In approaching the social conflicts that have wracked the infant Caucasian republics over the past fifteen years, it is useful to bear a broader comparative context in mind. State collapse and civil war have been the scourges of the period since 1945. Some 122 civil wars have wracked 73 countries, accounting for about 17 million deaths. Cross-national time-series datasets have helped us identify some broad patterns distinguishing states susceptible to civil war from those that have been relatively immune. Four points are especially noteworthy here. First, there is a statistically and substantively significant relationship between newly independent states and the onset of civil war. Twelve per cent of the new states admitted to the United Nations after 1945 fell into civil war within two years of independence. In this regard, the polities that emerged in Eastern Europe after 1989 proved even more susceptible than those created out of two earlier periods of imperial breakdown—in South Asia and the Middle East in the 1940s, and Africa in the 1960s. Of the Soviet and Yugoslav successor states, 30 per cent descended into hostilities in the decade after independence.
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