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What is Separatism?

Separatism is the advocacy for a group to secede and form an independent nation or society, often based on ethnicity, religion, or cultural identity. It's a quest for self-determination that can reshape political maps and ignite passionate debates. How does separatism impact global stability, and what are its ethical implications? Join us as we delve deeper into this complex issue.
Jillian Peterson
Jillian Peterson

The term "separatism" refers to the desire of people who are of the same ethnicity, religion, race or another characteristic to separate themselves from a larger group or nation. This desire might be because those people feel oppressed or discriminated against by the larger group, or it might be to create greater unity or self-sufficiency among those in the group. Separatist movements are also called secession movements if the group wants to secede, or withdraw, from the larger political group and form their own state. In other cases, the group might want only to live in its own area within a larger state and maintain autonomy or independence in certain aspects while still being governed in other ways by the state.

Reasons for Separatism

The United States was formed as a result of separatism when American colonists successfully fought the Revolutionary War to gain independence from Britain.
The United States was formed as a result of separatism when American colonists successfully fought the Revolutionary War to gain independence from Britain.

Separatist movements sometimes form in response to cultural oppression, ethnic violence or the denial of rights that have been given to other groups. Other times, separatist movement might be motivated by a desire to be self-governed. Economics, politics and religion also can be motivating factors for separatism, such as when a group feels that wealth is being withheld or certain political parties or religions are dominating a society or country. Another reason might be to right a historical wrong, such as when a group wants to reclaim land that it believes was wrongly taken by another group.

Responses to Separatism

The American Civil War was fought because the confederate states sought to secede from the union and form their own nation.
The American Civil War was fought because the confederate states sought to secede from the union and form their own nation.

There have been as many types of responses to separatism as there are have been separatist movements. The larger government might try to accommodate the smaller group desires, such as by improving living conditions, increasing access to wealth or granting political rights. In other cases, the state might give in to the separatist movement's demands by allowing the group to secede and form its own state. The government might instead choose to counter the separatist movement through further oppression or even warfare. Whether a separatist movement results in a new, independent state or significant changes in the larger government is influenced by many societal factors.

Examples

The European nation of Greece was formed after a separatist movement.
The European nation of Greece was formed after a separatist movement.

Many modern nations have been formed from separatist movements, including Israel, Greece, Algeria and Bangladesh. The United States also was a result of separatism. American colonists felt they were being politically and economically oppressed by their English colonial rulers. They wanted to be a self-governing country and successfully fought in the American Revolutionary War to gain their independent from Great Britain. Separatism also caused the American Civil War, because the southern states wanted to secede from the union, but this movement was met with resistance from the union and did not succeed.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is separatism and why do groups pursue it?

The American Civil War was caused by separatism when the Southern states seceded from the Union.
The American Civil War was caused by separatism when the Southern states seceded from the Union.

Separatism is the advocacy or practice of separation of a certain group of people from a larger body on the basis of ethnicity, religion, or gender, among other factors. Groups pursue separatism to seek autonomy, preserve their distinct identity, culture, or to gain political, social, or economic independence. This often stems from feelings of marginalization, oppression, or the belief that the separatist group's needs and rights are not adequately addressed within the larger political framework.

Can separatism lead to the formation of a new country?

Religion can be a motivating factor for separatism.
Religion can be a motivating factor for separatism.

Yes, separatism can lead to the formation of a new country if the separatist movement is successful. Historical examples include the creation of South Sudan from Sudan in 2011 after decades of conflict and a referendum, as reported by the BBC. However, the path to independence is complex and often fraught with challenges, including gaining international recognition and managing economic viability.

What are some of the methods used by separatist movements to achieve their goals?

Separatist movements employ a range of methods to achieve their goals, from peaceful advocacy and political negotiations to civil disobedience and, in some cases, armed rebellion. The choice of methods often reflects the political climate, the level of repression faced, and the movement's ideology. For instance, the Scottish National Party has pursued independence through referendums and democratic processes, while other movements may resort to more extreme measures when peaceful options are exhausted or unavailable.

How does separatism impact the country from which the group is separating?

Separatism can have significant impacts on the parent country, including political instability, economic disruption, and potential loss of territory. It can also lead to internal conflicts or international disputes, especially if the separation is not mutually agreed upon. The parent country may face challenges in maintaining national unity and addressing the grievances that gave rise to the separatist movement. Additionally, there may be a realignment of regional power dynamics and international relations.

What are the challenges faced by newly formed states born out of separatism?

Newly formed states arising from separatism face numerous challenges, such as establishing a stable government, gaining international recognition, and building a viable economy. They must also address issues of national identity and integration, particularly if there are still significant divisions within the population. Furthermore, these states may struggle with securing borders, managing relations with the parent state, and accessing resources. The success of a new state often hinges on its ability to navigate these complex post-independence issues effectively.

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Discussion Comments

anon319450

@anon309708: I agree.

anon313475

The people of M'mbelwa district in Mzimba Malawi are accidentally a part of the republic of Malawi. The British colonized Nyasaland in 1896 to the exclusion and recognition of the royal kingdom of Mzimba, under King M'mbelwa II. In 1904, an understanding was arrived at between the British and the people of Mzimba. Mzimba and the British would work as partners in development only, and not in governance. However, when Nyasaland became Malawi, although there has never been any formal agreement that the people of Mzimba are part of Malawi, the Malawi government has taken over Mzimba into its administration.

There has been so much repression, academically, culturally and linguistically. Mzimba can only send about 20 students into all the the state universities. The Ngoni and Tumbuka languages languages have been denied academic recognition. For these and other reasons best known to ourselves, we feel time has come for us to separate and revert to the kingdom, the way we were before 1904.

anon309708

There is actually another type of separatism I don't see anyone talk about and that is "Individual Separatism," or maybe because they don't know about it or think it doesn't exist.

But as in my case, I am not a country or a conglomerate of states, but instead am only one person. I consider myself an individual separatist and do not consider myself a part of the rest of society. I shun it because I do not care for the way it treats the less fortunate and the sick and the weaker individuals. Therefore, I am one and my own. I prefer it that way.

fify
@burcinc-- Both of those examples are democratic countries where people have equal rights and opportunities. Separatism primarily becomes an issue when there are tensions in the country.
burcinc

@burcidi-- I don't understand separatism and nationalist movements. I don't understand why people just can't get along, there are certainly plenty of examples where they do.

For example, the US is a multi-cultural country and we have people from all ethnic groups and religions here. But people are happy and no one comes out wanting their own country. Maybe Texas, but they're just joking anyway.

India is another country where I believe there are lots of different groups and religions. They also get along fine for the most part, they're the biggest democracy in the world.

burcidi

There are so many different separatist movements going on in the world right now. I'm studying this in one of my classes and so far, I've counted ten different separatist movements in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. I'm sure that there are even more that I'm not aware of.

And just like the article said, all of their reasons vary. Some one want their own state so that they can have more rights, wealth, education, jobs and more prosperous lives. Others are ethnic separatists and want to be able to live their culture and religion freely and speak their own language. Some want all of the above.

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    • The United States was formed as a result of separatism when American colonists successfully fought the Revolutionary War to gain independence from Britain.
      By: Mark J. Grenier
      The United States was formed as a result of separatism when American colonists successfully fought the Revolutionary War to gain independence from Britain.
    • The American Civil War was fought because the confederate states sought to secede from the union and form their own nation.
      By: Refocus Photography
      The American Civil War was fought because the confederate states sought to secede from the union and form their own nation.
    • The European nation of Greece was formed after a separatist movement.
      By: sborisov
      The European nation of Greece was formed after a separatist movement.
    • The American Civil War was caused by separatism when the Southern states seceded from the Union.
      By: Robert Young
      The American Civil War was caused by separatism when the Southern states seceded from the Union.
    • Religion can be a motivating factor for separatism.
      By: Ruggiero Scardigno
      Religion can be a motivating factor for separatism.