When Do People Resist Occupation?

by John Sides on October 29, 2009

in Comparative Politics

A new paper by Keith Darden argues that culture, ideology, and identity are more important than previous research has realized:

Why do some communities take up arms against an occupying power while others submit without significant resistance? This paper explores this question with an empirical examination of Soviet provinces occupied by Nazi Germany and then re-occupied by the Soviet Union during the Second World War. It finds that whether populations took up arms against the Germans, against the Soviets, or resisted neither occupation was determined by a combination of favorable terrain and how the population was taught to identify when education was initially established in their province—when they acquired their national identity. This aspect of the prior culture of the province provides a better predictor of instances of armed uprising than conventional explanations such as supply, distance from the front, ethnic homogeneity, duration of occupation, and treatment by the occupation regime.

The specific role of education is this:

In territories initially schooled with a Russophile curriculum or where the Soviets had been the first to introduce schools and instilled Soviet patriotism, populations were remarkably loyal to the USSR. Where populations had been schooled to identify nationally prior to their incorporation into the Soviet Union, they identified with anti-Russian and anti-Soviet national myths, formed national insurgencies, and engaged in protracted resistance to Soviet occupation long after the end of the war.

And there is this conclusion, sometimes forgotten in current battles for “hearts and minds”:

Even prior to foreign occupation, the “hearts and minds” of the population have been made up in ways that profoundly shape and limit the options for an occupying power.

Find the paper here.

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