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Adjusting the size of nations: Empirical determinants of separatism and the Soviet breakup

Marvin Suesse ()

Journal of Comparative Economics, 2019, vol. 47, issue 1, 50-64

Abstract: Little is known about the empirical determinants of state formation and dissolution, despite a rich theoretical literature on the subject. This paper exploits large variation in separatist protests across the 183 provinces of the Soviet Union between 1987 and 1992 to measure the demand for autonomy and secession. This enables an investigation into the theoretical prediction that the incentive to separate should be influenced by the trade-off between the size of the potentially separating jurisdiction and preference heterogeneity. I find evidence consistent with the existence of this trade-off: Regions that are more different from the center along some dimension of heterogeneity see a higher incidence of separatist protests per capita. Likewise, proposals to grant autonomy to large jurisdictions attract disproportionately more popular support. These results persist after controlling for various factors influencing general protest turnout, including repression by the authorities.

Keywords: Secession; Regional autonomy; Protests; State size; Soviet Union (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: H77 N44 P26 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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