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Complementary and Conflicting Identities: Territorial Perception and National Identities in the North Caucasus of the Russian Federation

Authors: Francis Naylor*, University of Colorado, Boulder
Topics: Political Geography, Eurasia, Russia
Keywords: Caucasus, Russia, Territory, Mental Mapping, Conflict, Ethnonationalism
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The North Caucasus (NC) has been host to numerous hot and cold ethnic conflicts for centuries. These conflicts reveal the importance of territory to national identities in the region. A new approach founded with territory as a significant motivator in ethno-nationalist conflict across this ethnically diverse region is needed to augment previous research on conflict in the NC.  When overlapping territorial claims lead to conflict, it is often interpreted as a security problem, overlooking cases when overlapping claims lead to cooperation. The ability to measure the perceived status and attributes of territory by groups in ethnically diverse regions reframes the devolution of territorial disputes into conflict, or how they avoid conflict altogether .  

Territory as an attribute of space is an affect driven construct. Gould’s decades abandoned paradigm of “Mental Mapping” ultimately provides the most useful context to site it. People within the same group have varying mental maps of their territory. These mental maps of territories all converge on the single objective reality of the actual earth. Actions relating to territory are not interpreted consistently across groups, as variation and discordance of territorial mental maps within the region reveal a different logic to the dynamics of conflict, ranging from peaceful protest, civil disobedience, and violent action. This theoretical approach frames quantitative research throughout the region using novel new survey data sets analyzed with  techniques taken from raster GIS, going beyond simple point based spatial statistics or even more common non-spatial analysis

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