Despite enormous technological and intellectual progress and the rapid pace of globalization, the 21st century still witnesses political, cultural, religious and territorial disputes, conflicts and even wars over unsettled issues of nationalism and ethnicity throughout the whole world. The struggle of stateless nations, i.e. “geographically concentrated populations sharing common identities but which are situated within some larger composite state or states” has become a growing concern in terms of politics, economy, language, religion, issues of national identity and independence (Moreno 2). Despite the fact that these problems have long history, many of them are vital and urgent demanding immediate attention.
The roots of these problems lay in the fact that the state frontiers mismatch the peoples claiming national status (Minahan 14). In other words, being a sate doesn’t mean encompass people of the same nation and cultural beliefs. To such long-time nationalist conflicts belong Catalonian and Basque cases in Spain, the issues of national identity of Kurdish people in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey, Israeli- Palestinian conflict, Basque Country in France, Welsh and Scottish nationalist issues and miscellaneous conflicts in Asian, American and African countries.
Usually, struggling nations belong to minority ethnic groups within the territory of a state which seek independence from it by means of secession. One factor that is of immense importance when dealing with stateless nations is that they should comprise three criteria: “self-identity as a distinctive group, the display of the outward trappings of national consciousness and the formation of specifically nationalist organizations” (Minahan 12).
However, according to multiple studies, it is difficult to establish the objective criteria for identifying the rights of different minorities and nations and their status within the large state they belong to. It is necessary to point out that due to multiple attempts to claim justice for oppressed nations, the process of liberations has greatly advanced. Thus, many stateless nations enjoy linguistic and cultural rights or even certain political autonomy from the host-state. A major advancement in resolution of these problems was the enactment of the “European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages” to protect some specific cultural and linguistic rights in 1992 (Moreno 3).
On the other hand, “despite the attempts to constitutionally appease minority frustrations, certain articles of the constitution downplay recognition of distinct national identities and limit the degree of autonomy of stateless nations” (Greer 155).
Let us now deeply investigate the case of Catalans and Basques in Italy, the issue that received an extensive coverage in mass-media over the past decades, as they serve as a good example of stateless nations with their own claims and aspirations and demands over their sovereignty and independence. The Catalans is the nation of the Mediterranean region in Europe, comprising mainly the territory of Spain and France. The Catalans themselves claim to be a nation without a state. Barcelona is the capital of Spanish Catalonia that has a rich eventful history. In 1981 Catalonia was “granted autonomy within the Spanish state” that accepted and legalized Catalonia as a separate nationality.
The adoption of Catalonian national flag served as the display of national consciousness and self-determination towards their culture and national identity. This fact symbolized the liberation from the oppression of the dictatorship of Francisco Franco whose politics was mass repression and suppression of the feeling of national identity and self-determination.
It should be stressed that existence of stateless nations within the host-state makes the linguistic and cultural issues very acute since every nation has its own history and national features that might significantly differ triggering clashes within the country. To avoid this, the Catalan language was accepted as one of the three official languages in Spain in 1979 (Greer 31), which may be regarded as major accomplishment of Catalan nationalists to preserve the spirit and identity of a nation that is irrevocably embodied in its language.
The current achievements of Catalan nationalists are of great importance for this stateless nation in the light of long-term oppression of their culture, language and political and national rights. However, notwithstanding those great advances, Spanish Catalans interpret them as only the first step to an independent Catalonia (Minahan 408) though it may entail a lot of difficulties. The matter is that Catalonia is a very important industrial region in Spain, which makes it reluctant to separate Catalonia from the rest of the country. Consequently, it may be assumed that the obstacles on the stateless nations consist not only in linguistic and cultural issues of national identity but they’re much deeper concerning issues of economic and industrial spheres.
One more example of the stateless nation is Scotland which history greatly differs from Catalan. Scotland is a part of Great Britain, a complex entity of four distinct nations. It is widely assumed that the British form a relatively homogeneous society with a strong sense of identity, but it is an assumption that requires considerable qualification. Historically, Scotland has been perceived as inseparable part of British Isles but, in fact, Scotland is a nation without a state.
Now a part of Great Britain, a small vulnerable state in the past, Scotland has no choice but to become a part of England in the 17th century. Nowadays Scotland is regarded as a stateless nation within the borders of UK. It should be stressed that Scotland has its own flag and the overwhelming feeling of national identity, culture and traditions. Furthermore, Scotland has been struggling for independence for years. However, the case of Scotland is more cultural than political.
It should be pointed out that despite the fact that Scotland has its own parliament and party with extensive policy autonomy, it has limited rights to organize and control it (Greer 24). It is clear that Scots feel more Scottish and less British especially after the creation of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, but despite a strengthening sense of Scottishness over the last thirty years, the sense of being British is still widespread and similar in Scotland as it is in England. Moreover, being one of the oldest European nations, Scotland share a common tongue, similar cultural, religious and political beliefs with England, which makes it complicated to claim for some unique national identity.
Thus, the host-state often tries to meet minor demands of the stateless nation to escape the crucial issues. Moreover, the spreading of globalization that lessens the borders of countries and facilitates merging of cultures makes it difficult to claim for national identity. However, Scotland has achieved significant success in struggling for its own sovereignty without much violence even if “they still not achieved full nationhood” (Minahan 1691).
All things considered, in the case of Scotland and Catalonia, successful cases of autonomy and toleration, it is more appropriate to say of the issues of “dual identity” (Moreno 2).
Taking into account the amount of stateless nations all over the world, it may be assumed that the issue of differences of national identity, cultures, history, language, religion and traditions within multicultural states has become of crucial importance all over the world though still demand much improvements and attention on the part of governments.
Greer, Scott L. Nationalism and Self-Government: the Politics of Autonomy in Scotland and Catalonia. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2007.
Minahan, James. Encyclopedia of the Stateless Nations: S-Z. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002.
Moreno, Luis. “Scotland, Catalonia, Europeanization and the ‘Moreno Question’.” Scottish Affairs 54 (2006): 1-21.