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dimanche, 23 mars 2014

Crimea’s Reunification with Russia and National Self-Determination Trends in Europe


Crimea’s Reunification with Russia and National Self-Determination Trends in Europe, Time for Peoples to Decide Their Own Fates

Dmitry MININ

Ex: http://www.strategic-culture.org

The Crimea’s return to Russia is a hot issue, but it’s not something absolutely extraordinary for Europe. Pretty soon the international community’s attention will switch over to other important and unexpected events related to the desire of peoples to implement their right to self-determination. 

As European history shows, the national states normally appear as a result of big wars: Germany and Italy were unified in the 70s of XIX century and new states emerged in the Balkans. As WWI and WWII ended, Europe has been facing vibrant events leading to the creation of new states and reshaping of borders. I thought that the period of 1989 -1992 was the time of the fourth wave of European map reshaping as the Cold War was over and a number of former socialist states dismembered. 23 states have appeared, or 24 entities if Kosovo is counted, in the place of Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia as of 1989. The whole Slav world actually has gone through a transition period leading to the emergence of national states. The number is 13 now, but the figure is believed to bring bad luck, something that makes experts believe one more addition to the count – a state of Carpathian Rusyns - would just hit the spot as this is the only Slav nation still destitute of statehood and national identification. 

A group of Western states led by the United States and other NATO members actually inspired the fourth wave using the energy of nationalism to weaken a geopolitical adversary. But once started, a chain reaction is hard to stop. It has not been extinguished during all these twenty years but was rather shouldering waiting for the time to come. Back in history, a national partition used to happen after two-three generations, nowadays one generation is enough. Now the fifth wave of national identification is striking Europe and it is not necessarily linked to wars. Some peoples, especially in the West, continue to face the trends to partition, while others are in the process of unification, like in the case of Russia, for instance. Crimea is a more a left-over from the 1990s, and the main events are expected to take place soon not in the post-Soviet space, but rather in the «united» Europe. The Crimean referendum may influence the situation to some extent, but, in essence, it’ll be a backlash to the process launched by the West. These are the whims of Nemesis, the goddess of revenge. 

First of all, new tensions are getting high where national problems are still waiting for final solutions, or in the states of the Western Europe, and it is a heavy burden to be shouldered by Brussels. The risk of the use of force is high. Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina have been dreaming about a national entity - the Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia - or joining Croatia since the days of the war. Serbs still cherish plans for the Republic of Srpska to become independent or become part of Serbia. Bosnian Muslims have been staging social protests for a few months, it’s not about economy only, they also raise the issue of national identity. The regional Muslim movement for autonomy in the Sanjak situated between Montenegro and Serbia would like to unite with the people of the same religion living in the north to make Greater Bosnia emerge. 

Serbs in In Kosovo-Mitrovica are especially elated by the Crimea events. They intend to intensify the pressure on Belgrade to make it insist they stay out of Pristina control. The Albanians in western Macedonia proclaimed the foundation of the Republic of Illirida in 1990, now they want the status of federal entity. In Bulgaria the trend to claim the larger part of eastern Macedonia is on the rise. Bulgarians believe the land rightfully belongs to them. Romania sets its eyes on Moldavia. Inside Romania the Székely Hungarians have intensified their activities. Almost all of them have Hungarian passports and demand self-determination for a large part of Transylvania as the first step on the way of unification with motherland. Slovakia and Serbian Voevodina face the same problems with Hungarian population. Formally Poland unambiguously supports the Kiev government, but experts have already expressed the opinion that the time has come to return the eastern kresy (borderlands in western Ukraine which is a former territory of the eastern provinces of Poland) into Rzeczpospolita (Poland). 

In Western Europe separatism has two trends: non-recognition of existing borders (in Belgium, Spain, Great Britain, Italy, France, Denmark and Germany) and negative attitude towards the EU itself. The November 2012 survey held in the UK showed the majority (56%) say «no» to the European Union and would prefer to leave. Prime Minister David Cameron has already said it’s a cut-and dried decision to hold a referendum on the issue. Germany follows the trend: 49% respondents there said they would be better off without the EU. Adding the sinking Ukraine to the pile of EU burdens will obviously strengthen the trend. The introduction of large-scale sanctions against Russia will inevitably lead to the general deterioration of economic situation in Europe putting the EU on the brink of disintegration. Some scenarios envision Europe as a federal state comprising 75 national states. This vision belongs to Daniel Cohn-Bendit of Germany’s Green Party and Guy Verhofstadt, former Prime Minister of Belgium, an author of a popular manifest on federal Europe. 

Talking about individual states, the partition of Great Britain is seen as inevitable. Simon Thomas, a Welsh Plaid Cymru party politician, believes that the 2014 referendum in Scotland will become an icebreaker moving across all the parts of the UK. According to him, the promulgation of Scotland’s independence means the partition of Great Britain. He believes that Scotland is the best example. Still Northern Iceland and Wales are in for changes. Simon Thomas thinks that it would be better for Wales to stay in the united Europe in case it leaves the UK. Not much time is left till the referendum slated for September 18 takes place. Scotland is attentively following the events in Crimea. It would be relevant to ask why something allowed once should be forbidden in other cases? Is it that "Gods may do what cattle may not»?

Germany still remains one state due to the inertia of recent unification, but it may not be immune to partition in the long run. It consists of different parts with the dialects that differ more than Russian and Ukrainian languages, for instance. 

The trend is on the rise – those who live in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg don’t want to share with «hangers-on» from other, less prosperous, German lands. Wilfried Scharnagl, a high-standing member of the ruling Bavarian Christian Social Union party, has recently published his sensational book Freedom from Germany trying to wake up the Bavarian political establishment which has been surreptitiously dreaming about independence. 

In Italy the Northern League (Lega Nord) has been gaining strength since the 1960-70s cherishing dreams about separating from loafers, mafiosi and hedonists in the south by uniting into Padania, the land of hard working northerners. These kinds of ideas have become most popular as the crisis set in making the regions tighten their belts to increase aid to southern provinces deep in debt. Alto Adige (South Tyrol) is mainly populated by Austrians; it became part of Italy after WWII. The separatist trends there are on the rise. Venice has already launched a five-day referendum on splitting from Rome. The poll was organized by local activists and parties, who want a future state called Republic of Veneto. This would be reminiscent of the sovereign Venetian republic that existed for more than 1,000 years. 


In France, the voices calling for autonomy or even secession from Paris are heard louder in Corse, Alsace and Bretagne. 

In Spain Catalonia is demanding independence with Galicia and the Basque country ready to follow suit. A referendum in Catalonia is slated for November 4, no matter the central government in Madrid opposes the action. Barcelona has no intention to retreat. Here is a one more precedent relevant to the referendum just held in Crimea. 

 The attempts to keep Flanders and Wallonia together as parts of Belgium stymie, and Brussels, the European capital, risks remaining an entity with vaguely defined status. 

There are overseas forces that have fostered the separatist trends guided by the good old «rule and divide!» principle. Of course, the USA would like to see divided the West and the East of the continent. The separatist sentiments, limited by the West against the background of opposite trends picking up steam in the East, hardly meet the Washington’s goals. The US has failed to take into consideration just one thing. The peoples’ right to self-determination does not only presuppose a partition in case they don’t want to live together, but also unification if it meets the prevailing aspirations. Russia has overcome the negative trends emerged as a result of imposed disintegration and stepped on the different path of consolidation. That’s why the White House is so vibrant in its opposition to what is happening around Ukraine. The great strategic plan of «continents big game» is getting frustrated. As the history goes to show – Crimea is just the first step.