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Hybrid Borders in the XXI Century


Abstract of the report presented at the round-table meeting "Eastern Ukrainian conflict in the mirror of social and philosophical reflection" (04.21.2016, Vinnytsia)

The system of international law, which is currently effective and supported by the United Nations, recognizes the principle of the territorial integrity as one of the most important principles. This principle forbids states to violate internationally recognized borders of other states and the demarcation lines. The subjects of execution of this principle are states, whereas the other principles are bound for groups of states (for example, the principle of non-interference in the internal or external affairs of a sovereign state). However, this principle corresponds more to the stage of development of international relations in the 1960s, when there was a rapid formation of independent states in the world, the fall of colonialism, the victory of the secular Western way of life in the regions, “a derivative of secularization.” After the 1970s, the situation began to change when the first ideologies that were intended at implementation of supranational projects of state-building, in particular, pan-Shia (and in the future – pan-Islamic) ideology of “velayat-e faqih” appeared. Other integral ideologies appeared later in the Islamic world, the former Soviet Union, etc.

Nowadays, there are several supranational projects that are driven by the pursuance of expansion and do not pay much attention to the nation state borders of the model of the second half of the twentieth century. An important feature of the present stage is that these projects are adopted by official authorities of some countries (Iran, Turkey, Russia and others can be identified among non-Western states). In this case, the principle of the inviolability of borders is defied not so much because of revanchist sentiments (although most entities in stated question arose on the ruins of empires) but rather due to rethinking of the principles of international law in the paradigm of supranational, civilizational entities. Namely such entities, which can not be limited by nation state borders, are becoming the subjects of international relations in the twenty-first century. The expansion in this situation is carried out not only by military means, but also in the framework of cultural and language policy, etc. On the other hand, along with the projects that are supported by official governments and tries to keep within international law, the entities,that do not recognize international law and are not recognized by its subjects and that openly violate their rules (the Islamic State could be a textbook example among such entities) appear.

While national identity is blurred (intentionally or naturally), religious identity remains an important core. It is essentially exclusivist, and it has created a boundary between communities and made it difficult for minorities to assimilate for thousands of years. Today, such type of religiosity as contra-secular one is becoming more and more popular; its characteristic features are occidental phobia, outlook archaization and neglect of religious education, heightened eschatological expectations. Contra-secular religiosity mobilizes large numbers of people to fight against the secular West and the values,set by it (including the contemporary international law). Religious identity is not strictly tied to ethnic state, linguistic boundaries, and it does not depend on nationality, which means it is an additional factor in the hybridization of borders between the communities in the XXI century. The latest virtual communication makes every imagined community a potentially global one; a person can identify himself with it, even without any live communication with like-minded people.

One more factor of state border violation is mass migration, both labour and associated with armed conflict. As well as supranational religiously motivated projects, waves of migrants are not the classic subject of international relations, and, therefore, it is completely expected that they ignore the principle of the inviolability of borders. In comparison with the migration wave that occurred after World War II, the modern wave is complicated by open borders within the EU, so that migrants can move relatively freely around Europe. On the other hand, the emergence of a significant number of poorly controlled migrants contributes to nationalist and separatist sentiments, when the local population tries to insulate itself from the strangers, the right-wing populism and xenophobia gain popularity. If this type of border violation has already occurred in Europe, armed intervention on the part of supranational communities is taking place only on an individual basis, among other things in the form of terrorist attacks. At the same time, such hybridization of boundaries is already happening on the borders of the European cultural space as contra-secular projects tend to move in the direction of Europe as a rival.

Thus, borders of nation states, recognized by international law, gradually cease to meet the agenda. Such new actors of international relations, as supranational globalization projects, virtual communities that focus on religiously motivated ideology, waves of migrants, etc. do not consider these borders in their actions. These groups are a relatively new phenomenon, and the applicable standards of international law do not take their emergence into account, and, hence, they are not so much offenders as an indication that international law needs to be improved in the context of political developments. The borders of nation states have already been dissolving worldwide, and in the future, this process will only accelerate, therefore it will require a deliberate and strategic action both on the part of the governments of classical states of the twentieth century and supranational institutions like the UN.

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