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  1. Link the Writer

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Sep 24, 2009
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    Alabama, USA

    What makes a nation a nation?

    Discussion in 'Debate Room' started by Link the Writer, Sep 27, 2014.

    The gist of it all:
    There is a discussion in Historium (the history forum I'm on) that debates on whether or not the CSA could've conceivably have been considered a nation in and of itself during the American Civil War. We're not here to talk about that. What we're here to talk about is what do you think makes a nation (any nation)...a nation. From what I understand, this is what makes a nation a nation...

    + Has a government.
    + Has taxes and a way to circulate money.
    + Has clearly specified borders.
    + Has a standing military with which to defend from enemies.
    + Has trade with other nations.

    Yet there is a detail argued in that thread that I feel can be addressed here. Is a nation a nation if it fulfills the requirements listed above or does it have to be recognized by other countries? From what I understand, there are nations today that consider themselves nations despite the fact that the world at large do not recognize them as such. Also, there are such things as 'stateless people' in which they themselves, again, from what I understand, are bound together by cultural history and for all intents and purposes, they are basically a nation. They may not have a border and all that other stuff, but they consider themselves a single unity.

    Some people in that thread believe that unless a 'nation' is recognized by other nations as a nation, it's not a nation. Look at the 'trade' for instance. Can a nation trade with others if the others don't see them as a nation? Others believe the opposite. That as long as a nation can provide the five qualifications of a nation, it's a nation regardless of who says.

    What are your thoughts? I'm in between, to be honest. I lean toward 'unless they're recognized, they aren't' yet I'm willing to let it be so if the people themselves really want to be considered a nation despite not being recognized by the other nations as...a nation.
  2. Nilfiry

    Nilfiry Senior Member

    Aug 4, 2008
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    Eternal Stream
    A group of people with common goals or interests occupying a particular location. That is all it really is, even by definition. A nation does not need tax and money, a military, trades with other nation, or specific boundaries. In my opinion, any other definitions are pretty much just filters for keeping unwanted nations away. It is no different from an elitist group coming out with a list of requirements for the kind of nations that they will allow into their group. Is a nation not a nation even if it is not officially recognized by the UN?
  3. thirdwind

    thirdwind Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Jul 17, 2008
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    For me, it all starts with the relationship between the people and the government. There needs to be some sort of contract or agreement so that a person can call himself/herself a citizen of that nation. This contract would need to spell out the responsibilities of everyone involved (including minorities). Next, a nation must have claim to some land. This is closely related to your question about being recognized by other nations. If other nations recognize a nation's claim to a certain piece of land, that's a good sign (of course, a lot of complications can come up here, but let's just assume the best case scenario).

    Another important aspect is that the citizens of a particular nation have something common with each other (i.e., culture, linguistics, etc.). Historically, this was how nations were formed. Even today, the contracts (i.e., constitution) of most countries use these concepts as their foundation (that's why we have such a thing as national languages).

    I think this is pretty much it.
  4. Christopher Snape.

    Christopher Snape. Member

    Jul 28, 2012
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    South Australia.
    Definitely agree on the established borders and cultural history. One cannot listen to more than ten seconds of nationalist rhetoric without hearing complaints about immigrants crossing boundaries and cultural traditions being ignored by the new generation.
  5. jazzabel

    jazzabel Agent Provocateur Contributor

    Jan 5, 2012
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    Good luck with those criteria if you go down to the Balkans :D. I think there are many ways of defining a nation, but certainly borders and government aren't prerequisites. There are nations like say German nation, after Bismarck united the regions, he gave them a new national identity, and it took a while before people embraced it (similar with France and Italy) but now, Germans are quite comfortable to consider themselves German rather than Prussians etc. and as Germans they satisfy the above criteria. USA is similar, as are all reasonably new countries. But go into older parts of Europe and Middle East, and you'll find nations that have been dispersed through geopolitical changes that prevail despite precarious position and even lack of political freedom and land to call their own.

    Jews, for example, haven't had their borders or a country for centuries, and they are quite simply, all still members of the Jewish nation. Ok, Judaism is a religion as well, so it could be seen as the uniting factor, but then look at my people, the Serbs. They had their own empire in the 12th and 13th centuries, kingdoms before and after that, then the Ottomans came, so Serbs moved around, became parts of other local empires, then fought for freedom and won it, multiple times, then shared the country with other South Slavs (Yugoslavia, for better or for worse), now they are back to having Serbia. Montenegro is an old Serbian province, the language that's spoken is Serbian dialect, and in it live majority Serbs but also Albanians, Croatians and others. Through political upheavals of the 1990s now we have the 'nation of Montenegrins, new suggestions to re-brand the language as 'Montenegrin' etc. All one nation, for over thousand years, borders or government never changed that, until they did.

    So I believe for a nation to be recognised, it needs to have authentic historical evidence of having been recognised in the past. Oppressive regimes throughout history used ruthless techniques to 'convert' people in occupied territories into new nationalities and religions (just look at Africa, Pakistan vs India etc). In Yugoslavia, a new nationality was created in 1974. Constitution called 'Muslimani' (Muslims) to give new nationality to the Serbs and Croats who converted to Islam during the Ottoman rule, and for generations strived to divorce themselves from their own roots. Truthfully, they had their own unique culture by the end of 20th century and it was logical to all of us when that happened. However, what followed 20 years later puts creation of new nations into perspective.

    So the concept of a 'nation' can be deeply politicised, and criteria for defining one vary as much on the whim of the current times as it does on context, religion, history and culture. I think common culture and history make a nation more than the DNA. This is why in conquests and occupations, churches are burnt down, graveyards desecrated, statues defaced, history re-written, because the best way to compromise any nation, is to eradicate its cultural treasures.
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2014
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  6. MainerMikeBrown

    MainerMikeBrown Senior Member

    Aug 15, 2011
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    Citizens of different cultural backgrounds coming together as one can make a nation strong.

    For example, I know one man who doesn't want to be known as an African-American. Instead, he wants to simply be known as an American. And he feels that all Americans, black, white, Hispanic, etc. should just call themselves Americans.

    That is one example of what makes a nation strong.
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