September 24, 2008

Separatism around the world!

Separatism refers to the advocacy of a state of cultural, ethnic, tribal, religious, racial or gender separation from the larger group, often with demands for greater political autonomy and even for full political secession and the formation of a new state. Depending on their political situation and views, groups may refer to their organizing as independence, self-determination, partition or decolonization movements instead of, or in addition to, automatic, separatist or secession movements. While some critics may equate separatism and religious segregation, racial segregation or sexual segregation, separatists argue that separation by choice is not the same as government enforced segregation and serves useful purposes.

Motivations for separatism

Groups may have one or more motivations for separation, including:

1. Emotional resentment of rival communities

2. Justified resistance by victims of oppression, including denigration of their language,culture or religion

3. Propaganda by those who hope to gain politically from inter-group conflict and hatred

4. The economic and political dominance of one group that does not share power and privilege in an egalitarian fashion

5. Economic motivations of seeking to end economic exploitation by more powerful group or, conversely, to escape economic redistribution from a richer to a poorer group

6. Preservation of threatened religious, language or other cultural tradition

7. Destabilization from one separatist movement giving rise to others

8. Geopolitical power vacuum from breakup of larger states or empires

9. Continuing fragmentation as more and more states break up.

Governmental responses

How far separatist demands will go toward full independence, and whether groups pursue constitutional and nonviolent or armed violence, depend on a variety of economic, political and social factors, including movement leadership and the government’s response. Governments may respond in a number of ways, some of which are mutually exclusive. These may have little effect, satisfy separatist demands or even increase them.

1. Accede to separatist demands

2. Improve the circumstances of disadvantaged minorities, be they religious, linguistic, territorial, economic or political

3. Adopt “asymmetric federalism” where different states have different relations to the central government depending on separatist demands or considerations

4. Allow minorities to win in political disputes about which they feel strongly, through parliamentary voting, referendum, etc.

5. Settle for a confederation or a commonwealth relationship where there are only limited ties among states.

Types of separatist groups

Separatist groups practice a form of identity politics - “political activity and theorizing founded in the shared experiences of injustice of members of certain social groups.” Such groups believe attempts at integration with dominant groups compromise their identity and ability to pursue greater self-determination. However, economic and political factors usually are critical in creating strong separatist movements from less active identity movements.


Religious groups and sects believe they should interact primarily with co-religionists.

1.English Christians in the 16th and 17th centuries who wished to separate from the Church of England and form independent local churches were influential politically under Oliver Cromwell, who was himself a Separatist. They were eventually called Congregationalists. The Pilgrims who established the first successful colony in New England were separatists.

2. Zionism sought the creation of the state of Israel as a Jewish homeland.

3. Muslim groups may seek to separate from each other, especially the Sunni and Shiite sects in Iraq and Lebanon.

4. Russia, China, India and the Philippines have Muslim-separatist groups.

5. Some British Muslims seek to have Sharia law recognized in predominantly Muslim areas of Britain.

6. Indonesia currently has both Christian and Muslim separatist groups. Predominantly Christian East Timor separated from Indonesia in 2002.

7. Members of animist and Christian tribes in Sudan seek to separate from the Muslim-dominated government.

8. Some Sikhs in India sought an independent nation of Khalistan during the 1970s and 1980s. The Khalistan movement inside India largely ended with the Indian military Operation Blue Star against Sikh militants and the retaliatory assassination of the then Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi. However, some outside India still support such a movement


Ethnic separatism is based more on cultural and linguistic differences than religious or racial differences, which also may exist. Notable ethnic separatist movements include:

1. the Kurdish people whose lands and peoples were divided between Turkey, Syria, Iraq after World War. Also the Kurdish region in Iran.

2. Spain’s Basque, Catalan and Galician separatists.

3. France's Basque, Catalan, Corsican and Breton separatists,

4. the Soviet Union’s dissolution into its original ethnic groupings which formed their own nations of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia,Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.

5. Czechoslovakia’s split into ethnic Czech and Slovakian republics in 1993.

6. the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia dissolution into ethnic (and religious) based Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia,Slovenia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo.

7. Belgium granting Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia greater autonomy.

8. Switzerland’s division into cantons along geographical, religious and linguistic lines.

9. French-speaking Quebec debating and voting on separation from Canada over several decades.

10. Africa’s hundreds of ethnic groups are subsumed into 53 nation states, often leading to ethnic conflict and separatism, including in Angola, Algeria, Burundi, Congo and The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

11.the Nigerian civil war (also known as the Biafran war) during the 1960s among Igbos, Hausa-Fulani and Yoruba; today’s ethnic and oil-related conflict in the Niger Delta of Nigeria.

12.conflicts in Liberia between African-Liberians and Americo-Liberians, Africans who immigrated from the Americas after being freed from slavery.

13. conflicts between Zulus and Xhosa in South Africa during and after apartheid.

14. Boer-Afrikaner separatists.

15. the 1994 Hutu campaign of genocide against minority Tutsis in Rwanda.

16. Indian and Pakistani ethnic and linguistic groups seeking greater autonomy.

17. China’s Han majority dominance, including immigration into previously independent Tibet, Xinjiang or Uygur regions leading to renewed separatist efforts in those regions.

18. Serbia's ethnic Albanian minority separatism in Kosovo.

19. Alemannic Separatism

20. Separatism in Silesia

21. South Ossetia separatism in Georgia.

22. Rio Grande do Sul's separatism in Brazil

23. The Tamils of Sri Lanka who seek a separate state from that of the Sinhala Buddhists, who have dominated the minorities since Independence from the British since 1948.


Some groups seek to separate from others along racialist lines. They oppose inter-marriage with other races and seek separate schools, businesses, churches and other institutions or even separate societies, territories and governments.

1. Black separatism (or black nationalism) is a reaction to slavery in the United states and has been advanced by black leaders like Marcus Garvey and the Nation of Islam. Critical race theorists like New York University's Derrick Bell and University of Colorado's Richard Delgado argue the American legal, education and political party systems are rife with racism. They support efforts like all-black schools and dorms and question the efficacy of government-enforced integration.[24] In 2008 statements by Barack Obama’s former pastor Jeremiah Wright, Jr. revived the issue of the current relevance of black separatism.

2. Latino separatism, as embodied in the Chicano Movement (or Chicano nation) in the United States sought to recreate Aztlán, the mythical homeland of the Aztecs comprising the Southwestern United States which is home to the majority of Mexican Americans. They drew on theLatin American concepts of racial identity such as the bronze race and La Raza Cósmica. Today a small Raza Unida Party continues with similar goals. The Mexica Movement calls for an ouster of all white Anglo and European Americans from North America.

3. White separatism in the United States and Western Europe seeks separation and survival of the white race and limits to immigration by non-whites. Most separatists now reject any ideology of white supremacy, though most still are demonized by advocacy groups.

4. Native American separatism is advocated by some members of the Canadian First Nations, American Indian Movement, Republic of Lakotah (Lakota Sioux people in South Dakota), the Navajo or "Na-Dene" Nationalists in Arizona, tribal groups in Eastern Oklahoma.

5. Other political groups and social organizations promoted many kinds of ethnic, religious and cultural separatism in the Jewish-, Muslim- and Asian-American communities, such as the Black Muslims, the Jewish Defense League and east Asian gangs on the West Coast.


Separatist feminism is women’s choosing to separate from male-defined, male-dominated institutions, relationships, roles and activities. Lesbian separatism advocates lesbianism as the logical result of feminism. Some separatist feminists and lesbian separatists have chosen to live apart in intentional community, cooperatives and on land trusts

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