In This Review

Understanding Ethnic Violence: Fear, Hatred, and Resentment in Twentieth-Century Eastern Europe
Understanding Ethnic Violence: Fear, Hatred, and Resentment in Twentieth-Century Eastern Europe
By Roger D. Petersen
Cambridge University Press, 2002, 298 pp

Petersen starts from the sensible premise that emotion plays an important role in ethnic violence, and he then sets out to track this connection across three broad eastern European cases: the Baltic states (1905 to the present), Czechoslovakia (1848-1998), and contemporary Yugoslavia. The four categories into which he divides emotions -- fear, hatred, rage, and resentment -- are linked to broader impulses, such as fear to safety, rage to "ancient hatreds," and so on. Although each works its effect at different times in different places, neither fear nor rage predominates; in contrast, resentment over perceived status inequities does. The gates open when either the disruptions of war or rapid modernization accentuate status concerns and decimate normal social constraints. This thought-provoking book warns that mistaking fear as the basis of ethnic violence -- and assuming that military quick fixes are the right answer when the real problem lies in the far more intractable issue of resentment -- will lead us astray.