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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
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
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.
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?
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?
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.