Gene Sharp

Self Reliant Defense Without Bankruptcy or War (1992)

Self Reliant Defense Without Bankruptcy or War (1992) by Gene Sharp


To state the obvious, the former constituent republics of the Soviet Union and the once Communist-ruled Eastern European states face numerous difficulties. The questions of how to maintain national independence, ensure survival in a dangerous world, and protect the continuing creation of new democratic and just systems are of primary concern.

The issue of providing effective national defense under difficult conditions needs to take into consideration:(1) the dangers of war and internal violence, (2) the risk of losing self-reliance by placing one's defense in the hands of foreig nstates, and (3) the high economic cost of military weaponry that would aggravate already serious economic problems.

This booklet addresses a defense policy which can potentially avoid those three dangers while greatly increasing the actual defense capacity of these countries. This policy is civilian-based defense. It is a policy which relies on the determination of the population and the strength of the society to make it impossible for foreign aggressors or internal putschists to rule.

Civilian-based defense applies prepared noncooperation and political defianceby trained populations. This would operate by preventing the attackers from ruling the attacked society, denying them their other objectives, subverting their troops and functionaries, and mobilizing international opposition to the attack. All this is done in ways which are most difficult for the attackers to counter.

This booklet relates this policy to the countries of the Baltics, East Central Europe, and the Commonwealth of Independent States? all of which must assess what their future defense policies will be, now that independence has come and the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact are gone.

This type of defense has its roots in several improvised defense struggles in Europe, as well as in much of the resistance and liberation struggles waged in Communist-ruled nations during the decades of totalitarian domination. However, in civilian-based defense this resistance is utilized in refined and strengthened forms.

Persons, groups, and governments that are interested in the discussion of civilian-based defense in this booklet are strongly encouraged to turn for further study to my more detailed book Civilian-Based Defense (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 19901, and to the Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, Polish, and Russian editions which are now in preparation. Publication details of these and other translations can be obtained by writing to Gene Sharp, Albert Einstein Institution,

Gene Sharp
10 February 1992

  • "East Central Europe" is used here primarily to indicate the formerly Communist ruled countries of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, and Yugoslavia (and its successor states such as Slovenia and Croatia). The analysis which refers to the members of the Commonwealth of Independent States is also relevant to Georgia and to nations now asserting claims of independence which were formerly part of the Soviet Union or its republics.

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