Daniel Skobla
Nation states, ethnic minorities, and human rights.

Some conceptions and misconceptions criticized

Abstract: This paper formulates both general theoretical questions with a conceptualization of ethnicity and empirical implications for ethnic groups' cohabitation. On a theoretical level, the author suggests to surmount misconceptualizations shaped by modernity projects by calling for a much more "constructivist" definition of ethnicity. He also proposes to disregard the sharp individual/collective rights dichotomy by employing an eclectic application of those concepts. On the level of a practical ethnicities policy, the author suggests to entail a multileveled structure of group neutral and group sensitive considerations. He calls for preserving territorial unity of  a nation state and, at the same time, for pursuing a normative goal of equality among ethnic groups and the majority nation. The outcome should be ethnic integration that transforms demarcation line between the ethnic minority and nation state into the triadic structure: unity-difference-equality.

I cannot but agree with the author who noted that "the problem of nationhood, nationalism, and ethnic minorities in post-communist Europe has emerged with an unexpected and unpredictable virulence" (Schopflin 1996:151). Even those countries, which in the 1990s avoided the atrocities of ethnic wars, regard the question of cohabitation among various ethnic communities as having a high place in the political agenda. I argue that there is a certain theoretical confusion about the concepts of ethnicity, nationality, individual and collective rights. These misconceptions result from the obsolescence of certain categories of positivist social science and from some contradictions embedded in the doctrine of liberalism within whose intentions these notions have been originally formulated. I claim that these conceptual mistakes devoid us of an analytical advantage bringing about an inadequate "ethnicities discourse" that does not grasp the present reality. Consequently, inapt "ethnic policies" resulting from this discourse are offered by nation-states throughout Central and Eastern Europe.

In this paper I shall both elaborate a general theoretical framework and outline particular suggestions for ethnic groups' cohabitation and their relation a nation-state. First, I shall tackle theoretical problems connected with the definition of ethnic minority. I argue that the prevailing understanding of nation and ethnicity that find its expression in nation-states' internal politics, international relations, and most of 'national' and international declarations and documents is an "objectivistic" understanding. It takes into account "evident" criteria such as language, religion, history, culture or common fate. However, I insist it is a normative decision to give exactly those factors relevance. Thus in order to define an ethnic group, one has to make the decision, which of the factors should be the defining common characteristic. Ethnicity is a socially constructed category and not a set of empirical characteristics people have in common to constitute an ethnic group. Moreover, ethnic identities are not fixed classifications. There are multiple identities and there are also 'situational' identities; there are also situations when ethnic identity, or the requirement to self-identify according to a principle of ethnicity, is a completely new normative program.

Second, I shall try to place the issue of ethnic minorities into a context of the "individual versus collective rights" discussion. There is a widely shared belief that an ethnic group can enjoy any political rights related to community's 'self-expression' as based on two clearly cut theoretical possibilities - individual or collective rights. This belief has roots in ideology of liberalism and its concept of human rights. But there are some problems with the concept. I hold that there is an internal tension in the notion of human rights since it contains two contradictory ideas. First one maintains that human rights are universal rights and the claim for them transcends cultural particularities, group interests and delineated borders and jurisdiction of nation-states. The second idea pertains to distinct groups of people or communities, which are seen as eligible for some specific rights in order to counterbalance negative sanctions or discrimination from the side of the majority society.

What we see in "ethnicities policy" in the 1990s in Eastern and Central Europe (and in Slovakia) is a "preoccupation with legalism". This word combination, which I have concocted, refers to arguing and looking for the model solutions, the European 'standard' and "ideal type" of an (inter-) national legal framework. But it brings problems, since there is no European 'standard' and since implementation even of the best legal documents always depends on a particular context. By then I shall seek to summarize my theoretical assumptions, hypotheses and empirical findings. Based on this I shall draw a tentative conclusion and suggest some political/institutional solution.

What is an ethnic minority?

Some authors suggest distinguishing nations from ethnic categories because of their relationship to a modern state (Eriksen 1993). I understand the distinction between 'ethnicity' and 'nationality' to be irrelevant for further considerations. I hold that there is no reason for distinguishing between ethnic groups and nations since "the difference appears to be one of size not of structural composition or functioning" (Lewis 1985:358). I claim that the most common form of understanding of ethnicity and ethnic group is the "objectivist" understanding. It takes into account evident criteria such as language, religion, history, culture or common fate. Religion, language or complexion is indeed 'objective' and even a 'natural' factor in itself. But first and foremost, it is a normative decision to give exactly those factor relevance. Thus, in order to define nation or ethnicity by so-called objective identifications, one has to make the decision that one of the factors should be the common characteristic to be found in a certain amount of people. And in this sense, he/she is creating an abstract and "imagined" community. Ethnicity is a normative notion and not an empirical fact that people have in common constituting an ethnic group or nation. Ethnicity is not an innate, natural attribute but a socially constructed concept. Paradoxically, such a socially constructed concept is commonly understood as an objective form of group specificity. This common objectivist understanding is also projected into international legal documents and human rights declarations.

I understand ethnicity as a socially constructed and dynamic phenomenon. There is nothing solid or "substantial" in the notion of ethnicity. Therefore, the term ethnic 'minority' is not quantitative and static. It is not a status quo term - what is now, what was and what will be forever. I argue that ethnicity "is not a fixed, given, indelible, objectively ascertainable property ... even subjective, self-identified nationality is variable across time and context of elicitation, and therefore not measurable as if it were an enduring fact that needed only to be registered" (Brubaker 1996:56). In the same vein I claim that an ethnic minority is a social construct framed by particular social-political conditions having both spatial and temporal dimension. As is 'nationality', 'ethnicity' is also the subject of construction and reconstruction, definition and redefinition. Thus, an ethnic minority is not a static ethnographic condition but rather a dynamic political stance.

An ethnic minority is not a matter of numbers - its status does not rely on quantitative but rather on qualitative standing in the power structures. We can see that in the current international system, there are many ethnic groups of a respectable size residing on the periphery of the configuration of power. These groups are usually deemed to pursue two kinds of behavioural patterns. First they might not claim the ambition to constitute a sovereign nation-state and concentrate on everyday or "constitutional" politics to gain more benefits. Second they might stick to various kinds of non-violent or violent means in order to acquire some form of political autonomy. For the success of their strife in both cases much depends on whether their claim is considered to be legitimate or not by other significant political actors.<1> I hold that an ability of self-aware ethnic group to exercise "collective rights", and particularly the supreme ethnic collective right  - the right for "self-determination" - is function of a particular group's power status and not any other "objective" characteristics.

An ethnic minority is created by the logic of a nation-state since collective self-representation as an ethnic minority presupposes a tangible collective representation of the majority. But most nation-states are not homogeneous entities and do not have state-culture congruence. In fact, often there are at least two self-conscious cultures or ethnicities living within the nation-state's territory. To accommodate this contradiction, the 'eye' of a nation-state often sees only one dominant ethnic-cultural nation - the other self-articulated ethnic groups are just residual, unimportant cases.

For what follows I consider it useful to adopt the following definition, according to which an ethnic minority should be recognized: "1) by the public claim to membership of an ethnic-cultural nation different from the numerically or politically dominant nation; 2) by the demand for state recognition of this distinct ethnic-cultural nationality; and 3) the assertion, on the basis of this ethnic-cultural nationality, of certain collective cultural or political rights" (Brubaker 1996:60).<2>

Acknowledging supremacy of this dynamic and "constructivist" definition over "objectivist" one, it is just fair to also point out its weak sides. An observer may notice that there can be a wide variety of political, social and cultural self-expressions of ethnic minorities. Thus, the attribute number three can range sufficiently from the recognition of some form of cultural autonomy through the claims for territorial autonomy to the claim for the creation of a fully independent state. On the empirical level, say, let's take the case of the Slovaks and the Hungarians living in the Yugoslavian province Vojvodina.<3> Both Slovaks and Hungarians are recognised as distinct ethnic-cultural minorities different from the numerically and politically dominant nation - the Serbs. At this point the conditions number one and two of the above definition of ethnic minorities are met. But complications begin with the attribute number three. Although both ethnicities are recognised by the state of Yugoslavia as different ethnicities, the assertion of collective rights from them varies. The Slovaks assert mostly the rights for cultural self-expression, cultural institutions ("Matica Slovenska") and the rights for schooling in the mother tongue. Their cultural articulation is firmly based within the constitutional status quo. Hungarians' claims (as represented by the Democratic Community of Hungarians in Vojvodina) are politically more ambitious - they are often seen as balancing on the verge, campaigning for territorial autonomy.<4> Whilst the Slovaks are perceived in Yugoslavia mostly as a co-operative ethnic group, the Hungarians are perceived as a non co-operative ethnic community.<5>

Another problem with the above definition results from the fact that any acknowledged ethnic and cultural group is internally heterogeneous entity. Thus, real content of the attribute number three can vary substantially inside the group. This is the case even in the instance of firmly consolidated ethnic minorities such as the Hungarians of Slovakia. For example, in the beginning of the 1990s, one segment of the Hungarian political spectrum - the Coexistence (one constituent political parties which currently form the Party of Hungarian Coalition) - based their claim for ethnic rights on radical political programs such as cultural and territorial autonomies. Conversely, the representatives of the Hungarian citizens' party (MOS) had more modest demands of co-operative participation within the constitutional framework of Czechoslovakia - this co-operative participation was based on participation in the state's institutions, government, and in local administration.

Deficiency of "constructivist" definition above also lies in its attribute number one, which is linked to the questions of collective identities. I shall try to exemplify this problem on the case of Romanies (Gypsies) in Central and Eastern Europe. Romanies, this large ethnic group, only partially fits to the model created by the definition since the public claim for a membership to the Romany ethnicity is in a significant number of cases not articulated. For many reasons, mostly due to the existence of latent racism, it is not convenient to claim the membership of this ethnic group. Rather it is the opposite, it is more appealing to be "invisible" and 'assimilated' into the majority population. In Slovakia, the 1991 Census data (that were based on self-declarative ethnic identity) differs substantially from the previous 1980s statistics done by state local administration (based on the ascriptive judgement of state authorities). Moreover, the delegation of certain collective cultural and political "rights" for the Romanies should be by them perceived as a policy of racial "segregation". In my opinion, a new structural element added to our model - racism - makes the "standard" ethnic minority issue specific.<6> It is therefore highly disputable what kind of a "model solution" for the Romany minority is acceptable.

Shifting identity boundaries

Regardless of whether the definition of ethnic minorities is formulated in "objectivist" or "constructivist" guise, it does dispose us to think in terms of bounded identities. But many times borders between various "belongings" are blurred on both individual and collective base. Identity and ethnic identity are not fixed categories. There are multiplied identities and there are also situational identities. There are also the situations when ethnic identity or the requirement to self-identify on the base of ethnicity is completely new normative program. Such circumstances happened in the 1990s in many parts of the "post-communist" world. The context of the former Soviet Union is especially intriguing.
Even if the Soviet regime assigned each citizen at the birth an ethnic nationality on the basis of 'descent' that was registered in passports and other personal documents, often it failed to construct "ethnic identity".<7> It is so that ethnic identity does not equal a system of categorization. And "categorical group denominations - however authoritative, however pervasively institutionalised - cannot serve as indicators of real "groups" or robust "identities"" (Brubaker, Cooper 2000:4). A good illustrative example is Ukraine. During the Census of 1989 more than 11.4 million people residing in Ukraine identified themselves as Russians. Some 17 million identified their native language as Russian (Brubaker 1996). These numbers do not mean that there must be 17 million 'Russians' in Ukraine. It might mean (and it, very probably, does mean) that there are people who culturally felt Russian, although nominally their belonging was unambiguously associated with Ukraine. The very categories as Russian or Ukrainian, as suggesting a distinct ethnic and cultural identity, are extraordinarily problematic in the Ukrainian context. We can suppose that millions of Russian speakers simultaneously have built up a strong feeling of Ukrainian identity. 'Ethnic' self-identification as it came to be understood in the 1990s was for them in 1989 irrelevant, since in the former USSR, national identities were sometimes fluid categories. Often, instead of identifying in mutually exclusive categories, multiplicity of identification took place. These identifications need not be inevitably exhaustive and or ethnical in the western meaning of the word. In the Soviet Union, the area of the fourth Gellnerian "time zone",<8> "the area which has passed through the period of Bolshevism", there were not enough of cultural and structural material for the "marriage" of the nation and state. Having passed through the first two stages (of the merger between nation and state), this part of Europe was spared the remaining three stages. Although "there were massive and brutal transfers of populations, they did not, on the whole, simplify the ethnic map. They merely made it complex in a new way" (Gellner 1998: 57). An interesting situation, which has been related to the 1990s' political disturbances in the Federative Republic of Yugoslavia, occurred in Montenegro. In contrast to the Slovenian and Croatian break-ups from federal Yugoslavia, Montenegro's claims for political secession have been a sensitive issue with respect to national identity "politics". Although an idea of state independence in Montenegro was relatively old - there were "independence movements" since the beginning of the creation of Yugoslavia in 1918 - 'legitimization' of the secession could not follow the same pattern as in other Yugoslav republics. The politics of ethnic mobilization against the "Serbian enemy" has been absent because there is no putatively distinct ethnic base common to the titular citizens (of the Republic of Montenegro). The ideology of "ethnicity" has not been instrumentalized in order to legitimize the secession in Montenegro. For the citizens of Montenegro, the requirement of ethnic identity has not been strictly enunciated until very recently. According to a recent survey, the self-declared nationality of Montenegrin citizens may look very unusual. The categories of ethnic self-identification were the following: Montenegrin, Montenegrin-Serb, Serb-Montenegrin, Muslim, Muslim-Montenegrin, Albanian, Yugoslav, and Serb (Lazic 2000). Only three categories of ethnic self-identification (Montenegrin, Albania, Serb) fits to our "images" how men and women should ethnically identify themselves. The others self-identifications are blurred, "in-between" categories. This is because the respondents had not normally been confronted with a normative requirement of a categorical ethnic identification before.<9>

But the quandary over ethnic belonging remains also in the Gellnerian "second time zone" in "area corresponding roughly to the territory of the erstwhile Holy Roman Empire" - in west central Europe. Here "the couple [culture and state] had been cohabiting for centuries before being called to do so by nationalism ... the bride had been ready, all tarted up at the altar for a long time, but, but ... no groom!" And although "a high culture (the bride) had long been available among Italians and Germans ... for long there were no state, no groom"(Gellner 1998:52-53). It is important to understand that, in the second time zone, definitions of nation and ethnicity not merely a matter of intellectual exercises and discussions but mainly an instrument of practical day-to-day policies.<10> The stronger "culture of legality" is in the society, the more intense the need for an intelligible definition of ambiguous categories. However, the need for administrative application of concepts of ethnicity (and ethnic minority) leads to more or less perplexing results. The Austrian Federal Statute and The Legal Status of Ethnic Groups in Austria in the Article 1 states: "1) Ethnic groups in the sense of this document are groups of Austrian citizens with a non-German mother tongue and their own nationality and which are native and resident on parts of the Federal territory, 2) the declaration to belong to an ethnic group is free. No person belonging to an ethnic group shall be disadvantaged from the exercising or not exercising of the rights connected with such a status. No person has an obligation to prove its affiliation to an ethnic group". Whilst in the first paragraph resident's nationality is defined according to 'objective' basis - his/her mother tongue - in the third paragraph, ethnicity is defined as purely declarative principle independent of any objective criteria. We can see here clearly that these two provisions are contradictory and that objective and subjective criteria are mixed.

Ethnic minorities, "individual" and "collective" rights

There is another bulk of problems connected with the subject-matter of this dissertation - the relation between ethnic minorities and concepts of human rights. The notion of human rights encapsulates both individual and collective rights. My hypothesis is that liberal tradition produces an innate internal tension within the notion stemming from the contradiction between the universalism of the former concept and the particularism of the latter. The first thesis holds that human rights are universal and the claim for them transcends cultural particularities, group interests, borders and jurisdiction of nation-states. The second idea also claims its roots in the liberal agenda but during the last century it has transformed to become much closer to the socialist understanding of group rights. More than to humanity as a whole, it pertains to concretely (socially or ethnically) defined groups of people or communities. There are numerous discussions where to rest the origins of the concept. I hold, and this is an important observation, that it is a western and modern invention.<11> It is true that historically, human rights were equated with individual rights. However, nowadays the concept of human rights does not have a very clear substance. The classical liberal concept, that was a concept of civic and political rights - individual rights - were later transformed taking upon certain social-economic group rights - that means "collective" rights. This new understanding had become to be expressed in many international covenants. For example, The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) at the same time contained a list of civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights. It clearly points out the tensions and confusions between the concept of civil and political rights on one hand and economic and social rights on the other hand.<12>

In principle, ethnic rights are collective rights. Originally, the agenda of ethnic rights (no surprise) was the post-Enlightenment liberal agenda. It proclaimed the principle that nations have the rights to "self-determination" and these rights are a privilege of "humanity". In the apogee of the "principle of nationality", the US president Woodrow Wilson formulated his Fourteen points in a peace program of 1918, including the offer for European nations to have self-governments (or in other words the creation of nation-states).<13> But similar agenda was taken over also by socialists - Vladimir Lenin in Clause 9 of the Russian Marxists' Program proclaimed the right of nations to self-determination.<14> The right to self-determination as a political principle became to be consequently realized in Europe after the First World War, in Asia in the 1950s, and in Africa in the 1960s.<15> The principle of de-colonization and self-determination was symbolically asserted on 14 December 1960 by the UN's adoption of The Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.<16> In Europe in the 1990s, we have been witnesses of the second round and in fact a political culmination of the doctrine.

Objections against collective rights (and adoration of individual rights) stem up from the classical liberal convictions on how society should be arranged. Classical liberalism interprets individuals as essentially inclining to democracy, and collectives have a propensity to autocracy. Liberals also often argue that collective rights are "special" rights, privileged rights that violate principle of equality before the law. And indeed, before 1989, the fact that most "communist" countries of the eastern 'block' promulgated certain collective social and ethnic rights was considered to be evidence of the undemocratic 'nature' of collective rights. But the whole issue is much more complex.

The exercising of collective ethnic rights has also been fully employed in the western parliamentary democracies for a longer time. According to the Article 17 of the (Italian) Province of South Tyrol Autonomy Statute, instruction in nursery, primary and secondary schools must be given in the mother tongue. The right of parents to freely choose the school for their children can be limited if the right of the two linguistic groups to education in their mother tongue is endangered. The consequences are that a child may be enrolled either in a school where the language of instruction is German or in a school where the language of instruction is Italian, only on the condition that the child can follow the lessons. It clearly means that collective ethnic right - collective right of a language group for schooling in its native language - has a higher status than the individual right - the right of parents to choose freely the school for their child.

The Slovak nation-state ostentatiously refuses collective rights as a principle of "self-determination" for ethnic minorities and offers to stick purely to a principle of the individual rights.<17> In March 1995, Hungary and Slovakia signed an inter-state treaty that should normalize relations between the two states. The treaty agreed on borders and on the protection of minorities. The most contentious point was inclusion in the Treaty of the Council of Europe Recommendation No. 1201 on the Protection of Ethnic Minorities that in fact acknowledges the claims of minorities for collective rights and for autonomy. Wherever minorities constitute a local majority, Article 11 explicitly allows for autonomous local organizations or for special status, in conformity with the country's legal system. The Slovak side succeeded to compile Recommendation 1201 into the treaty in the way "that the only relevant and mandatory document concerning international law is the Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities containing the entire Recommendation except for Article 11", which refers to collective rights" (Hamberger 1998:60).

The Framework Convention does not contain the acknowledgement of any collective right but only protects the individual rights of minorities' members. According to the Slovak side, the Framework Convention, on the "basis of internationally accepted legal norms", represented the higher limit. However, the misunderstanding was born and within a short time consequently the Slovak Republic needed to affirm its interpretation of the inclusion of Recommendation 1201 by means of an official memorandum. Prime minister Meciar proudly confirmed that the state has taken effective "preventive measures, including political and diplomatic steps, to get the Framework Convention on the Protection of National minorities accepted as part of the treaty and in addition (the government) have also drafted other laws" (Ibid. 61).

The example above is a good illustration both of the Slovak "preoccupation with legalism" and misconceptualizations of human rights in practical ethnic policy. However, I think that the Slovak state and actors of "ethnic policy" are somehow deceiving themselves. In practice, there is a tacit acceptance of ethnic claims on the principle of collective rights in Slovakia. What else could have served as the conceptual base which has allowed separate nursery, primary and secondary schooling for ethnic Hungarians for the last fifty years? What other conceptual base does the  Minority Language Law use in defining the using of minority languages? What other conceptual base is the minority culture supported "en bloc" from the state budget? Yet, in any official political declaration or legal document, Slovakia is fervently opposing to admit minorities' claim for "collective rights". Slovakia has been recognizing the minority by delegating some endowments upon it, but insisting it is doing so "voluntarily". Thus, the state recognizes ethnic groups "en bloc" as a object of rights but these groups are not considered as having the collective rights to rise their interests. That means even if ethnic groups are subjects of consideration of the state on a collective basis, their collective claims are not considered legitimate. In the prevalent opinion of the majority nation, admission that there is such a thing as collective rights of minorities arouses fear of demands for autonomy and an eventual break-up of territory.

I suggest that a conceptual base for any institutional solutions of ethnic minority issues should not be strictly based on the dichotomy individual/collective rights since it is misleading. In democratic societies not all rights must be universal. The key point is that if there is political consensus on this political condition - which means if the majority society acknowledges that it is legitimate to acquire specific group rights - there is no contradiction between individual rights and group specific rights. Therefore ethnic minorities should initially concentrate on the acknowledgement of collective rights.

The acknowledgement of collective rights depends in practice on the power position of a particular ethnic minority group. Not each ethnic group is implicitly or explicitly considered to have the same rights. This selective judgement comes not only on behalf of majority nation. In Slovakia "Hungarian (political) parties considered their ethnic group to be a state-forming element in equality with the Slovak group rather than a minority [but] they did not appear to believe that any other ethnic groups belonged in the same category. The collective rights claimed by Hungarian parties do not appear designed to apply to other minority groups. The territorial administration plan proposed by Coexistence makes provisions for a Hungarian "language island" but does not discuss the possibility for Romany, Czech or Rusyn language islands"<18> (Krause 1998).

In contrast to fearful nationalist policymakers, I argue that any majority-minority ethnic relations and institutional arrangements should reflect the principle of collective rights. I maintain this because in an environment when one majority nation far outnumbers the minorities, the decision on ethnic principle according to individual rights', civic principle would reflect only the interests of the majority nations. There must be some form of group rights which gives members of ethnic minorities a power to argue, vote and negotiate for a form of power sharing. But effective collective rights may be initially won in a context of individual rights. And this process, as I suggested, is in fact proceeding, for instance, in today's Slovakia. The lesson to be learned is that in practice, there is not such a strong dichotomy between individual and collective rights as is held in theory by the liberal tradition.

Some institutional suggestions for ethnic groups/nation state interaction

The relations between the ethnic minority and the majority nation can be modelled on two considerations. The first position understands the framework of minority-majority relations as a "triadic nexus linking the minority communities... the states in which they live, and their external national homelands" (Brubaker 1996:56). National issues thus must be defined in relational terms as an incessant competition and almost persistent conflict of interests. In this image group identities are clear-cut whereas distinct ethnic group are consequently pursuing their concerns - in this case nationalistic appeals. The interaction between ethnicities then is seen as a mutual interplay of antithetic stakes. The second position warns us not to overestimate antagonisms of inter-group social relations (Schopflin 1996). It is inviting us to admit the existence of blurred and multiple identities and particularly the strength of civic identities. In Schopflin's opinion "the majorities in Europe tend to underestimate the integrative capacity of the modern state and, because they define their own identity so strongly if not completely on the basis of ethnic criteria, they cannot and will not understand that a minority that has lived in a particular state for a period of time will acquire some of the civic and ... political habits of that state" (1996:160).

Schopflin goes as far as to assume a general validity of his statement. And even more - he goes on claiming that "one of the most striking aspects of the experience of the modern state that has emerged during the past 100 years is that even where members of an ethnic group are subjected to serious discrimination, they will only turn against that state in quite exceptional circumstances". Normally "their loyalty to the state ... is generally so high that it will outweigh ethnic consideration, unless they are directly excluded... "(Ibid.)  In Schopflin's model, contrary to Brubaker's, the interethnic situation is not characterized by the interplay of actors - ethnic minorities and majority nation - but rather by the interplay of different layers of self-identities. These are identities which everyone is encapsulated in. It can be an ethnic, civic, local or statehood identity. Any conflict or lack of balance among them can be reconciled by a strengthening of the civic identity. And it works when the state offers some incentives for the minority to identify with the state. Although Schopflin's images are generally more optimistic that Brubaker"s, the arguments he offers do not seem to be exhaustingly persuasive. I do believe Schopflin's considerations might be correct in some cases but have only a weak explanatory power in others. The ability of an ethnic community to acquire a solid civic identity in the polity they are living will probably depend on the extent of openness of the group itself. It is likely that some ethnicities with prevalence of "pre-modern" values in their lives and epistemological horizons will be much more closed, turned inwards and hostile to the external environment. I think that the case of Albanians in Kosovo might prove this assumption.

The status of ethnic minorities and the form of political-administrative relations between them and nation state may differ in many ways but political stability depends on the extension in which the gap between those two sides can be overcome. I believe that there are several possibilities as to how the demarcation line between the interests of ethnicities coexisting in one political community can be optimally bridged. I shall here try to recap my basic theoretical assumptions. First, I claim that ethnic identities are not permanent but can be changed and socially constructed. The consequence is that ethnicity is not a static - once and forever - but a dynamic phenomenon. As some ethnic identities can fade away, new ones can appear. Second, I am persuaded that human beings are capable of multiple and complementary identities. That means identity is not solely an exclusive principle but rather multiple layer structure. As one can be at the same time a daughter to her parents and mother to her kids, one can also be, for example, a British citizen and at the same time ethnically Jamaican. Third, I believe that people can identify with different types of political sovereignties. Practical consequences of the latter are that people can identify with a regional sub-unit (e.g. the autonomous province South Tyrol), a nation-state unit (Italy) and a supra-national entity (the EU).

Any social group has its place and function in the system of power relations. An ethnic group also has its place in the power structures of a nation state. The marginalization of ethnic groups is the function of the enhancement of social status for the majority nation. Thus marginalization or the exclusion of an ethnic minority is a normative decision. However, such a political function is often covered in the disguise of "normality" or "nature". But there is nothing "natural" or "normal" that the "state-possessing" nation should have more rights than any, even the tiniest ethnic minority. Thus, the matrix of any inter-group relations within the context of a nation state is determined by the notions of equality, inequality, unity and disunity.










The matrix of ethnic group relations clearly suggests the main possible strategies of nation states in their dealing with minorities. If the state necessitates preserving social unity and at the same time wants to guarantee equality among ethnic groups (and equality between ethnic minorities and the majority nation), the political outcome must be ethnic-cultural integration. If the state wants to preserve social unity and at the same time it resigns to a normative goal of group equality, we will get as a result the policy of assimilation. When the state does not care about preserving social unity but at the same time is committed to the principle of group equality, the result will be some form of autonomy for the ethnic minority. And finally disregard of social unity combined with the politics of group inequality produces segregation.

Autonomy has three dimensions: personal, cultural and territorial. The concept of personal autonomy I now am leaving aside since is irrelevant for the subject matter of this paper. Cultural autonomy is a very complex concept. It involves the authorization that an ethnic group has a distinct autonomous political and cultural identity. Translated into the language of practical politics, it implies that ethnicity is legally recognized as a distinct group within the borders of nation state and it is assumed that it has some legal collective rights. At the same time it is expected that this ethnic group is loyal to the nation state. Because it is loyal, it has the right to enjoy social benefits provided by the state. In practice, the state finances the minority's school system. Moreover, a nation state often allows some form of (bilingual) local administration in the minority language. This kind of situation currently exists with respect to the most powerful ethnic minorities in several Eastern and Central European countries. For instance, the institutional attributes of "de facto" cultural autonomy for ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia are: a separated educational system (at nursery, primary and secondary level), a so-called "Minority Language Law"<19> that allows under some provision the use of the minority's language in state administration and local governments and the state-budget chapter for ethnic culture, media and press.

Territorial autonomy is a more radical form of autonomy. It indicates a particular area where the ethnic minority is concentrated and, at the same time, it provides for the legal framework for the application of a whole array of autochthonous forms of self-expression and policies. In practice, the employment of autonomous policies is fully institutionalized with legislative, judicial and executive powers. That means in autonomous regions there are usually sovereign parliaments, governments and courts in operation. This kind of autonomy is often identified with the process of "regionalism".<20> Typical examples of autonomous regions in Europe are South Tyrol, Catalonia, or a very special case, Aaland Islands.<21>

George Schopflin maintains that "in post-communist Europe ... autonomy is universally interpreted by majorities as a covert demand for secession. The proposition that a particular area should enjoy special status is anathema to members of ethnic majorities, who reject minority claims as an attack on the integrity of the state. In part it is attributable to political inexperience and in part to the crudity of post-communist political thinking ... propensity to see all political contests on zero-sum terms". (Schopflin 1996:157) In my opinion, territorial autonomy is generally by any nation-state - not only in post-communist Europe - perceived as an ethnic group's claim to annex state's territory.<22> It is not only the context of post-communism, as Schopflin thinks, that predisposes majorities against minorities' autonomy solutions. It is not only the context of post-communism that in this respect "emphasised homogeneity, black-and-white thinking and the kind of epistemological certainty that insisted that in each moment of choice there could be only one answer" (Ibid.). I would say no - let's not blame 'communism' for everything. Deep structural disapproval of heterogeneity rooted in the very logic of any nation state is the predisposition against "territorial autonomy" solutions.

Territorial autonomy in South Tyrol, although often given as an example of the "good" solution, has its "dark" side. The long and winding road to the current autonomy-status is an indication of the problems and of the distrust of the Italian nation-state to the German speakers' regionalist project.<23> In my opinion, frankly speaking, the Italians' distrust might be partially justified after taking a closer look at the behaviour of some parts of South Tyrol's German political spectrum. It reveals that the achieved autonomy status quo has been understood very instrumentally, only as one necessary step taken on the way to the final aim, to independent statehood. Distrust generates distrust. And distrust of the majority nation (Italians) towards ethnic minority (Tyrolian German speakers) reciprocally generates distrust of the minority towards the majority. South Tyrol is not an exception - the other cases are not generally better. It is, again, not so easy to agree with Schopflin who chooses the British context to claim that "the Welsh aspirations were confined largely to the cultural sphere by concession over language in 1984 ... and that ... the establishment of a separate Welsh-language television channel ... has satisfied the expectations of the newly rising Welsh speaking elite". If those "demands not been met," the author reasons "there is little doubt that Welsh activists would have intensified their campaign and polarised the situation" (Schopflin 1996:158). To raise an argument against this opinion, one can use the stand-by example of Scotland, where the ambivalent demands for more recognition have been continuously transformed into political ones. And I think it is very intricate to foresee the future of the United Kingdom with respect to its ethnic-political development.

Disturbing is the instance of Kosovo, its autonomous past and uncertain future. Can we really seriously accept the assumption that if Milosevic's policies were reasonably "open-minded" (and the autonomous status of Kosovo would not be eliminated by the Constitution of 7 September 1990) the intensity of ethnic Albanians' thrust for sovereignty would be weaker? The "modus operandi" of the Yugoslavian multiethnic project was a peculiar mixture of Tito's charm, culture, Communist party discipline and very sophisticated multileveled constitutional structures.<24> After the demise of all those "old" attributes, in the new framework, the federal project hardly could work. Therefore, it is at least questionable whether more benevolent ethnic policies of Serbia could make any difference in Albanians' ambitions in the 1990s.

There are three political options on the path to "autonomy". The first is to aspire towards autonomy through political mobilization, whilst the existing institutions of the nation-state are fully accepted. The second option is the establishment of new constitution guaranteeing political influence and group autonomy in certain policy-making areas. The third option is the establishment of a putative ethnically homogeneous political entity through demands for complete sovereignty. These three options also have a developmental sequence. They are often complementary and one stage may follow the other - from the mild requirements through more bold ones up to the final aim -a sovereign state. Succession of the stages cannot be secured and the third stage does not necessarily follows the second one. But, frankly - can we be surprised that autonomy as a solution is despised by nationalists?

Segregation, as a coherent set of policies, represents an inadmissible model of inter-ethnic relations in today's Europe. In its most apparent and radical forms, ethnic segregation as a model of interethnic relations is simply an "outcaste". And there are very good reasons that justify this position. Yet, we should not be surprised to find out some elements of ethnic segregation in structures of ethnic policies in many European states nowadays. In South Tyrol as well as in Slovakia, elements of segregation which had permeated into the educational system have lasted there for about 50 years. In practice, the enrolment of a child in a school where the language of instruction differs from the native one is very rare. This is not to say that the segregated education  in the case of South Tyrol or Slovakia has been implemented against the political will of the ethnic minorities. In Slovakia, ethnically separated schools are one of the basic requests of the Hungarian political representation in order to enjoy fully-fledged native-culture socialization. In South Tyrol, the German speakers' party (SVP) is a legitimate advocate of a similar demand. But in spite of the fact that the requirement is democratically legitimate - does it always work to the benefit of a society? Even if we understand ethnic segregation as a temporary method of conflict management applicable for short time, it is not a desirable model of interethnic 'modus-vivendi' over a longer period of time.

Assimilation is a more ambiguous policy. It can be characterized as an attempt by the majority nation to effectively eliminate borders of ethnic group distinctiveness by the removal of all minority institutions, especially those related to culture and education. However, for the sake of correctness we should not forget that similar techniques were instruments, which were used in the modernization projects of the 19th and 20th centuries in the "great transformation" of pre-industrial fragmented societies into homogeneous nation states. The state resorting to assimilation may insist that minorities such as, say, the Kashubs (in Poland) should gradually identify themselves as Polish people. Policies of assimilation are often legitimized by proclaimed 'assistance' of the minorities to achieve social equality. In fact assimilation often brings about suffering and identity loss on the part of ethnic minority groups. In its most ominous cases it leads to the disappearance of the entire ethnic group. Although assimilation policies in large European nations were usually successful, in other cases the communities proved extraordinarily resilient in the face of assimilatory attempts by modern states. What might looks like my further attempt to complicate the whole issue is fact that while for well-articulated ethnic minorities (such as the Hungarians in Slovakia), assimilation seems to be an unacceptable policy; however, it is tacitly agreeable in the instance of "racially" distinct and socially disadvantaged groups (e.g. the Roma and Sinti in Eastern and Central Europe).


If we postulate preserving the territorial unity of the nation state and at the same time pursuing the normative goal of equality between ethnic groups with various power status, the political outcome must be ethnic-cultural integration. I hold that the option for integration should be affirmed by a voluntarily decision of the ethnic group and formed on ascertained collective rights (since individual rights' could in some cases in effect reserve the collective right of decision to the majority nation). In this way, asserted collective rights would confer legitimacy that could form a larger basis for ethnic claims. I hold that genuine ethnic integration guarantees a territorial unity of a nation state, warrants social unity and upholds ethnic groups' equality.

I claim that the tendency to "objectify" the definition of ethnic identity deprives us of an analytical advantage. Therefore I suggest employing a more "constructivist" definition of ethnicity. I suggest surmounting contradictions contained in the concept of individual and collective rights shaped by modernity projects, by employing a more eclectic theoretical framework. On the level of practical policy I suggest to entail a multileveled structure of group- neutral and group-sensitive considerations. I suggest to enhance the social unity of a society by pursuing a normative goal of equality between ethnic groups. The output should be integration that transforms the dichotomy of group power position (in relation majority/minority) into the triadic structure: unity - difference - equality. Ethnic integration should respect all distinct cultural needs, including the native language education. At the same time it should avoid as much as possible the latent elements of ethnic segregation both in the school system and social life. Genuine integration is a "comfortable" solution for neither the majority nation nor for the ethnic minority - however, it is a sound conceptual framework and policy aim for reconciling the ethnic minority/majority dichotomy. In contrast to any kind of nationalists, I am aware that there is no "good" and "once and forever" solution that would eliminate ethnic nationalism.


Brubaker, Rogers and Frederick Cooper. 2000. "Beyond Identity". Theory and Society. No 29. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Brubaker, Rogers. 1996. Nationalism reframed. Nationhood and the national question in the New Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Eriksen, Thomas H. 1993. Ethnicity and Nationalism, Anthropological Perspective. London: Pluto Press.

Gellner, Ernst. 1998. Nationalism. London: Phoenix.

Hamberger, Judith. 1998. "The ratification of the basic treaty between Hungary and Slovakia and its impact on the relations between the two countries." International studies. No. 4. Bucharest.

Ishay, Micheline R. (ed.) 1997. The Human Rights Reader. Major political writings, essays, speeches and documents from the Bible to the present. New York: Routledge.

Krause, Kevin D. 1998. National issues and party system polarisation in Slovakia. <www.cla.wayne.edu/polisci/krause/papers/aaass98.htm>.

Lazic, Mladen. 2000. "Attitudes towards state independence in Montenegro". Research report manuscript.

Lewis, I. M. 1985. Social Anthropology in perspective: the relevance of social anthropology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Markotich, Stan. 1993. "Vojvodina: A Political Powder Keg." RFE/RL Research Report. 2 (46), November 19.

Melcic, Dunja. 1994. "Communication and National identity: Croatian and Serbian Patterns" in: Praxis International Volume 13, No.4.  1994

Oltay, Edith. 1993. "Hungarians Under Political Pressure in Vojvodina" RFE/RL Research Report. 2 (48), December 3.

Schopflin, George. 1996. "Nationalism and Ethnic Minorities in Post-Communist Europe." In: Caplan, R., Feffer, J. Europe's New Nationalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Varady, Tibor. 1995. "Remarks on Cultural Pluralism and Multiethnicity in Ethnic Societies" In: B. Jaksic (ed.) Interculturality in Multiethnic Societies. Belgrade.

Wallernstein, Immanuel. 1991. After liberalism. New York: The New Press.

Zbierka zakonov Slovenskej republiky. 1999. Jul,. 184.

Lexis/Nexis: All Major Newspapers from 1990 to October, 2000


<1>In reality these "ideal types" are more complex, sometimes blurred and sometimes intermingled categories. For example, the Basques' claim for "self-determination" is recognized to be legitimate by the "state-possessing" majority nation (Spaniards) as well as by the international community only to a certain extent. Needles to say that Basques' organisation ETA, regularly resorting to violence, effectively de-legitimize a political claim for independence. <back>

<2>Brubaker in his text uses the word "ethnocultural" <back>

<3>According to the 1991 Census, Vojvodina contains a 57 percent majority population of Serbs. Hungarians constitute 22 percent, Croats constitute 7 percent and Romanians, Slovaks and Rusyns make up most of the remainder of the region's population of two million. Vojvodina was part of Hungary until it was ceded in 1920 to the newly created Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later renamed Yugoslavia) under the terms of the treaty of Trianon. After World War I, many Hungarians and Germans left the region to be replaced by Serb immigrants. Over time Vojvodina gained autonomy and this status was confirmed in the 1974 Yugoslav Constitution. Legislation passed since 1990 has eroded the minority rights of ethnic Hungarians. Serbian has become the sole official language and the use of Hungarian is prohibited in official business. The number of Hungarian-language classes has been significantly reduced and principles of all schools are appointed by the central government, which very rarely appoints ethnic Hungarians, even in regions with significant Hungarian populations. Hungarians have been removed from influential public positions. The major political party representing Vojvodina's ethnic Hungarians is the Democratic Community of Hungarians in Vojvodina (DCHV). It has been promoting local autonomy for Hungarians in Vojvodina (Markotich 1993, Oltay 1993). <back>

<4>On 14 December 1998 the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians (SVM) announced that it is presenting a package agreement on the definition of the political framework for self-rule in Vojvodina, drafted by the party's experts.  The SVM statement says that talks should start next week with representatives of other Vojvodina Hungarian parties on harmonizing their views on the draft document. On 27 December 1998 the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians (SVM) and the Democratic Community of Vojvodina Hungarians (DZVM) agreed on a general political plan for the autonomy of Vojvodina and on electoral co-operation. However, the Vojvodina ethnic Hungarians are currently divided on the question of form of autonomy. Some of them speak out in favour of personal autonomy - in fact collective rights - which would favour the ethnic Hungarians alone, while other support territorial autonomy, which would be extended over the territory of the whole province. (Ibid.) <back>

<5>According to Vijesti, 11 September 1999. <back>

<6>A small example in order to illustrate my argument. The existence of a separated schooling system is considered to be both a desirable solution and legitimate claim for the Slovak - Hungarian inter-ethnic "modus vivendi" in Slovakia. The case of Romanies in Slovakia is completely different. Here a kind of separate educational segregation is not an acceptable alternative and could be considered a racial segregation. (Why is nobody accusing Italians or Germans in South Tyrol for mutual xenophobia on the grounds of the fifty-year-long existence of "de facto" educational segregation?). <back>

<7>In my opinion, such as situation is nowadays with respect to the question of ethnic identities in Kazachstan. The convention of the conference Multicultural education, planning, sharing, was a good opportunity to have a close look at the situation. Cf Kurganskaya 2000, Brenner & Taras 1994. <back>

<8>"Time zones" are concepts indicating differences in nationalism in terms of the relation between state and culture. The form this relation takes differs in four basic ways (Gellner 1998). <back>

<9>Interesting might also be the relation between ethnic identity and attitudes towards independence. The idea of an independent Montenegro was supported by 38,3 percent of Montenegrins, 2,2 Montenegrin Serbs, 3,0 Serbian-Montenegrin, 30 Muslims, 43,9 Muslim-Montenegrins, 75 Albanians, 2,7 Yugoslavians and 3,1 Serbs. Federation with Serbia - that means pre-September 2000 status quo - was preferred by 19 percent of Montenegrins, 76,5 percent Montenegrin-Serbs, 68,9 percent Serbian-Montenegrins, 3,4 percent Muslims, 5,3 percent Muslim-Montenegrins, 59,5 percent Yugoslavians and 60,7 percent Serbs (Lazic 2000). <back>

<10>I am aware that the same claim might pertain to declarations and documents at the international level as suggested above. <back>

<11> The concept of human rights is a rather recent 'invention'. But more ambitious long-range "theorizing" has invented that human rights reach back to ancient times. It holds that religious humanism, Stoicism and natural rights of antiquity are predecessors of our secular and modern understanding of rights. In a similar vein it claims that most religious texts like The Bible, Buddhist texts, The New Testament and The Koran incorporate moral and humanistic principles, often articulated in the terms of duties - the Ten Commandments represent a code of morality and mutual respect that had a far-reaching influence on the Western world (Ishay, 1994). However, I assume that abstractions like nation-state and human rights belong to the modern era - to the era that began with the Enlighntment. And while the western Enlighntment formulated liberal civic and political rights, during the industrial revolution, a new  socialist challenge to liberal rights appeared. <back>

<12>This discrepancy was obvious also for the authors of the Declaration and two other separate UN covenants soon thereafter- The International Covenant on Civic and Political Rights (ICCPR) and The International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights (ICESR) -resulted from an intense need to solve that controversy. The crucial difference between them resides in the fact that the former leaned toward a liberal perspective on human rights while ICESR moved toward a socialist agenda of human solidarity rights. Other conventions also reflect this divide. While the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950) provides citizens with mechanism to redress civil and political rights violated by the states, protection of economic and social rights was proclaimed by European Social Charter (1961). And from the mid-1950s onward, an important body of other specific civic rights expanded the UN's coverage of human rights. <back>

<13>The program had two other "pragmatic" purposes: to reach the people and liberal leaders of the Central Powers, in the hope that their influence would help shorten the war, and to provide an actual framework for the peace discussion. <back>

<15>Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) gained independence on 18 April 1980 as the fiftieth state in Africa. <back>

<16>Unequivocal acknowledgement of the principle of self-determination by both liberals and Bolsheviks lead Immanuel Wallernstein to ask whether we have three ideologies (conservatism, liberalism and socialism) or only one (Liberalism)? (Wallernstein 1991). <back>

<17>It is formally justified by the "myth-cliché" that the acceptance of the civic principle conforms most closely to the principles of western democracy. Rejection of the concept of "collective rights" is most loudly articulated by HZDS and SNS. See election programs <www.isnet.sk/sns/prg.thm>. <back>

<18>Content analysis of programs of parties corroborates that ethnic Hungarian party Coexistence's education plan notes that "members of Hungarian national society have the right to gain general and specialized education under the same conditions as members of the Slovak nationality including the right to education in one's native language at every level of schooling from primary school to university, but does not address the practical issues involved in extending that right to all other minority groups. Although they show signs of sympathizing with other minority groups in Slovakia, the Hungarian parties seek equality of collective benefits primarily for their own group" (Krause, 1998). <back>

<19>So-called Minority Language Law (No. 184 adopted on July 10, 1999) permits the use of an ethnic minority's native language in areas with a twenty- percent minority population. Use applies mainly to dealing with government officials. Hungarians are arguing that the language law does not go far enough in protecting minorities" rights. <back>

<20>Formulating it the other way round: if regionalism is connected with an ethnic group's articulation, it results in the ethnic-based territorial autonomy. Problems of regionalism and ethnic autonomy are interconnected. In both cases we are witnesses of "anti-modernity" projects. <back>

<21>Members of ethnic majority (Finns) are forbidden to settle in the Aaland Islands. Another specific case is Switzerland. The Swiss commune is monolingual, as are the most cantons. Yet the state recognizes three official languages. <back>

<22>Or the first step to some territorially based disintegration. <back>

<23>The conflict about South Tyrol was settled as recently as in 1992. When, after the Second World War, the Great powers rejected claim of South Tyrol to be returned to Austria, the only way left open was for Austria and Italy to negotiate directly so that the region should obtain some form of self-government. To that effect the basic agreement was reached within the peace negotiations in Paris, on 5 September 1946, the Paris Agreement was signed. Italy tried to fulfil the obligations to give autonomous legislative and executive power by adoption of Statute, on 31 January 1948 and extension of the Status to the Trentino and creation of Italian majority 'Trentino - Tiroler' region. Impatience continued to grow and in 1957 the first bombings occurred. On November 1957 a big protest demonstration took place. In 1961 came more bombing attacks. The new statute came about with the adoption of constitutional law n. 1 of Nov. 1971 was followed by publication of unified text that contained measures still in force of former statute as well as those of the new one. After 20 years of negotiations notification of implementation of measures agreed upon in 1969 was transmitted by the Italian government to Vienna on 22 April 1992. The Austrian Federal government officially declared before the UN on 11 June 1992 that the conflict had been settled. <back>

<24>I somehow do not favour Brubaker's "triadic" nexus nationalism as the break-up of Yugoslavia. (Brubaker 1996:69-76). From all on the former Yugoslavia I prefer Tibor Varady's (1995). Useful is also Dunja Melcic 1994. <back>

Wroc³aw, 05.11.2001