Nations Without States

SELF-DETERMINATION RECONSIDERED

In the twentieth century, the great powers allocated territories and permitted the creation of new states on the basis of the Wilsonian principle of self-determination. They invoked ethnic principles for the equitable distribution of territories. The central element in this approach was the division of territories. Yet most of the national and ethnic conflicts that remain today cannot be settled by changing the boundaries of states to give each national community a state of its own.

States bent on extinguishing smoldering embers of ethnic strife without the traumatic surgery of secession must make it possible for restive nations to carry on their life free from alien rule. The principle of self-determination must be supplemented by a new scheme that is less territorial in character and more regional in scope. Such a "states-plus-nations" approach requires functional spaces and special functional zones across state boundaries, the creation of national home regimes in historical lands, the grant of a recognized status to national communities that have no state of their own, the design of unions between peoples, as distinct from territories, as well as an approach to issues of national identity and rights that differentiates between nationality and state citizenship. A states-plus-nations framework does not preclude territorial compromises; it widens the menu of options when territorial changes do not suffice or when they are altogether ruled out.

The map of the world in the twentieth century changed after every one of the three great conflicts, the two World Wars and the Cold War. Yet only on one occasion, at the end of the First World War, did the great powers make deliberate changes collectively. After the Second World War and the Cold War, the powers could do little to determine the shape of the peace. When World War II ended, they outlined at Yalta the Soviet Union’s spheres of influence. When the Cold War drew to a close, they did little to direct the tide of the nationalist and ethnic forces that remade the map of Eurasia from Germany to Kazakhstan. The powers are now confronted once more with national questions that threaten the peace. A new framework is required where Woodrow Wilson’s principles failed.

BEYOND THE TERRITORIAL APPROACH

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