Communication Conflict in Crimea

Alexandra Gegare Willi


The recent conflict between Ukraine and Russia that erupted over the Crimean peninsula represents an ethnic conflict with the potential of growing into a war affecting thousands of people. This qualitative case study aims to answer the question: What communicative aspects of the Crimea conflict contribute to the difficulty in reaching a non-violent solution? The purpose of the case study is to provide insight into future international conflicts by revealing what communicative issues influence the ability of groups to solve disputes without violent means.  This analysis identifies and explains the effects of key communicative aspects that contribute toward non-violent results. Significant concepts examined in the case study include incommensurate understandings of identities, face issues, power imbalances, and a tense climate. The study focuses on communications from news coverage of events leading up to, and following, Crimea’s separation from the Ukraine. The sample incorporates texts from multiple news organization sources, including the BBC, CNN, PBS, CBS, NBC, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. These news stories are examined in conjunction with historical background information on the region’s cultural heritage and its past record of conflict as it relates to current interactions. It was found that the Ukrainian, Russian, and Tatar people maintain drastically differing understandings of identity, especially in relation to their feelings of ownership of the Crimean land. This difference strengthens concerns for face, preventing the groups from participating in efficient conflict communication. Further, this discrepancy results in drastic displays of unique forms of power, with a potentially volatile climate that works against successful conflict resolution in non-violent forms. The research indicates that non-violent conflict conversations must first address basic variations in understandings of the groups’ differing identities in order to competently engage in discussion of larger issues.


International Conflict; Communication; Crimea

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