har utvidet sitt repertoar av studieområder kraftig har han hele tiden beholdt også en interesse for Russland, både landets historie og dets aktuelle politikk. Han tok med seg sin brede teoretiske skolering inn i russlandstudiet, og tilførte dermed norsk russla...
Article
According to Ernest Gellner's celebrated definition, nationalism is a political principle that holds that the political and the national unit should be congruent. Based on this definition, Alexander Motyl has declared that ‘nationalism and imperialism are polar types’. Even so, dozens of books and articles have used the concept of ‘imperialist nati...
Article
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Revolution and War in Contemporary Ukraine: The Challenge of Change. Ed. Olga Bertelsen. Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Societies, no. 161. Ibidem: Stuttgart, 2017. 430 pp. Notes. Bibliography. Glossary. Index. Figures. $50.00, paper. - Volume 77 Issue 1 - Pål Kolstø
Book
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The dissolution of the Soviet Union has provided scholars with tremendously rich material for the study of comparative nation building. Not since the decolonization of Africa in the 1960s have so many new states been established in one stroke in one region. The post-Soviet states, moreover, have all the necessary prerequisites for fruitful comparis...
Chapter
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Today, the Russian Federation has the second largest migrant population in the world in absolute numbers. The chapter looks at what role these migrants – and migrantophobia – play in Russian contemporary identity discourse through the lens of the 2013 Moscow mayoral elections. On the eve of these elections, Muscovites identified the large numbers o...
Article
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In December 2016, Transnistria held presidential elections in which, after an exceptionally loud and dirty campaign, the incumbent yielded power to his main opponent. This article explores regime evolution in the breakaway republic through the prism of these elections. First, drawing on the literature on hybrid regimes, we ask what the recent campa...
Article
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Russian nationalism after Crimea is commonly depicted as aggressive and expansionist – but few Russian ethno-nationalists would accept this description. Quite the contrary: they would argue that ethnic Russians as the majority population find themselves under “under siege” from ethnic minorities. A case in point, they hold, is Stavropol Krai in the...
Article
The Russian “winter of discontent” 2011–12, when tens of thousands demonstrated against the Putin regime, turned out to be a passing incident only, but it raises a number of important questions. Specifically, we would want to know why it suddenly was possible to unite the many disparate elements in the Russian opposition and make them march in unis...
Article
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The article examines the short but eventful history of the St George ribbon, which since 2005 has been used in Russia as a symbol of the Soviet victory in the Great Fatherland War. The ribbon ‘action’ has become a major societal and political event, involving millions of participants in various activities in the weeks leading up to Victory Day, 9 M...
Article
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The article analyzes how the nationalist segment of the Russian public has engaged in attempts to interpret and evaluate the Crimean annexation and the war in Donbass. The Crimean annexation was justified in the Kremlin by a novel use of nationalist rhetoric. Initially, this rhetoric paid off particularly well—boosting Putin's popularity ratings an...
Article
The word ‘Balkans’ often functions as a stigma. Several authors have discussed the bloodbath during the wars in the former Yugoslavia with references to an alleged Balkan culture. Towards the end of the 1990s the term ‘Balkans’ entered the official vocabulary of the European Union, now with the prefix ‘Western’. ‘The Western Balkans’ became a commo...
Book
After the conflagration of Tito's Yugoslavia a medley of new and not-so-new states rose from the ashes. Some of the Yugoslav successor states have joined, or are about to enter, the European Union, while others are still struggling to define their national borders, symbols, and relationships with neighbouring states. Strategies of Symbolic Nation-b...
Book
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Russian nationalism, previously dominated by 'imperial' tendencies - pride in a large, strong and multi-ethnic state able to project its influence abroad - is increasingly focused on ethnic issues. This new ethno-nationalism has come in various guises, like racism and xenophobia, but also in a new intellectual movement of 'national democracy' delib...
Article
The article examines to what degree attachment to a former multinational state which breaks up may complicate national consolidation in new states, as was the case in the Soviet Union and Titoist Yugoslavia. In the former Yugoslavia such attachment is usually referred to as ‘Yugonostalgia’, and various opinions have been expressed about its strengt...
Article
Despite its strong legal and historical claims to sovereignty, the Republic of Somaliland remains entirely unrecognized by the international community more than 20 years after it proclaimed independence from Somalia in 1991. Paradoxically, Somaliland’s lack of external legitimacy has, in some ways, facilitated the growth and development of its inte...
Article
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It is extremely difficult for a state to survive without international recognition; even so, some de facto states have been established and continue to exist. Others do not, and have been wiped off the face of the earth again. This article looks at one failed de facto state, the breakaway Serb Republic of Krajina (RSK) that existed for five years (...
Article
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The popular, stereotype perception of Russian anti-Semitism is marred by a number of misconceptions. It is generally believed that it originated among the peasants, partly as a result of religious bigotry and partly as a reaction against an alleged Jewish exploitation. In actual fact, pogroms almost invariably started in towns and cities, and the m...
Article
In the 1990s, the concept of democracy was thoroughly discredited in Russia. It is therefore surprising to find positive assessments of democracy in recent Russian political discourse in an unexpected place: among anti-regime professed nationalists. The most well-known exponent of this is Alexei Navalny, but he represents a broader current. The art...
Article
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After the conflagration of Tito's Yugoslavia a medley of new and not-so-new states rose from the ashes. Some of the Yugoslav successor states have joined, or are about to enter, the European Union, while others are still struggling to define their national borders, symbols, and relationships with neighbouring states. Strategies of Symbolic Nation-b...
Article
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How have the Transnistrian authorities sought to consolidate de facto statehood in the absence of international recognition? Starting from the idea that the time factor will eventually transform secessionists into state-builders, this article traces how the processes of state- and nation-building promoted by the Transnistrian de facto authorities h...
Article
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Acknowledgements vii 1. Introduction 1 2. States Without Recognition 26 3. Surviving in the Modern International System 50 4. Internal Sources of Unrecognized State-Building 76 5. Rethinking Sovereignty and Statehood 102 6. Moving Toward Peace or War? 123 7. Conclusion 147 Notes 156 Bibliography 188 Index 203
Article
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Scattered across the globe there exist a handful of unrecognized statelets. Although some such entities have proven short-lived, others have demonstrated remarkable tenacity. The South Caucasian de facto states – Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh – have existed for almost 20 years now. This article offers a comparative analysis of how th...
Article
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This article looks at how Russia places herself in relation to one of her southern neighbours, Georgia, and vice versa. Russia and Georgia have recently been engaged in a short but full-fledged war, hence their interrelationship has been intensely debated in both countries. Both Russia and Georgia are, as it were, poised ‘between East and West’.As...
Article
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Among the post-Soviet de facto states, Abkhazia is unique in that the secessionists pursued self-determination in the name of a minority group. Today the ethnic Abkhaz enjoy a virtual monopoly on political power. Simultaneously, Abkhazia has developed a reasonably democratic political system. How has it been possible for the ethnic Abkhaz to monopo...
Article
The article analyzes the coverage of the Russian-Georgian war in August 2008 in three leading Russian newspapers, the official Rossijskaja gazeta, the tabloid Komsomol´skaja pravda, and the oppositional Novaja gazeta. A total of 247 articles on the war written in the three papers between 8 and 14 August 2008 were examined; in addition, seven journa...
Article
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De facto states are often dismissed as ‘failing states’. However, in Freedom House rankings of political rights and civil liberties, they sometimes perform better than their parent states – as has been the case with Nagorno-Karabakh. This article examines the development of democracy in Nagorno-Karabakh against a checklist of factors assumed to be...
Article
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In spite of the growing literature on discourse analysis, the relationship of discourse to violent/non-violent outcomes of conflict is an under-researched area. This book combines theories on ethnic conflict, identity construction and discourse analysis with a comprehensive and inclusive survey of the countries of the former Yugoslavia. It presents...
Article
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When the Soviet Union began to unravel in the late 1980s, many observers expected that the 25 million ethnic Russians who lived in the non-Russian republics represented an important group of people who could be mobilized by ‘empire-savers’ to stem this process. Russians who would end up as minorities in new nationalizing states, had little if anyth...
Article
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In Croatia, the relationship of the Catholic Church to the wartime Fascist Ustaša regime has been a bitterly divisive issue. The ecclesiastical leadership does not send official representatives to the main commemoration of the victims of the Ustaša terror, held in April each year at Jasenovac concentration camp, thereby giving the impression that t...
Chapter
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Among the many controversial problems in the history of Yugoslavia during World War Two few issues seem to agitate the minds in Serbia and Croatia as much as the Jasenovac camp, the largest of the concentration camps run by the Ustaša regime in the so-called Independent State of Croatia (NDH). The disagreements concern both the size and the charact...
Article
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In the last decades of the nineteenth century, anti-Semitism emerged as a mass phenomenon in the Russian public debate. Various explanations have been provided to account for the rise in anti-Jewish sentiment: religious bigotry; racism; state policy; and class enmity. The present article agrees with the class enmity approach that socio-economic fac...
Article
In spite of the growing literature on discourse analysis, the relationship of discourse to violent/non-violent outcomes of conflict is an under-researched area. This book combines theories on ethnic conflict, identity construction and discourse analysis with a comprehensive and inclusive survey of the countries of the former Yugoslavia. It presents...
Article
Full-text available
In his activity as religious teacher and counselor, Lev Tolstoi consciously stepped into the tradition of the Orthodox startsy or elders. We can see this both in the way he organized his “ministry”—publishing books of spiritual advice and receiving the faithful at Iasnaia Poliana—and in the way he was perceived and described by his contemporaries....
Article
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The dissolution of the Soviet Union led to the establishment of several non-recognised statelets, three of which—Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh—are located in the South Caucasus. This article sets aside the question of whether these quasi-states ought to be internationally recognised, and focuses on whether they exist as functioning s...
Article
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The article examines the effects of job competition on ethnic relations within a multinational state. It argues that demographic increase leads to competition for blue-collar jobs while an increase in the number of graduates from higher education leads to competition over elite jobs. In the first case, people risk unemployment, in the second, block...
Article
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In many ethnic conflicts and civil wars in the 20th century the cultural differences between the warring groups were very small. The bloody conflicts between Serbs, Croatians, and Bosnians during the breakup of Yugoslavia are a case in point. This observation has led some commentators to conclude that a lack of objective cultural markers between gr...
Article
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The study of quasi-states has been marred by an unfortunate terminological confusion. Sometimes, this term is taken to mean recognized states that fail to develop the necessary state structures to function as fully fledged, ‘real’ states. At other times, ‘quasi-states’ is a designation given to regions that secede from another state, gain de facto...
Article
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All state leaders engage in symbolic nation-building in order to foster a sense of national unity among all segments of the country's population. In new states, however, the flag, anthem, and other emblems are often contested by various ethnic and political groups. Instead of unifying the nation they divide it. There are, however, no inherent quali...
Article
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As Pål Kolstø explores in this article, attitudes towards Lev Tolstoi's religious teaching differed wildly among Russian Orthodox believers at the turn of the last century. Some felt that his philosophical notions were remarkably congenial to church doctrine, while others saw Tolstoianism as the radical negation of everything the church stood for....
Article
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Professor of Russian Studies in the Department of Literature, Area Studies, and European Languages at the University of Oslo. He is the author of Political Construction Sites: Nationbuilding in Russia and the Post-Soviet States (2000) and coeditor, with Helge Blakkisrud, of Nation-Building and Common Values in Russia (2004). His current interests i...
Article
When Lev Tolstoi emerged as a religious teacher in the 1880s, taking a sharply polemical stance against the Orthodox faith, the leadership of the Russian church groped for ways and means to stem the spread of the pernicious new heresy among the Russian public. The most ambitious but also the most disastrous attempt was made in 1901 when the synod p...
Article
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Pål Kolstø is Professor in charge of Russian and East European Studies at the University of Oslo, Norway. He is the author of several books and some 60 articles in English, Norwegian, Russian, and German. Among his works are Political Construction Sites: Nation-Building in Russia and the Post-Soviet States (Westview P, 2000); Nation-Building and Et...
Article
Diasporas are usually defined as ethnic groups which lack a territorial base within a given polity. Territoriality, however, is not a given. It is determined not only by such objective factors as geography, demography, and history, but also by perceptions and ideas. The degree to which a certain group is attached to the territory on which it lives...
Article
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The collapse of communism in the Soviet Union has opened up a Pandora's box of communal conflicts. In most Western analyses the majority of these conflicts are subsumed under the heading “ethnic.” This is often the case also with the conflict in Moldova between the national regime in Chišinàu and the insurgent regime in Tiraspol that controls the l...
Article
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"In order to understand and to forecast what kind of nations will take shape in the new states of the former Soviet Union it is important to focus on the express objectives and actual strategies of the nation builders.... In this article I will concentrate on the ideological aspect, that is, on official and semi-official statements outlining the id...
Article
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The collapse of the unitary Soviet state has plunged its former citizens into a profound identity crisis. Particularly hard hit are the twenty‐five million Russians living in the non‐Russian successor states. Formerly members of the dominant nationality of a multinational state they have been turned into a new Russian diaspora. Whether in time they...
Article
Journal of Democracy 7.1 (1996) 118-132 In formal terms, 15 new states appeared on the Eurasian landmass with the demise of the Soviet Union. Yet "states" in the true sense do not spring full-grown from declarations of independence or extensions of international recognition. A truly sovereign state must control its own frontiers, monopolize the leg...
Chapter
One of the most striking features of the system that the Soviet Union imposed on Central and Eastern Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War was the sameness of the political organization of their respective societies. In order to make the East European countries a parallel part of his empire Stalin imposed the same standardized patterns in...
Article
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The dissolution of the Soviet Union has transformed the 25 million ethnic Russians living outside the Russian Federation into a new Russian diaspora. This situation represents a potential threat to political stability among and within the Soviet successor states. Right-wing political groups in Russia pose as defenders of the national rights of the...

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Projects (2)
Project
Competency through Cooperation: Advancing knowledge on Georgia's strategic path (GEOPATH) is a collaborative research project which aims to build competency in the Georgian research sector as well as producing new insights into the crucial question of Georgia's future strategic path between Russia and the EU. GEOPATH will study how four key actors – Georgia, the breakaway Abkhazia, the EU and Russia – perceive their own roles and how they relate to each other in the region. GEOPATH is lead by a tightly integrated research team consisting of scholars from NUPI, the Georgian Institute of Politics (GIP) and two Georgian ‘expat’ scholars who work abroad.
Archived project
This project examines the nationality question in Russian discourse and aims to determine to what extent the Russian national identity is shifting from an imperial (and implicitly multiethnic) understanding of the nation, towards an ethnic and exclusive one. We will also look at the potential consequences this shift might have for Russian politics.