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25 March 2014


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Another category of state should be added, the Pan-ethnic mythical state. Three seem to be constantly in contention with each other.






I don't know what exactly an "ethnic people" means.

Are Moldovans a different people from the Romanians? They say they are now. They sure didn't two decades ago. Are North Koreans same people as South Koreans? It's still politically correct to say that they are, but they really are not today and are getting more and more different as time moves on. Are Provencals same as the Parisians? They became the same people, sometimes at the point of the bayonet, over the course of 19th century. Language, history, and tradition change, sometimes very rapidly, over time. A "nation" is a squishy concept that we should not use too flippantly.

To the degree that political authority of the state is involved in reshaping the nature of "nations," the concept of "nation-state" should not be divided into two separate concepts. A nation-state, I think, is a state that is conscientiously involved in creating a common nation out of its inhabitants and, by and large, has succeeded. An "empire," in this sense, is a state that recognizes (explicitly or informally) multiplicity of nations among its population and is content not to attempt creating a common nation and is perhaps involved in using its constituent nations as part of its governing strategy.

I'd imagine that the advantage of a nation is that it is capable of far greater internal "unity" without too much legislating and politicking. Recognition of the nations as legitimate claimants to political rights means that their competing claims and demands must be recognized, accommodated, and adjudicated through formal legal processes, while those who belong to the common "nation" can be more or less safely assumed to be operating on the same wavelength and expected to do "the right thing" without all the legal formality while being extended the same "benefit of the doubt" as others. If you will, the difference between a "citizen" (a holder of legally recognized set of rights--not always of the same rank, depending on how the legal system is structured) and a "brother." At the same time, a nation-state can easily put on blinders about those who are not their "brothers."



Quite a lot of what you say in reply to my post sounds like wishful thinking or an expression of the way you would like people to think and behave.

You don't know what an "ethnic people" means. Well, you know what I think it is.

"an ethnic people bound together by language, tradition and history" When Germany was re-united was there any doubt that they were all still Germans? I remember a lot of hand wringing at the time about whether or no East and West Germans were still the same people. you might want to ask Angela Merkel about that. Are Provencals the same people as the French north of the Loire. I think that is debatable. I have spent a lot of time in village markets listening to the music of the speech of Occitanie. The Langue d'Oc argues for a separate identity. France, after experiencing post -Bonaparte intense centralization by Departments ruled by prefects, has now returned to regional forms that recognize their differences.

"A nation-state, I think, is a state that is conscientiously involved in creating a common nation out of its inhabitants" As a Southerner I find that concept to be repulsive and a description og cultural tyranny. pl

William R. Cumming

ALL: First PL for this post and thread!

Question? Does the membership requirement in the UN contain any standards? Does that membership mean anything under current International Law outside of subscribing to the UN Charter? Was the Ukraine a member of the UN and did that membership have implications for recent events?


"IMO a nation-state exists when an ethnic people bound together by language, tradition and history exist almost exclusively"

should 'waring' be part of the above per-requisite? that would fit the US 'nation state as it sounds like 'folks' in US are so badly itching for a war! why? is waring the only thing that defines the character of 'US nation'?

William R. Cumming

WP! No doubt myth is important but my hope is for some concept more grounded in current global reality!

Great links! Thanks!



"warring," not "waring." what is your nationality? If you want to criticize us in those terms you should tell us who you are. pl

William R. Cumming

PL! Thanks for leaving out GENETICS as a basis for ETHNICITY!



No. No. People go to war for what you call myth not for "current global reality." pl



That was quite deliberate. pl

William R. Cumming




Membership in the UN is based on the existence of "states" and nothing else. pl

William R. Cumming

PL! Unfortunately agree!

William R. Cumming


A quote from your comment:
"A nation-state, I think, is a state that is conscientiously involved in creating a common nation out of its inhabitants and, by and large, has succeeded."

Like PL I consider this concept personally and professionally very troubling. I have no doubt many leaders and elites in many STATES have that concept as their operating modus vivendi!

Personally I believe for example that WWI was largely an ETHNIC war. While WWII was largely a RACIAL war. Perhaps I am way off base.



It is fascinating to watch the return of history; not to mention red colored maps, and to read the comments here at SST.

The cradle of war is rocking. It is time to be afraid.

Humans beings remain humans. There has been and will always be movements of people seizing opportunities unless prevented by strong borders; Vietnamese verses the Khmer; Thais verses Malays; English and Russians verses Aborigines. The neo-con ideology is based on righteous of the strength which includes settlement of the West Bank.

What is new since 1914 are the nuclear weapons and entrepreneurs who have seized control of western democracies and are funding NGO revolts. Ignorant of history, the Elite are incapable of foreseeing the consequences of their actions. They only see the black soil and gas reserves to exploit in Ukraine. Puppet politicians are incapable of sitting down and shifting the borders to separate the ethnic groups in the Balkans once again.

Sanctions won’t work. Europe needs Russian gas. Tensions will rise. Troops will roll. We are on the brink of destruction, again.

William R. Cumming

Extract from Wiki:

"Membership of an ethnic group tends to be associated with shared cultural heritage, ancestry, history, homeland, language (dialect), or ideology, and with symbolic systems such as religion, mythology and ritual, cuisine, dressing style, physical appearance, etc.

The largest ethnic groups in modern times can comprise hundreds of millions of individuals (Han Chinese, Arabs, Bengali people) and the smallest can be limited to a few thousand individuals (numerous indigenous peoples worldwide). The larger ethnic groups will tend to form smaller sub-ethnic groups (historically also known as tribes), which over time may become separate ethnic groups themselves through the process of ethnogenesis; ethnic groups derived from the same historical founder population often continue to speak related languages and may be grouped as ethno-linguistic groups or phyla (e.g. Iranian people, Slavic people, Bantu people, Turkic people, Austronesian people, Nilotic people, etc.)."



Yes we are looking down the barrel of a gun and few seem to understand the danger. pl


I should have added that I find the idea of a "nation state" at best questionable morally and dangerous . A great deal of tragedy has ensued in pursuit of trying to equate a nation and a state by force--as you have described, something born of repulsive cultural tyranny.



Thanks for the clarification. pl

Babak Makkinejad

Not even that; people like war because they find it exciting.

I doubt Ms. Nuland subscribes to any myth....



Wallah! Zamiili! the desire for the excitement is part of the mythos of war. I got over that early under the influence of my warrior family. war was my trade and I was good at it. that does not mean that I am a fool with regard to geopolitics and its cost. pl


Yes she does, the one of intellectual superiority. The whole Neocon clan worships it.

Babak Makkinejad

Learnt that from Margaret Mitchell.


Wow, this reminds me of the debate in linguistics over what constitutes the difference between a language and a dialect. The standard definition for many a century ago was that a language is a collections of mutually intelligible dialects. That does not really work for many people who would like their own "dialect" considered a language. Witness the issues in Spain over Catalan and its status in Catalonia. The same might be said of Portuguese and Gellician. When I lived in Portugal, the Portuguese claimed that Gallician was a dialect of Portuguese, and the Gallicians claimed just the opposite since the Moors had never made it to Santiago de Compostela.

One way out of this suggested by the Danish linguist Otto Jesperson was the "tongue-in-cheek" definition that "a language is a dialect with an army and a navy" (I quote from memory here). Obviously, that does not cut finely enough in either direction for both the purposes of linguistics or definitions of nation-states, and I have no satisfactory answers to this issue.

I do recall discussing the horrors of the dissolution of the former Yugoslav republics 20+ years ago with an Australian friend who said he thought Germany and others seemed to believe that the violence there was largely due to the belief that they "were dealing with the bloody Belgians."

I will post this under my adopted handle as Haralambos, but, hereafter, I will post under my real name out of respect for those here who fly their true colors: Robert Kenneth Chatel.


As noted above, I tend to consider the idea of a nation-state morally abhorrent as it often requires creation of often false and/or whitewashed national myths and forceful subjugation or worse of the dissenters. But we have to note that creation and maintenance of national myths is something that is disturbingly common in actual politics and draws way too many fans, both from the locals and the outsiders. (see the Bandera myths of Ukraine or the Zionist myths of Israel)

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