Asia Europe Journal

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 1–14 | Cite as

Between war and peace: a dynamic reconceptualization of “frozen conflicts”

  • Michal SmetanaEmail author
  • Jan Ludvík


Frozen conflicts, situations in which war ended yet stable peace did not materialize, trouble both Asia and Europe. Despite the clear policy relevance of this problem, the notion of frozen conflicts remains surprisingly blurred in peace and conflict studies literature. In this paper, we seek to provide a rigorous conceptualization of frozen conflicts. We situate frozen conflicts into a broader debate about enduring rivalries in international politics and demonstrate the theoretical relevance of the term vis-à-vis existing concepts. Furthermore, we outline a theoretical model of frozen conflict dynamics, which portrays frozen conflicts as dynamic configurations undergoing a periodical “thawing” in relations between the opposing sides: either toward diplomatic negotiations (“peaceful thawing”) or re-escalation toward use of armed force (“violent thawing”). We illustrate the usefulness of our model with empirical observations from other articles in this special issue and conclude with possible avenues for further research.



We would like to thank the reviewers and our colleagues, Harald Müller, Vojtech Bahensky, Kamil Klosek, Pavlina Blahova, and Marie Nemeckova, for their constructive comments and recommendations. An earlier version of this article was presented at the 2017 International Studies Association (ISA) Annual Convention in Baltimore and the 2017 ISSS-ISAC Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. We are grateful to the chairs, discussants, and participants in individual panel sessions for their insightful remarks and ideas.


We acknowledge funding by the Charles University Research Centre program UNCE/HUM/028 (Peace Research Center Prague/Faculty of Social Sciences) and by the Ministry of the Interior of the Czech Republic, grant project VI20152019011.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Security Policy / Peace Research Center PragueCharles UniversityPragueCzech Republic
  2. 2.Department of Security StudiesCharles UniversityPragueCzech Republic

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