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Abstract: Why might elites and ordinary individuals support diversionary domestic conflict? Previous researchers have emphasized the lack of popularity of leaders and their ability to scapegoat foreign countries or domestic groups to boost their chances of political survival. This study explores the propensity of elites for policies of targeting domestic groups and the popular support for such actions. I argue that high income inequality in the society and economic communitarianism among its population form the social basis for diversionary domestic conflict. When income inequality in society is particularly high, the elites have incentives to divert popular discontent toward culturally alien minorities. High income inequality also raises the expectations for the state assistance among the low-income strata, who regard the alien minorities as a potential target for resource extraction. I use sentiment analysis of news articles corpus for the period of 21 years, economic, and survey data to show the evolution of the attitudes of Russians toward the secession of Chechnya to provide support for the proposed theory and find significant support for it.
Bio: I am a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Institute of Behavioral Science at the University of Colorado Boulder. I received my Ph.D. in Political Science from Arizona State University in 2017. My research interests span civil and interstate conflict, collective action, religion and politics, and methods with an empirical focus on Eurasia and Eastern Europe. My peer-reviewed articles appear in Caucasus Survey, Nationalities Papers, Politics and Religion, Post-Soviet Affairs, and Social Science Quarterly.
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