Nationalism Nationalist Nationalist

The belief that the political independence of a national group is the highest good. It has some of the characteristics of a cult. The extreme of this belief seems to be that the believer's nation is almost a separate species of humanity and therefore in destructive competition with other nations.

In Europe the concept of the linguistic nation is an outgrowth of the late eighteenth century Romantic Movement but perhaps also a result of the standardized languages produced by printing.

Most nations are defined by language. However, the quasi-nations of Yugoslavia are defined by religion, while sharing a language. In Northern Ireland the same is true.

In mixed areas, where the ethnic groups are not easily distinguishable (almost all the world) this leads to constant wars and jockeying for position. The suppression of national and ethnic struggles is usually the result of the multi-ethnic empires. For example the Habsburg empire suppressed the disturbances of Central Europe, Tito's Yugoslavia prevented the Balkan disturbances which have broken out since. The post-nationalist organizations such as the United States of America and the European Union may be a modern solution. The overcrowded nature of the modern world with its historically very high population levels adds new dimensions to the problem.

Some examples:


 Georgia (Sakartvelo)


 Northern Ireland


 Sri Lanka

In all these areas one or more of the ethnic groups claims they are the only legitimate occupiers of the territory. In its most extreme form, as in modern Serbia and Croatia, nationalism allows people to commit any crime in defense or support of the Nation. In Greece it takes the form of denying that there are minorities (Turks, Slavs, Vlachs) within the territory. This has also been the case in France in the past where Basques and Bretons were denied the use of their languages. In Turkey the Kurds have been labeled "Mountain Turks", though their language belongs to a completely different language family. In Israel some extremists treat the Arabs almost as Hitler once treated the Jews.

In some areas of mixed languages most people speak more than one language. This may be a restraining influence. In Africa, despite its numerous languages, linguistic nationalism is rare. But almost everyone speaks the languages of the neighbors as well as their own.

European-type nationalism seems to be the result of taking the myths of the past to be more important than the present or future. Serbs think about the 1389 Battle of Kosovo. Some English talk about distant battles with France: Agincourt and Crecy. In Ireland the Protestants still commemorate the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

In a multi-cultural world can a structure be devised to satisfy different peoples' desire for autonomy without giving every culture a national state, or without causing harm to other cultures? This may be the main political problem. The European Union has so far been successful in defusing these ancient hatreds.

Last revised 31/08/09


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