Separatism is the advocacy of cultural, ethnic, tribal, religious, racial, governmental or gender separation from the larger group. As with secession, separatism conventionally refers to full political separation. Groups simply seeking greater autonomy are not separatist as such. Some critics equate separatism with religious segregation, racial segregation, or sex segregation, but most separatists argue that separation by choice may serve useful purposes and is not the same as government-enforced segregation. There is some academic debate about this definition, and in particular how it relates to secessionism, as has been discussed online.
Separatist groups practice a form of identity politics, or political activity and theorizing founded in the shared experiences of the group's members. 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 as opposed to less ambitious identity movements.
Groups may have one or more motivations for separation, including:
- Emotional resentment and hatred of rival communities.
- Protection from genocide and ethnic cleansing.
- Resistance by victims of oppression, including denigration of their language, culture or religion.
- Influence and propaganda by those inside and outside the region who hope to gain politically from intergroup conflict and hatred.
- Economic and political dominance of one group that does not share power and privilege in an egalitarian fashion.
- Economic motivations: seeking to end economic exploitation by more powerful group or, conversely, to escape economic redistribution from a richer to a poorer group.
- Preservation of threatened religious, language or other cultural tradition.
- Destabilization from one separatist movement giving rise to others.
- Geopolitical power vacuum from breakup of larger states or empires.
- Continuing fragmentation as more and more states break up.
- Feeling that the perceived nation was added to the larger state by illegitimate means.
- The perception that the state can no longer support one's own group or has betrayed their interests.
- Opposition to political decisions.
How far separatist demands will go toward full independence, and whether groups pursue constitutional and nonviolent action or armed violence, depend on a variety of economic, political, social and cultural factors, including movement leadership and the government's response. Governments may respond in a number of ways, some of which are mutually exclusive. Some include:
- accede to separatist demands
- improve the circumstances of disadvantaged minorities, be they religious, linguistic, territorial, economic or political
- adopt "asymmetric federalism" where different states have different relations to the central government depending on separatist demands or considerations
- Allow minorities to win in political disputes about which they feel strongly, through parliamentary voting, referendum, etc.
- Settle for a confederation or a commonwealth relationship where there are only limited ties among states.
Most governments suppress any separatist movement in their own country, but support separatism in other countries.
Ethnic separatism is based more on cultural and linguistic differences than religious or racial differences, which also may exist. Ethnic separatist movements include the following:
Mural for Catalan independence in Belfast
- Sorbs separatism in Germany (Lusatia).
- Silesian separatism in Poland and Czech Republic.
- Basque and Catalan separatism in Spain. Minor separatist movements in Andalusia, Asturias, Balearic Islands, Canary Islands, Castile (almost non-existent), Galicia, León, Navarre and Valencia (see nationalisms and regionalisms of Spain).
- "Celtic nations" in the British Isles have created various separatist movements from the United Kingdom described as Scottish independence, Welsh Nationalism, Irish Republicanism and Cornish Nationalism.
- France's Basque, Catalan, Corsican, Breton, Occitan and Savoyan separatists.
- Italy's separatist movements in Friuli, Sardinia, Sicily, South Tyrol and Veneto.
- Bavarian separatism in Germany, despite the Bavarian Land being referred to as the Bavarian Free State.
- Belgium granting Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia greater autonomy.
- In the Netherlands, some Frisians covet an autonomous country or area (see Fryske Beweging on the West Frisian Wikipedia).
- Switzerland's division into cantons along geographical, religious and linguistic lines.
- Future of Åland separatist political party in the Åland.
- Chechen separatism in the Caucasus, currently the Republic of Chechnya is part of the Russian Federation (Russian rule).
- Russian separatism in Crimea (Annexation of Crimea)
- Serb separatism in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Republika Srpska) and Kosovo (North Kosovo).
- Albanian separatism in Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Serbia
- Greeks (Northern Epirotes) separatism in Northern Epirus region of Albania.
- 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.
- Turkish separatism in Cyprus (Northern Cyprus).
- South Ossetian and Abkhazian separatism in Georgia.
- Armenian separatists of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan
- Kurdish separatism in Turkey, Syria, Iraq
- Separatist movements of Pakistan including Balochistan movement and the Sindhudesh movement.
- Separatist movements of India Jammu and Kashmir
- Assam separatist movements
- Insurgency in Northeast India
- Sri Lanka's ethnic Tamil minority separatism in Tamil Eelam.
- Several ethnic minority groups fighting for separate states in Myanmar (Burma), including the Chin, Kachin, Karen, Rakhine, Rohingya, Shan, and the Wa.
- Ethnic Malay separatism in Thailand.
- Tibet has a government in exile established by the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet.
- Uyghurs have a government in exile advocating for the "restoration of East Turkistan's independence, the East Turkistan Government in Exile does not consider themselves as "separatists" because they believe that, "you can't separate from something you don't belong to."
- Africa's hundreds of ethnic groups are subsumed into 54 nation states, often leading to ethnic conflict and separatism, including in Angola, Algeria, Burundi, the Caprivi Strip in Namibia, Congo and The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Darfur in Sudan, Ethiopia, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda, Western Sahara and Zimbabwe.
- The Biafran War in the 1960s among Igbos, Hausa-Fulani and Yoruba; today's ethnic and oil-related conflict in the Niger Delta of Nigeria.
- Conflicts in Liberia between African-Liberians and Americo-Liberians, people of African descent who immigrated from the Americas after being freed from slavery.
- Boere-Afrikaners separatists.
- The Tuareg separatists in Niger and Mali.
- Anjouan's separatism in the Union of Comoros as the island is a separate community from that of Comoros.
The examples and perspective in this section deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject
. (August 2011)
Some separatist groups seek to separate from others along racial lines. They oppose interracial marriage and integration with other races and seek separate schools, businesses, churches and other institutions; and often separate societies, territories, countries, and governments.
Territories considered for "Aztlán"
protesting against the Indian government
Religious separatist groups and sects want to withdraw from some larger religious groups and/or believe they should interact primarily with coreligionists.
- 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.
- Christian separatist groups in Indonesia, India and South Carolina (United States).
- Zionism sought the creation of the State of Israel as a Jewish homeland, with separation from gentile Palestinians. Simon Dubnow, who had mixed feelings toward Zionism, formulated Jewish Autonomism, which was adopted in eastern Europe by Jewish political parties such as the Bund and his own Folkspartei before World War II. Zionism can also be seen as somewhat ethnic too, however, as its definition of who is Jewish has often included people of Jewish background who do not practice the Jewish religion. It is further complicated as some who had ancestors who converted to Judaism, such as some Ethiopian Jews, may not share ethnic history with the Jews, however, are considered to be so but not without debate.
- The Partition of India and (later Pakistan and Bangladesh) arose as a result of separatism on the part of Muslims.
- Sikhs in India sought an independent nation of Khalistan after an agitation in the 1970s and 1980s for implementation of the Anandpur Sahib Resolution (demanding things such as a greater share of river water and autonomy for Punjab) resulted in the storming of the Harimandir Sahib (Golden Temple) by the Government of India troops in 1984. The storming of the temple to flush out Sikh Militants who were gaining momentum in their agitation for greater autonomy for Punjab resulted in Sikhs demanding an independent state for the Sikhs situated in Punjab Khalistan movement. The conflict escalated and led to an assassination of the Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi as a retaliation of an Indian military operation called 'Operation Blue Star' directed against the Sikhs' holiest shrine, the Golden Temple, in which many innocent Sikh civilians too lost their lives. The revenge murder of Gandhi evoked a Congress Party led backlash in the form of the Sikh genocide, which started in New Delhi and swept India in November 1984. That only further strengthened the Khalistan Movement, but it was largely subdued owing to the efforts of the police in Punjab. The controversial response by the Punjab State reportedly involved the use of human rights violations in the form of unexplained disappearances, faked encounters killings, rape and torture. However, many in the Sikh diaspora in the West and even Sikhs in India, still support the idea of Khalistan, but support is dying and generally the Indian Sikh population is patriotic towards India or at least not supportive of the idea of Khalistan.
- Muslim separatist groups in the Philippines (Mindanao and other regions: Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Abu Sayyaf), in Thailand (see also South Thailand insurgency), in India (see also Insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir), in the People's Republic of China (Xinjiang: East Turkestan Islamic Movement), Tanzania (Zanzibarian separatist movements), in the Central African Republic (Regions that are inhabited by Muslims: Séléka), in Russia (in the Northern Caucasus, especially in Chechnya: Caucasus Emirate), in Yugoslavia (Bosnia and Herzegovina: Alija Izetbegovic espoused an Islamic inspired separatism)
Geographic and socioeconomic separatism
Gender and sexist separatism
The relationship between gender and separatism is complex and warrants more research. Separatist feminism is women's choosing to separate from ostensibly 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. Queer nationalism (or "Gay separatism") seeks a community distinct and separate from other social groups.
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