Monday, January 31, 2011

What Makes a Country and What Keeps it Together?


  What does it take to make a country last? On one side of the Aisle, you have France, Italy and Germany, which are all composed of regions with distinct identities and in some cases distinct languages. France has Alsatian, Provencal, Breton and Corsican, to name a few local languages. Italy has Piedmontese, Sicilian, Sardinian and Barese, to name a few. Germany has Bavarian and Plattdeutsch, and even a Slavic language known as Sorbian.Switzerland goes further than any country in making its very diversity the core of its identity.

In all of these countries, there is a firm commitment to remaining one country, despite strong regional identities and loyalties.

On the other side of the aisle are Yugoslavia, which had an explosive divorce, and Czechoslovakia, which had such a civilised breakup that it was more like an Ingmar Bergman movie. Like many civilised divorces, one was left wondering why they couldn't have put the same effort into staying together as they did into breaking up.

It was almost understandable why the USSR broke up. You had seething local resentments at being eclipsed culturally and economically by Russia. The Baltic nations were forced to join the USSR. And the Ukraine had the bitter memories of the forced famine of 1932-33.

So why do some nations break up and others stay together. Yugoslavia was more a state of mind than anything else at the end of World War I when it was founded. Slovenia and Croatia were loyal to teh Roman Catholic Church. Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro were more Eastern Orthodox. Then there was, of course the Muslims, who generally practiced a very assimilated and Western form of Islam. Maybe Yugoslavia was built on too many ethnic and political fault lines.Perhaps it took an emperor or a strong man like Tito to pull them all together.

Countries like Iraq, Syria and Lebanon owe their borders to colonialism. After independence, Kurds Arabs and Assyrians in Iraq ask themselves what they really have in common. Iran has Turkmen, Arab, Baluchi and other minorities who together make up about half of Iran's population. What will keep Iran together. Will it be a dictator or will they need an enemy like the US or Israel?

The US has various competing historical narratives. The north and the south, black and white, English speakers and Spanish speakers all have had different experiences in America and therefore different historical narratives. What will it take to keep us together as a nation.

A great deal went into forming the different pieces in the map of the world. countries that we see on the map as one colour actually incorporate a great deal of diversity. What brings these nations together and what keeps them that way?

The following are Catalonian and Basque anthems. The last song is a patriotic song recorded by the Corsican Liberation Front

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