Associate Professor Carter Johnson joined the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs in 2012. Before coming to Moscow, Carter taught at the University of Maryland, College Park, which is where he also earned his PhD. HSE News Service spoke with Professor Johnson about his research interests, publications, and what it is like for him to live and work in Moscow.
Professor Johnson’s areas of research include ethnic conflict, civil wars, and ethnic security dilemmas. When asked about his research interests, he identifies several questions that drive him forward in his research: ‘What is the best way to maintain peace in a society that has experienced civil war? Which government policies work best to satisfy different demands from competing ethnic groups? How can we encourage more cooperative relations between different ethnic groups?’
Professor Johnson’s publications seek to provide answers to these questions. ‘My most widely read publication, “Partitioning to Peace: Sovereignty, Demography, and Ethnic Civil Wars”, looked at the effect of partitioning territories as a way to end ethnic civil wars, and asked whether dividing countries and ethnic groups might help end wars or prevent their recurrence,’ says Professor Johnson. ‘Many policy-makers have suggested, for example, that dividing Iraq into three homelands for Kurds, Sunni, and Shi’ite groups might bring greater peace to the country. My research challenges those claims, demonstrating that ethnic partition would not be more likely to bring peace. Partition appears to be successful at maintaining peace only under very restrictive conditions that are rarely found in the natural world.’
These questions of how to achieve peace among ethno-sectarian groups in regions that have experienced civil war continue to form the basis of Professor Johnson’s current and future research. ‘One research project looks at the role of territorial autonomy for ethnic groups and asks how it’s related to separatism,’ he says. ‘For example, is autonomy for the Catalan in Spain more or less likely to lead to a separate Catalan Republic in the future? My research suggests that autonomy helps keep countries together in times of peace, but if civil war occurs, those same autonomy structures can help the territory gain independence. It’s a dual-use technology.’
Other research projects the professor is working on include looking at when ethnic groups rebel or don’t rebel when their homeland is annexed; how states can effectively integrate their minorities while balancing competing nationalisms of the majority and minority; and how ethnic identities change after periods of intense inter-ethnic violence.
After 7 years in Moscow Professor Johnson has become a big fan of the city. ‘I thrive in large, diverse, dynamic metropolises, and Moscow continuously reinvents itself with more energy than most other capitals I’ve lived in,’ he says. ‘The city has an extraordinary array of cultural activities, ranging from an endless theater, speakers, and revolving exhibits to micro-brewery pubs, yoga at Gorky Park, Russian saunas, and Olympic downhill skiing venues just two hours by plane. I grew up in a multicultural city, so I also love seeing the rich diversity of people in Moscow you can see on its streets.’
Professor Johnson readily lists some favorite Russian foods: ‘My favorites are a caramelized baked milk called “ryazhenka”, a sour yoghurt called “kefir”, and cottage cheese pancakes with raisins called “syrniki”. Moscow’s food benefits from its infusion of ethnic influences, allowing me to eat Central Asian, Georgian, Japanese, Indian, and American whenever the mood strikes’ he says.