WiP: Oil and armed civil conflict: explaining post-Soviet non-occurrences

By Anar Ahmadov, Leiden University

Date: January 31, 2019, at 18:30 pm
Venue: CRRC Georgia, 5 Chkhikvadze Str. (Former 5 Chavchavadze ave.), I floor.

Extensive literature argues that countries with oil resources face a higher risk of intrastate armed conflict. This finding is based mostly on cross-national econometric tests, which suffer from serious problems of data, measurement, model specification, endogeneity, unit heterogeneity and level of analysis. These problems hamper causal inference from these studies. I show that two major models – by Collier and Hoeffler and Fearon and Laitin – are unsuccessful in both their level and comparative statics predictions of the probabilities of civil war in Central Eurasia. Using detailed maps of overlaid historical conflict and petroleum basin data created through a geographic information system (GIS), I also show problems inherent in using country-level data to make inferences about subnational and micro-level processes. Responding to a call for serious case studies, I test the causal mechanisms derived from the existing scholarship using a small-N comparative process-tracing study of three pairs of oil-rich and oil-poor country cases in Central Eurasia, which differ along a few dimensions. I find that in this set of cases oil wealth did not only not lead to intrastate civil conflict, but also helped rulers to diffuse conflict potential. These findings underscore the importance of developing conditional theories of the “resource curse.”

Anar Kamil Ahmadov (PhD, London School of Economics) is Assistant Professor at Leiden University in the Netherlands. He is broadly trained in political economy, sociology, development studies, and public policy. Prior to joining Leiden, he has held research and teaching positions at Princeton University, Oxford University, and the LSE. Apart from academia, Anar has extensive experience in international development, including heading CRRC’s Azerbaijan office between 2006-2007. His current research interests lie in political and economic inequality, the travel of economic ideas, natural resource governance, migrant political behavior, and conflict studies. His work has appeared in Comparative Political Studies, Energy Policy, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, and Post-Soviet Affairs, among others.

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W-i-P is an ongoing academic discussion series based in Tbilisi, Georgia, that takes place at the CRRC office at 5 Chkhikvadze Str. It is co-organized by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC), the American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS, and the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus (ARISC). All of the talks are free and open to the public. The purpose of the W-i-P series is to provide support and productive criticism to those researching and developing academic projects pertaining the Caucasus region.