Much talk on similarities between Crimea and Kosovo. In fact, both the authorities of Crimea (in their unilateral declaration of independence) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (in his speech on Crimea’s annexation by Russia) mentioned the former Serbian province. However, the sequence of events brings Crimea closer to the Cyprus crisis between 1974 and 1983. In any case, from the point of view of international law a first lesson can be drawn from these developments: once again, having a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (and veto rights, subsequently) is perfect to justify one’s position. And Russia has it. Continue reading
Looking at maps and election results, being aware of geography, and taking a look at history allow us to capture multiple political and identity shades in any given country. This is what should have been done when analyzing recent developments in Ukraine since the start of Euromaidan protests, but I feel it has not been the case. Had that been done, a better understanding of the country’s many political and identity accents would have arisen, the west-east division oversimplification could have been avoided… and stupor as regards to events in Crimea might be lower.
Simplifying divisions… For weeks , if not months or even years, we have been hammered by the supposed fundamental division that Ukraine suffers: a Russian-speaking, Russophile eastern half, and a Ukrainian-speaker, pro-European (it would be more accurate to say “pro- EU”) western half. But that is a botched simplification: there is no clear boundary between one section and the other, however much maps be painted in two opposing, solid colors (one for the pro-European side, where Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yushchenko used to win elections during the 2000s, and another one for the pro-Russian side, where ousted President Viktor Yanukovych had the most votes). Those maps omit that, in many regions, the victory of either candidate could depend on 10 or 15 percentage points , not 40 or 50. Some examples do not fit the west-east clear cut divide theory: in regions where most people have Ukrainian as their mother tongue, Yanukovych was the winner; in regions located just on the border with Russia, Tymoshenko was the most voted candidate; and, vice versa, Ukrainian nationalist candidates did not enjoy great results in Transcarpathia, even though that region lies in westernmost Ukraine. Continue reading
(Background note: when looking at the map of the EU, it is quite evident that all the largest states have pro-autonomy and secessionist movements inside them. This especially true for Spain and the UK, but to a lesser extent also for France and Italy. But what about Germany and Poland? Is it true that Poland is an almost monoethnic country with no relevant non-state regional or national movements? In order to approach the issue, I prepared a report on that. This is the result, which I published on Nationalia news website. People from Poland told me that the report quite made an impact there, and a Silesian newspaper even translated it into Polish.)
Questioning the national unity of the Polish state tends rather to arouse fears related to the historical development of the country, especially to dark episodes like the partitions of Poland in the 18th century or, more recently, to the German and Soviet occupations.
Perhaps it is this background that explains the political and emotional impact that the emergence of an ever-growing Silesian nationalism over the past two decades has sparked in Poland. Just after the end of communism, some Silesians began to claim that Poland should recognize that non-Polish national identities exist within its borders. The impact of the Silesian demand made slowly its way, and in 2002 its first big realization arrived: 173,000 people declared Silesian nationality in the 2002 census. And this happened although Polish institutions hold that the Silesian nationality does not officially exist. Continue reading
An election to the Regional Council of Sardinia is scheduled to be held within a month, and it seems quite likely that the results will greatly differ from what has been common since 1999. From that year onwards, two very strong coalitions (Italian centre-right and Italian centre-left, with more or less regionalist flavour) have always fought for victory. At a very big distance, one or more pro-independence lists have tried to have a handful of members elected into th Sardinian Parliament. However, this time the scenario is set to be very different, unless opinion polls and analysts are absolutely wrong: writer Michela Murgia is very well placed to achieve remarkable success heading the three-legged coalition Possible Sardinia, made up of pro-independence Republic Project party (a splinter of a splinter: typical in Sardinia) and two independent lists. Sardinian media say that Murgia could shock everyone by winning the election of, at least, become the second largest coalition, only behind the centre-right.
A few days ago I finished up a small report on Libyan nation building for the online news website Nationalia. This is the full text, for which I briefly interviewed Catalan expert Maria-Àngels Roque and French journalist Maryline Dumas.
“Libya no longer exists as a country”, Russian expert in the North African country Yevgeny Satanoski said a few days ago to RT. Indeed, since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, there has been no central authority able to exercise one of the essential duties that any state is supposed to carry out: control its own territory. A clear proof of this is the current blockade of Cyrenaican ports by Ibrahim al-Jathran led militia. A rebel commander during the revolt against Gaddafi, Al-Jathran has proclaimed himself as a Cyrenaica autonomist leader and, now for months, has been blocking exports of Libyan oil from the ports of his region. He still refuses to reopen them.
Al-Jathran is just one more among a myriad of political and military actors who are now claiming the establishment of a decentralized Libya -or it might be better said that they are already managing it their way. One model that inspires some of them is the 1951 Constitution, adopted at the time of independence, which created a federal monarchy in which Libya’s three federal provinces (Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan) shared power with the central government. Distribution of oil revenues is currently a central element of the country’s political struggle: federalists reject total control of those revenues by central government, and ask instead that it be shared with the three provinces. Federalist demands are felt most strongly in Cyrenaica, where most oil reserves are found.
“All identities are legitimate in France, except for the national identity”. At this point, few doubt remains about the ability by Alain Finkielkraut (1949) to spark intense debates. The Parisian philosopher, enjoying some degree of media exposure, is inspiring new passions among the French with the release of L’identité malheureuse (‘The Unfortunate Identity’), a book written in a tone that is “more pamphlet-like than ever” and that “plays with fire”, as Jean Birnbaum has written in Le Monde. It is the fire of the debate o then French identity, the fire of a “noble debate”, as Nicolas Sarkozy put it in 2009.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has just finished collecting the date of its first post-war population census, which most likely will depict a quite different landscape -in terms of national identity- if compared to the last census that was held in the Balkan country. Reasons for this range from Bosnia’s independence impact in people’s minds to the effects of the 1992-1995 war -including ethnic cleansing of many regions, people who fled from the country and, of course, casualties. Continue reading
In an interview to Spanish newspaper El País, Honorary Director-General of the European Commission, Francesc Granell, has used the case of Somaliland as both an example of a failed state and a warning of what could happen to Catalonia if the country decides to declare independence. Five notes on the opportuneness (or not) of the comparison between both territories:
Linguist and occitanist Marçal Girbau was writing a few weeks ago an interesting article in VilaWeb on Aran Valley’s place in an eventual independent Catalonia. Some people would prefer to adjourn any important decision on the Catalan state until independence is declared. On the contrary, I consider that it is right to pose these questions now. To paraphrase Joan Fuster, it can be said that, at some point, either you make independence or it is made upon you.
Girbau said that “if we Catalans really believe the discourse of respect and Aranese self-government”, then the logical conclusion is that the would-be sovereign Catalan state should be “a confederation, with two associated states: Catalonia and Aran”. I believe this to be an appropriate approximation to the level of self-government that the Occitan-speaking valley should enjoy, bearing in mind that Aran has a thousand year old story of autonomy and own institutions. But, is a confederation the most suitable political architecture in this case? Continue reading
I am starting to discover a set of very interesting video lectures from the University of Kansas Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies (CREES). For all those of you who would like to learn a little bit more about such places as Kosovo, Central Asia, Poland, the Baltic Republics and so on, I am quite sure that you will find something that catches your attention if you go through the files that the people at CREES have uploaded to their Youtube channel.
As an example, one of the most recent available videos contains a lecture by Austin Charron on the issue of identity in Crimea. I have embedded the full video here -and I strongly recommend you to watch it, especially from minute 17 onwards- since it contains an original piece of work by Charron himself: a 2011 survey of almost 800 Crimeans (including Russians, Russian-speaking Ukrainians, Ukrainian-speaking Ukrainians and Tatars) about their identities and their political attitudes towards what Crimea’s political status should be. As an appetiser of the survey’s results, I will tell you that:
- The sense of attachment to Crimea is highly remarkable among all ethnic groups, so there is a strong regional identity that coexists with national identities.
- Ethnic Russians give importance to a Russian-Soviet-Russian narrative on Crimea.
- All ethnic groups want Crimea to remain an autonomous republic, but
- Almost half of ethnic Russians would like Crimea to join Russia as an autonomous republic.
- Remaining as an autonomous republic within Ukraine is more popular among ethnic Russians than joining Russia as a province.
- One third of Tatars would like Crimea to become an independent state.
More details inside. Enjoy!