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A stateless nation is an ethnic group or nation that does not possess its own state and is not the majority population in any nation state. The term "stateless" implies that the group "should have" such a state. Members of stateless nations may be citizens of the country in which they live, or they may be denied citizenship by that country. Stateless nations are usually not represented in international sports or in international organisations such as the United Nations. Nations without state are classified as fourth-world nations. Some of the stateless nations have a history of statehood, some were always a stateless nation, dominated by another nation.
The term was coined in 1983 by political scientist Jacques Leruez in his book L'Écosse, une nation sans État about the peculiar position of Scotland within the British state. It was later adopted and popularized by Scottish scholars such as David McCrone, Michael Keating and T. M. Devine.
Stateless nations either are dispersed across a number of states (for example, the Yoruba people are found in the African states of Nigeria, Benin and Togo) or form the native population of a province within a larger state (such as the Uyghur people in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region within the People's Republic of China). Some stateless nations historically had a state, which was absorbed by another; for example, Tibet's declaration of independence in 1913 was not recognized, and it was invaded in 1951 by the People's Republic of China which claims that Tibet is an integral part of China, while the Tibetan government-in-exile maintains that Tibet is an independent state under an unlawful occupation. Some ethnic groups were once a stateless nation that later became a nation state (for example, the nations of the Balkans such as the Croats, Serbs, Bosniaks, Slovenes, Montenegrins and Macedonians were once part of a multinational state of Yugoslavia; since the breakup of Yugoslavia many nation states were formed).
Stateless nations can have large populations; for example the Kurds have an estimated population of over 30 million people, which make them one of the largest stateless nations. Multiple stateless nations can reside in the same geographical region or country; for example, Cantabrians, Bercians, Catalans, Canarians, Castillians, Basques, Aragonese, Galicians, Asturians, Valencians and Andalusians within Spanish State, or the Brahui, Rohingya, Assamese, Santhals, Maithils and Balochs in South Asia. However, not all peoples within multi-cultural states have the same awareness of being a stateless nation. In Spain, only Basques and Catalans have claimed their right of self-determination, which in the Basque country gave rise to the militant movement ETA, and in the case of Catalonia, has led to multiple attempts to secede from Spain during the past four centuries, as an independent Catalan Republic.
As not all states are nation states, there are ethnic groups who live in multinational states without being considered "stateless nations".
Nation-states and nations without states
The symbiotic relationship between nations and states arose in early modern Western Europe (18th century) and it was exported to the rest of the world through colonial rule. Whereas the Western European nation-states are at present relinquishing some of their powers to the European Union, many of the former colonies are now the zealous defenders of the concept of national-statehood.
Only a small fraction of the world's national groups have associated nation-states. The proportion was estimated to be 3 percent by Minahan. The rest are distributed in one or more states. Of the 192 member states of the United Nations in 2006, fewer than 20 are nation-states. Thus nation-states are not as common as often assumed, and stateless nations are the overwhelming majority of nations in the world.
Consequences of colonialism and imperialism
During the imperial and colonial era, powerful nations extended their influence outside their homeland and this resulted in many colonized nations ceasing to be self-governing and have since been described as stateless nations. Some nations have been victims of "carve out" and their homeland was divided among several countries. Even today the colonial boundaries form modern national boundaries. These often differ from cultural boundaries. This results in situations where people of the same language or culture are divided by national borders, for example New Guinea splits as West Papua (former Dutch colony) and Papua New Guinea (former British colony). During decolonization, the colonial powers imposed a unified state structure irrespective of the ethnic differences and granted independence to their colonies as a multinational state. This led to successor states with many minority ethnic groups in them, which increased the potential for ethnic conflicts. Some of these minority groups campaigned for self-determination. Stateless nations were not protected in all countries and become victims of atrocities such as discrimination, ethnic cleansing, genocide, forced assimilation, Exploitation of labour and natural resources.
Nationalism and stateless nations
People with a common origin, history, language, culture, customs or religion can turn into a nation by awakening of national consciousness. A nation can exist without a state, as is exemplified by the stateless nations. Citizenship is not always the nationality of a person. In a multinational state different national identities can coexist or compete: for example, in Britain both English nationalism and Scottish nationalism exist and are held together by British nationalism. Nationalism is often connected to separatism, because a nation achieves completeness through its independence.
Throughout history, numerous nations declared their independence, but not all succeeded in establishing a state. Even today, there are active autonomy and independence movements around the world. The claim of the stateless nations to self-determination is often denied due to geopolitical interests and increasing globalization of the world. Stateless nations sometimes show solidarity with other stateless nations and maintain diplomatic relations.
Not all peoples claim that they are nations or aspire to be states. Some see themselves as part of the multinational state and they believe that their interests are well represented in it. This is also associated with Pan-nationalism (Indian nationalism or Chinese nationalism).
Claims of stateless nations
The following is a list of stateless nations that meet these criteria:
- has no sovereign state of its own.
- does not form a majority in any sovereign state.
- one or more autonomist or secessionist movements are known to exist.
- not recognized by any UN members as a state (see also: partially recognized state).
- not a subgroup of a nation (Bengali Hindus, Mexican American).
- Ethnic nationalism
- European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages
- Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
- List of active autonomist and secessionist movements
- List of federally recognized tribes
- List of First Nations peoples
- List of unrecognized tribes in the United States
- Multinational state
- Non-FIFA international football
- Stateless person
- Stateless society
- Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization
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