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Self determination, Yugoslavia Czechoslovakia - Essay Example

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It is ironic that countries which once relied upon principles of national self-determination in order to create and sustain unitary nation-states following the First World War later relied upon the same precepts in fragmenting these unitary nation-states into separate states…
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Self determination, Yugoslavia Czechoslovakia
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Download file to see previous pages That these unitary states would be destroyed following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the Soviet Union was perhaps not as important as the manner by which these nation-states disintegrated. The process in Yugoslavia was extraordinarily violent, and notions of national self-determination and territorial sovereignty led to substantial conflict and bloodshed; on the other hand, the process of state disintegration in Czechoslovakia was much more moderate and civil, leading one commentator to characterize this period of Czech history as the period of the "Velvet Revolution to the Velvet Divorce" (Bakke, 2002: 92). This essay will argue that these differences were the result of different approaches to minority rights, different demographic realities which made a more peaceful secession much more difficult in Yugoslavia, and certain ingrained philosophies regarding the legitimacy of national self-determination.
As a preliminary matter, before examining how Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia viewed secession, it is necessary to examine the common understanding of the terms used. The fundamental problem, as noted by Bakke, is that "The principle of national self-determination is as ambiguous as the nation concept itself. ...
This ambiguity is particularly illustrative in the instant case; it is illustrative because some people view national self-determination as a civic nation encompassing a variety of ethnic and cultural groups whereas other people have interpreted national self-determination as the right of groups with distinct cultural and ethnic characteristics to have their own autonomous state. As history has demonstrated, the Czech people generally subscribed to the civic notion before relenting and recognizing the cultural and ethnic aspects of national self-determination; Yugoslavia, on the other hand, was torn by a stubborn Serbian adherence to the Roman natio interpretation. The Serbians held steadfast to the civic notion, demanding the preservation of the multiethnic unitary state, whereas Croatia and other regions relied on the cultural ethnic interpretation of national self-determination. A reconciliation of these ambiguous interpretations was resolved peacefully in Czechoslovakia, but unreconciled in Yugoslavia.
One simply cannot engage in a comparative analysis of these two formerly unitary nation-states without understanding the role which ethnicity played. Following the First World War and decolonization, national self-determination tended to represent freedom and political and economic independence; later, however, as these newly formed unitary states evolved, people with their own unique cultural and ethnic characteristics often sought to incorporate notions of cultural sovereignty and territorial integrity into their articulation of national self-determination. Indeed, as stated by Hannum,
Ethnic wars of secession highlight the inherent tension between "self-determination" and ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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