Statehood, Nationhood and Identity

‌‌This group examines issues, aspects and processes related to identity, diversity and the construction of political community at various levels within Central and Eastern Europe and the former USSR, both past and present. Researchers within the group are united by a broad interest in processes of nation-building, communal mobilisation and state consolidation, including the dynamic (and often conflictual) interaction between fields of state, minority and kin-state nationalism and the possible ways in which this can be mediated by internationally acknowledged minority rights norms and modalities of diversity accommodation.


Research within the group can be captured by the following core themes:

  • Identities and Identity politics: national, regional, transnational
  • State-building, minority and kin-state nationalisms
  • Modalities of integration and management and accommodation of diversity within states
  • Human and Minority Rights
  • Mobilisation, insurgency and conflict processes
  • De facto state polities

Programme of Activity

The group organises:

  • peer support for developing publications and funding applications
  • joint research initiatives (seminars, conference panels, funding applications)
  • knowledge exchange events and activities


CEES staff:

PhD students:

Associated Projects

This three-year, ESRC-funded project explores contemporary debates and practices around non-territorial cultural autonomy (NTCA) for national minorities in Central and Eastern Europe, at a time when this region continues to face divisive issues of ethnicity and territoriality twenty-five years on from the fall of communism and the demise of the USSR and the former Yugoslavia. Through comparative analysis of elite interviews, parliamentary and media debates, official documents and other materials from a range of Central and East European countries, the project examines the origins, nature, and perceived effectiveness and legitimacy of current (or proposed) institutional arrangements based on non-territorial cultural autonomy. 

  • Building Unity in Diversity in Ukraine: The Potential for Non-Territorial Cultural Autonomy as an Institutional Framework

This ESRC Impact Acceleration Account project applies and translates findings derived from ongoing research (2003 - present) on minority non-territorial cultural autonomy in Central and Eastern Europe to the new and highly salient context of Ukraine, which since February 2014 has been actively seeking external advice and support geared to development of a sustainable minority rights framework, as part of its response to current political crisis and its newly intensified engagement with the European Union and other international bodies.

Running from 2003-2008, this AHRC project re-evaluated the historical background to current debates on nationalism and minority rights in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). Specifically, it examines how inter-war minority activists sought to achieve a definitive solution to the ‘national question’ through their promotion of non-territorial cultural autonomy (NTCA). Showcased by AHRC as one of its impact case studies, this project has continued to influence contemporary debates in the area of minority rights in the period beyond its funding term

  •  Micro-level dynamics of pro-government mobilisation amongst Ukraine’s Crimean Tatars

Why ethnic minorities mobilise for pro-government armed groups in civil wars? Previous studies identified greed, grievances, loyalty and the shift of ethnic identity as key factors influencing the decision of ethnic minority groups to support governments in their military campaigns against rebels. Notwithstanding existing research, not much is known about micro-level dynamics of ethnic minority mobilisation. What role do local communities, networks, families, and sociocultural traditions play in individual decisions to mobilise? This project proposes conducting original fieldwork amongst Crimean Tatar former combatants of pro-government volunteer battalions in Ukraine in order to improve our understanding of micro-level processes of pro-government mobilisation amongst ethnic minorities. PI: Dr Huseyn Aliyev. Funder: Carnegie Research Incentive Grant. Amount: £9,540. Duration: 01/04/2019 -31/03/2020.

The data collection part of the project was completed by the early January 2020. Although about 40% of the interview notes are still currently in process of transliteration and translation (from Russian and Ukrainian languages), some preliminary findings could be summarized.

The most notable and rather unexpected finding is that pro-government war-time mobilization among the Crimean Tatars was driven primarily by social sanctions, rather than by ethno-nationalism or patriotism, as is often assumed by scholars. The data demonstrates persistent patterns of consistency in how and why the Crimean Tatar volunteers had joined the conflict in East Ukraine. For the majority of informants, individual and family honor, as well as family obligations – all socially sanctioned – were the key factors behind their decisions to participate in the conflict. Similar opinions were voiced by non-participant conflict witnesses. As this is the first of its kind project to collect primary data among the former members of the Crimean Tatar armed groups, these findings are likely to both improve our understanding about pro-government mobilization among ethnic minorities, and to provide detailed context-specific knowledge about mobilization patterns among the Crimean Tatar nation. 

  • Why, when and how members of active paramilitary groups disengage

This research project seeks to explain the process of disengagement and reintegration amongst members of active paramilitary organisations in Ukraine. The project proposes conducting extensive original fieldwork amongst former combatants of pro-government militia battalions in Ukraine in order to improve our understanding as to what affects disengagement of armed combatants from their organisations, and which factors influence their return to civilian life. The project aims to both contribute to the literature on militant disengagement and to offer specific insights for policy-making in the context of international peace-making and peace-building efforts in conflict zones. Relying on interdisciplinary research methods to collect its empirical data, this study will combine theoretical insights from political studies, sociology and cultural anthropology. PI: Dr Huseyn Aliyev. Funder:The British Academy Small Research Grants. Amount: £9,550. Duration: 01/05/2019 – 30/04/2020.

The key empirical finding of this study is that in active paramilitary organisations group transformation (either ideological or organisational) is far more conducive to individual decisions to disengage than external opportunities, such as employment prospects or reintegration to peaceful life. The findings demonstrate that massive ideological and organisational transformation within Ukraine’s paramilitary battalions has pushed thousands of their members to disengage regardless of existing opportunities. These findings have broader implication for further research and practice on disengagement from armed groups with valuable insights for both policy-makers and practitioners.