According to the extant literature, state leaders pursue mass ethnic violence against minority groups in wartime if they believe that those groups are collaborating with an enemy. Treating the wartime leadership of a combatant state as a coherent unit, however, is misleading. Even in war, leaders differ in the degree to which they prioritize goals such as maintaining or expanding the territory of the state, and on whether they believe that minority collaboration with the enemy influences their ability to achieve those goals. Also, how leaders react to wartime threats from minority groups depends largely on the role that political organizations based on non-ethnic cleavages play in society. Depending on those cleavages, wartime minority collaboration may result in limited deportations and killings, ethnic cleansing, or minimal violence. A comparison of the policies of three multinational empires toward ethnic minority collaborators during World War I—the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Italians, the Ottoman Empire and Armenians, and the Russian Empire and Muslims in the South Caucasus—illustrates this finding.

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