Turning Neighbors into Foes: A Comparative Analysis of Patterns of Violence against Civilians in the Krajina Region during Croatia’s War of Independence through the Lens of Alliance Theory and the Notion of Violence as a Political Strategy
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This thesis focuses on the phenomenon of violence against civilians in the Croatian region of Krajina by examining the two most intense periods of the conflict between August 1991 and early March 1992, and in August 1995 during and after Operation Storm. It asks the question of what the most dominant aspects of such violence were in these periods, and what can be said about their nature and the observable patterns through a comparative analysis. Utilizing the frame of alliance theory complemented with insights from studies of ethnicity and identity, this thesis delivers its argument through a qualitative analysis of documentary primary sources from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. For the first period, it identifies significant differences among the various armed actors in the conflict and their treatment of civilians and strong elements of local participation. For the second period, it identifies notable differences in micro-level dynamics of violence between different areas of Krajina, toleration of otherwise prohibited behavior of the armed forces by the elites, and elements of opportunism in the form of widespread looting framed along the lines of revenge against a collective enemy. While finding several important differences, this thesis delivers the argument that in both episodes the respective elites responsible for the orchestration of violence shifted the societal structures through the framing of the ethnic other as a danger to the nation and by not holding perpetrators of violence against civilians accountable. This created an environment in which otherwise prohibited behavior became justified. On the micro-level, this environment was on many occasions welcomed by those willing to exploit it for their own gain, satisfaction, or a sense of moral fulfilment, which in turn was used by the elites to secure their political objectives.