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Stateless Nations
Human Geography: People and the Environment. Ed. K. Lee Lerner, Brenda Wilmoth Lerner, and Sonia Benson. Vol. 1. Detroit, MI: Gale, 2013. p330-333.
Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2013 Gale, Cengage Learning
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Page 330

Stateless Nations

Introduction

A stateless nation is any group that is generally considered to be entitled to have its own state as a nation, but is not formally recognized as a nation. Many minority ethnic groups and nationalities with various cultural and linguistic characteristics from around the world are considered to be stateless nations. People considered to be included within stateless nations are usually given specific political rights and privileges by the countries in which these groups reside. For instance, the Kurdish people, who reside in Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria, are considered by many to be members of a stateless nation.

Since many definitions of stateless nations exist and few criteria are included within such definitions, there is little agreement as to which groups of people are actually included within stateless nations. Other examples of groups of people considered to be within stateless nations

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Basque National Flag. Basque people carry the Ikurrina, the Basque National flag, during celebrations marking Aberri Eguna, the Basque peoples annual feast day in Hendaye, southwestern France. An ethnic group that resides

Basque National Flag. Basque people carry the Ikurrina, the Basque National flag, during celebrations marking Aberri Eguna, the Basque people's annual feast day in Hendaye, southwestern France. An ethnic group that resides generally within the area from the western end of the Pyrenees Mountains to scattered portions of north-central Spain and southwestern France, the Basque people live within four Spanish and three French provinces. The shirts in the photo read: “Independence.” © AP Images/Bob Edme

are the Basques (who reside primarily in southwestern France and north-central Spain), the Catalans (Spain), the Flemish (Belgium), the Zulu (South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Mozambique), the Palestinians (West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and Israel), and the Hmong (China, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand).

Historical Development

Some of the more prominent stateless nations in the world follow:

  • The Basques: An ethnic group that resides generally within the area from the western end of the Pyrenees Mountains (off the coast of the Bay of Biscay) to scattered portions of north-central Spain and southwestern France. Probably descended from the early inhabitants of Western Europe, the Basque people live within four Spanish and three French provinces, a region called Eskual Herria (Basque Country) in the Basque language. The Spanish part includes two main regions, the Autonomous Communities of the Basque Country (which includes the three provinces of Álava, Vizcaya, and Guipúzcoa) and the Chartered Community of Navarre. The French part includes one main region, the Northern Basque Country (which includes the three provinces of Labourd, Lower Navarre, and Soule). The Basque language is considered different from, and unrelated to, all other languages in the world. This, along with the unique Basque customs and traditions, sets the Basque people apart from their neighbors in Spain and France.

A stateless nation is any group that is generally considered to be entitled to have its own state as a nation, but is not formally recognized as a nation.

  • The Catalans: Also called the Catalonians, a group of people who have origins within northern Spain, specifically, in the northeast part of the Iberian Peninsula. Most Catalans live in the region called Catalonia, whose capital city is Barcelona. The region, which primarily comprises the historic Page 332  |  Top of ArticlePrincipality of Catalonia, borders Andorra and France to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the east, the Valencian Community to the south, and Aragon to the west. Catalonia, which is considered a nationality, consists of four provinces: Barcelona, Gerona, Lérida, and Tarragona. Catalonia covers an area of approximately 12,400 square miles (32,114 sq km) and has a population of about 7.5 million people.
  • The Flemish: The Flemish Region is one of three regions within the country of Belgium (the other two being the Walloon Region and the Brussels-Capital Region). Commonly called Flanders, the region consists of the northern part of Belgium, covering an area of approximately 5,220 square miles (13,522 sq km). The Flemish Region comprises five provinces: Antwerp, Limburg, East Flanders, Flemish Brabant, and West Flanders.
  • The Zulu: The largest ethnic group in South Africa, the Zulu live predominantly in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Smaller numbers also live in Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Mozambique. The Zulu people probably migrated to southern Africa along the continent's eastern coast around the ninth century CE, in what is known as the Bantu migrations. Over many centuries, the Zulu was one of the main clans in what is today the country of South Africa.
  • The Palestinians: These Arabic people are the descendants of people who lived in Palestine, the geographic area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, along with various other adjoining areas. Palestine is also known as the Land of Israel, Canaan, and Zion. Most Palestinians live in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and Israel. The Palestinian Territories, also called the Occupied Palestinian Territories, consist of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
  • The Hmong: This Asian ethnic group lives in the mountainous regions of China and Southeast Asia, primarily Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. Hmong people lived in China for at least 2,000 years before beginning to migrate southward in the eighteenth century due to repressive conditions from the Qing dynasty. At least 10 million Hmong live in southern China as of the early 2010s, and another two million in Southeast Asia. They are known as Miao in China and as Meo in Southeast Asia; however, both words negatively translate in the Hmong language as “barbarian” rather than the most positive translation from Hmong to “man.” After the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, Hmong refugees from Southeast Asia settled in Australia, Canada, France, and the United States.

Current Application

People of stateless nations continue to desire independence from that they consider repressive governments. Conflicts have erupted between the Basques and the countries of Spain and France for a long time. The Basque National Liberation Movement, a political and social organization that sought independence from the two countries, is at the forefront of this separatist movement that has at times used violent tactics. The Basque National Liberation Movement was led in the violence by a subgroup, called the Basque Homeland and Freedom (ETA), an abbreviation for the Basque term Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, founded in 1959. The violence continued over many decades, with thousands of people being killed, kidnapped, or injured due to armed conflicts, and even more having left the region due to the fighting. On October 20, 2011, the ETA announced it was stopping its violence against Spain and France, hoping to achieve Basque goals through the political system. However, sporadic fighting continued.

Around the late fifteenth century, the Catalans begant to lose control over their own affairs to the increasingly powerful Spanish monarchy. The Catalans continued to be subjected to autocratic kings and military leaders in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. By the eighteenth century, the king of Spain prohibited self-rule within Catalonia, eventually imposing martial law on the people. In 1931, the Catalans succeeded in their quest for autonomy, but by 1935 they had lost it again, when nationalist military leader Francisco Franco (1892–1975) came to power as dictator after the Spanish Civil War (1936–39). When Spain adopted a new constitution in 1978, its second article acknowledged the rights of nationalities and regions to govern themselves. Under this new constitution, Catalonia once again achieved its status as an autonomous community of Spain. Its government is responsible for the community's health, education, social services, and many other aspects of local goverment.

The Flemish Movement describes the political activities by the Flemish people during the twentieth century to gain greater independence and autonomy from Belgium, to acquire more social and cultural freedom within Flemish Region, and to preserve their language. The mainstay of the movement was the People's Union (called Volksunie), which gained prominence from 1954 to 2002. From then to the 2010s, several right-wing and moderate factions remained active within the Flemish Movement.

In the late nineteenth century, the British Empire sought control and dominance over southern Africa. The powerful Zulu Kingdom presented a major obstacle. The Zulu had earlier formed a powerful confederation of tribes, often called the Zulu Empire, in the region now known as Northern KwaZulu-Natal. In 1879, the British demanded that the Zulu king, Cetshwayo kaMpande (1826–1884), accept British authority and disarm his army. When the Zulu leader refused, the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 resulted. The British won the war, ending Page 333  |  Top of Articleindependence for the Zulu nation. In the twentieth century, British rule forced the Zulu into the poorest pieces of land in South Africa, naming it KwaZulu. Under the 1970 Bantu Homeland Citizenship Act, the Zulu people became citizens of KwaZulu and lost their citizenship in South Africa. KwaZulu ultimately became KwaZulu-Natal, a province of the Republic of South Africa.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) was created by the 1993 Oslo peace accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization to serve as a temporary elected body representing the stateless Palestinians in the occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank. The Oslo Accords set a goal of replacing the temporary PA with a sovereign Palestinian state, but two decades later no agreements had been reached between Israel and the Palestinians. Most of the countries of the world recognize the State of Palestine; however others, including the United States and Israel, do not. Since 2006, the Palestinian Authority has governed parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, though a conflict between Palestinian parties Hamas and Fatah resulted in civil war, splitting the Palestinians into two polities with separate governments in Gaza and the West Bank. Even during the split, the two factions of Palestinians continued to struggle for self-government and a nation of their own.

The Hmong people began a slow southward migration from southern China during the eighteenth century due to political unrest and economic and cultural reforms in China and to locate better lands for their subsistence lifestyle. Further problems in the nineteenth century led to more Hmong people leaving China for Southeast Asia. The Hmong Secret Army, a militant group, engaged in an ongoing, though sporadic, conflict with the Laotian government. Because of Hmong support of the United States during the Laotian Civil War (at the same time of the Vietnam War [1955–1975]), the Lao People's Army conflicted with members of the Hmong Secret Army. When the United States pulled out of Vietnam, the Hmong continued to fight against Laos, without U.S. support. Still somewhat active in the 2010s, the rebels continued to fight against what they see as a repressive communist Laotian government, one that is discriminating against the Hmong people due to their beliefs and culture. Many Hmong people, however, support the government of Laos.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Books

Blitz, Brad K., and Maureen Lynch, eds. Statelessness and Citizenship: A Comparative Study on the Benefits of Nationality. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2011.

Thomsen, Robert C. Nationalism in Stateless Nations: Selves and Others in Scotland and Newfoundland. New York: John Donald, 2010.

Urla, Jacqueline. Reclaiming Basque: Language, Nation, and Cultural Activism. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2012.

Web Sites

The African Guide. “Zulu.” http://www.africaguide.com/culture/tribes/zulu.htm (accessed July 5, 2012).

“The Basques Are Genetically Distinctive.” Discover Magazine, December 2011. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2011/12/the-basques-are-genetically-distinctive/ (accessed July 5, 2012).

“The Flemish Republic.” http://www.flemishrepublic.org/ (accessed July 5, 2012).

Glover, Julian. “Spain: Why Prosperous Catalans May Beat Rebellious Basques to the Exit.” Guardian, March 31, 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/apr/01/spain-catalonia-independence (accessed July 5, 2012).

“Hmong Culture.” http://www.hmongculture.net/home (accessed July 5, 2012).

“The Palestinian Authority—Fatah and Hamas Seek Unity Government.” New York Times. May 31, 2012. http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/organizations/p/palestinian_authority/index.html (accessed July 5, 2012).

William Arthur Atkins

Source Citation   (MLA 8th Edition) 
Atkins, William Arthur. "Stateless Nations." Human Geography: People and the Environment, edited by K. Lee Lerner, et al., vol. 1, Gale, 2013, pp. 330-333. Gale Virtual Reference Library, https%3A%2F%2Flink.gale.com%2Fapps%2Fdoc%2FCX2062300124%2FGVRL%3Fu%3Dsdccd_grossmont%26sid%3DGVRL%26xid%3D6d3d24e3. Accessed 21 Aug. 2019.

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX2062300124

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  • Africa
    • stateless nations
      • 1: 332-333
  • Basques
  • British colonialism
    • Zulus
      • 1: 332-333
  • Catalans
    • 1: 331-332
  • Cetshwayo kaMpande
    • 1: 332
  • China
    • stateless nations
      • 1: 332
      • 1: 333
  • Conflict
    • stateless nations
      • 1: 332
  • Flemish (people)
    • 1: 332
  • France
    • Basques
      • 1: 332
  • Hmong
    • 1: 332
    • 1: 333
  • Independence
    • stateless nations
      • 1: 332
  • KawZulu
    • 1: 333
  • Middle East
    • stateless nations
      • 1: 332
  • Palestine and Palestinians
    • stateless nations
      • 1: 332
  • Southeast Asia
    • stateless nations
      • 1: 332
      • 1: 333
  • Spain
    • Basques
      • 1: 331
    • stateless nations
      • 1: 331-332
  • Stateless nations
  • Violence
    • stateless nations
      • 1: 332
  • Zulus
    • 1: 332-333