Paramilitarism, organized crime, and the state in the 1990s


During the ethnic conflicts of the 1990s, paramilitary units appeared in Serbia and Turkey, and committed mass violence against civilians. These groups maintained close links with political elites, including heads of state, and they were largely drawn from the social milieu of organized crime. In the literature on paramilitary units, they are generally depicted as irregular armed organizations that carry out illegal acts of violence against clearly defined individuals or groups, and in doing so, undermine the state's monopoly of legitimate violence, while at the same time creating a breeding ground for criminal activities. This research project starts from a different hypothesis: paramilitary units are the result of outsourcing mass political violence by the state, and are recruited from the ranks of criminals and gangs, which return to their normal criminal activities after their service for the state is finished. This will be examined from a longer-term, historical perspective on the emergence, functioning, and decline of paramilitary units. The availability of new, previously undisclosed source materials opens a window of opportunity for the study of these phenomena. Several examples of recent paramilitarism will be studied within a broad comparative framework; the Serbian and Turkish cases in greater detail. The case studies will be compared on four dimensions: personal ties, institutional support, criminalized party politics, and international intervention. The project aims to answer the questions how and why paramilitarism emerges; to what extent and how it contributes to large-scale violence; what happens to these units after their ?political? role ends; and how paramilitarism is connected to transformations of warfare and state-society relations.





Dr. U.Ü. Üngör

Verbonden aan

Universiteit Utrecht, Faculteit Geesteswetenschappen, Centre for Conflict Studies


A. Ayhan MA, I. Vukusic MA, Dr. U.Ü. Üngör


01/09/2014 tot 31/08/2019