Force, ideology and contract: The history of ethnic conscription

Alon Peled*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Minority groups in Central Asia, the Baltic republics, Eastern Europe, and Africa find themselves entrapped between their loyalty to their new states and their cultural and blood-ties with kin across the border in a potential enemy country. This ethnic dilemma is complicated by the enactment of conscription in many of these new states (for example, without exception, every one of the seventeen republics of the CIS has adopted the draft). This article examines how governments in polyethnic states have conscripted minority groups throughout history. Three models of ethnic conscription are offered: conscription-by-force, conscription-through-ideology, and conscription- by-contract. It is argued that ethnic youth traditionally have complied with their draft call for three reasons: fear, ideological conviction, and expectation of civic benefits. Polyethnic military organizations that rely exclusively or principally on coercion, ideology or ethnic contracts differ from each other in terms of the power of the government vis-a-vis ethnic groups, the political and military circumstances for which they are best suited and their advantages and drawbacks. Conscription-by-contract is highlighted as an effective model to appease militant minority groups and to accommodate their special needs in new polyethnic states.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)61-78
Number of pages18
JournalEthnic and Racial Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1994
Externally publishedYes


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