Paper aims to analyze through a comparative perspective the conflicting transformation of developments after the demise of the very last multinational empires of the 20th century – the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia – with an emphasize on the role of leaders and agencies and the similarities and differences of their policies in particular.
The choice among the lines of politization reveals a striking similarity between the post-empires’ policy: the choice between gender, religion, race and ethnicity was made in favor of ethnicity, as it was most vulnerable and easily manipulated sphere, and I would argue, contained less danger of spill over affect, different to religion, as supposed to be demonstrated in the Caucasus through introducing elements of Islamic fundamentalism in the Northern peripheries of the Russian Federation. In the Balkans minorities were manipulated by corresponding ethnic states at the expense of the national interests of the state they lived in, while in the Georgian case, and in South Ossetia in particular, national minorities were manipulated by external forces, which in no way were ethnically affiliated with the manipulated ethnic groups (the role of North Ossetia is a matter of a separate discussion).
The fate of minorities in nationalizing states should be mentioned as well. Most of the post-empires’ policies were stemming and were mostly determined as a result of the presence of significant national minorities in the nationalizing states. I would argue, both of the subsequent states (Georgia and Croatia) after the dissolution of the respective empires were nationalizing states and exactly this aspect was used by external agencies and local elites for confrontation with the new centers for the sake of gaining fruits out of the post-empire turmoil.
The major similarity between the two entities stems from ethnofederalism, territorialization of ethnicity and manipulation of co-ethnics in the second-rank autonomous regions of the ex-union member states. The most peculiar aspect for the both regions, sharing great portion of similarities, thus enabling us to deal with these two regions in a comparative perspective – both in terms of the whole space (Soviet Union vs. Yugoslavia) as well as on the level of union republics (Georgia vs. Croatia) and sub-entities and territorial-autonomous areas (South Ossetia vs. Krajina) is the one that termed as mirroring nationalisms by Svante E. Cornell.
Concluding, we should stress, in spite of the great portion of similarities, caused as a result of similar administrative-territorial division of the two empires, the main differences could be found in the web of interaction between ex-central elites, elites of newly gained independent states and one in autonomous regions of those states. All of them were manipulating ethnicity in the name of their respective ethnic groups, while mostly they were seeking for personal gains – maintaining power and ensuring themselves with all those profits, being in abundance during existence of empires. So, as a result of proposed comparative research, to some extent we could answer the question: who makes decisions in national movements? Concluding from the analyzed empirical materials, set in the particular theoretical framework, one could argue – probably elites of ethnic groups with respective agencies.