Poll: Are Large Countries Nations?

Oct 2017
Australia 🇦🇺
Refer to thread: ‘Poll: Is India a nation?’ under the Asian History Forum.

This poll is the same as that but referring to the other nation giants of Asia: China, India, Indonesia, Russia, etc.

How do New World nation giants of North America, Brazil & Australia, considering the historical circumstances of how they were formed & colonized, compare to the Old World nation giants of China, India, Indonesia & Russia?

So, are large countries like India, China, Indonesia, Russia, U.S, Canada, Brazil, Australia nations?

What’s your opinion?

Background information:

Could somebody shed light on the difference between nation & country, & how the terms evolved?

The concept of nationhood has obviously evolved over history leading up to the modern nation state. But nation can be a bit of a fluid definition. The term nation usually has a more ethnic & cultural meaning to refer to a specific ethnicity or group of ethnicities with shared culture & history. The term country usually refers to a modern-nation state. Historically the term nation referred to a group of people, while country referred to a geographical land, not the same as the modern nation state. Hence the terms “country people”, “country food”, “country music” etc.

Countries don’t necesarrialy have to be large in order to be diverse. But the
concept of a modern nation-state & cultural diversity goes rather oddly together. Even though ethnicities & cultural groups are very intertwined with politics, they’re not the same, culture is one thing, politics is another. The modern nations state is a relatively new development.

That is one of the issues of the modern nation-state: they’re essentially boxes or cages for a geographic territory & whatever people’s & cultures happen to be within it are its citizens & subjects. Governments generally attempt to unify the people’s within its territory under nationalism.

As was mentioned in the thread ‘Poll: Is India a nation?’ Western Europe is more qualified to be a unified country than India is. Probably the coolest anaology was the Roman Empire. If the Roman Empire never split & collapsed, Europe & the Meditarennean could well be today what the other large nations of today are. The Ottoman Empire would be that way today as well if it never fell. Likewise, the other large nations of today could have been many smaller countries in an alternate history.

I’m not familiar with Meso-American & Andes civilizations, but we’re they akin to their continents to how China & India is to Asia?

One negative things about the modern nation state is immigration laws: it’s citizens are effectively prisoners in its cages.
Unlike in the past where unless you were born to aristocracy, everyone else was pretty much like a stray dog compared to today; they were born & unknown to officials, & just did their own thing in life. Today, everyone needs to have a record in government: they’re citizens: all their basic information is know; their date & place of birth, fingerprint, basic information etc.
This is all part of how the world is becoming increasingly smaller & monitored. Just a step in the direction of a sci-fi dystopia.
Whereas in the past people could for the most part just walk or travel without the notice of officials under immigration laws, today migration & immigration is heavily monitored & traveling between territories outside of the law is technically illegal & rarely happens today, only occasionally in rural areas.
As a consequence, hitch hiking is of a very different nature in the United States than it is in small countries. Could someone shed light on how this process developed?

To illustrate this, I’ve often said that Christopher Mccandless, the subject of ‘Into the Wild’, would not appreciate being a citizen of a micro-state like Singapore or Hong Kong. The cultures in Asia are materialistic anyway, so would down look hobo-ing.

I myself would love to be able to let go of the strains of modern life & go on an adventure like McCandless did, as a hobo, of course researched & planned ahead, & perhaps with a group. How about you?
But that’s obviously hampered by modern immigration & identity laws.

Most countries’ in Europe & Asia borders surround the native land of a certain predominant ethnic group, perhaps including the lands of various minorities. It probably isn’t hard to figure out that the countrys’ territories were shaped because of that. Because most of the world’s ethnicities are much older than long-distance travel technology, their native ethnic lands tend to be rather small or limited. As a result, most countries in Europe & Asia are small to medium sized.

The countries of Africa, South America & Australasia do not follow this pattern: their territories were drawn by European powers. The result is today, African countries, even very small ones, tend to be very diverse. There could have been some pan-African countries from French & British territories in an alnernate history.

That’s a good question, why aren’t there any large continental African countries like there is with India & Indonesia?

The countries of the New World: the Americas & Australasia, aren’t even related to this at all; their territories are all ‘artificial’ like Africa, a result of politics rather than culture. Sure, their native populations are diverse no doubt, just like the natives of other continents, but they only represent a minority under their colonizers. The large countries; United States, Canada, Brazil & Australia, were all acquired by a single government, & unlike the Old World giant countries, since the New World was subject to demographic & ecological imperialism, the New World countries are all largely culturally homogenous, save the native populations who are obviously diverse. Latin America, despite being culturally homogenous, is racially heterogenous. North America is traditionally homogenous (except for the minorities) but is only recently starting to become more heterogenous. What is the reason for the difference in mixture?

Large countries territories, on the other hand, are not the reflection of an ethnic or cultural groups’ homeland, but of imperialism. India, Indonesia & Russia are main examples. I’m not sure whether China is like this, this is clearly the case for non-Han territories, but even the native Han territory of Eastern China is big by world standards. By it is still far from homogenous: Han is more of an umbrella term for all the ethnicities which are ‘Chinese’. I believe that China was previously divided into many states before becoming unified: could somebody please shed light on how China came to be unified?

Just look at Indonesia, it’s national motto is ‘Unity in Diversity’.
The name Indonesia translates as - ‘Indo’ = ‘Indies’, ‘Nesia’ = ‘Islands’, in what language, Greek is it? Anyhow so the name really is ‘Indies Islands?’
If your not familiar with Indonesia, just a quick study on the country will reveal its diverse & pan-continental nature. Like India, the main or perhaps only reason all that diverse territory is unified is because it was under the possession of a single European power, & when they left, what was left was a modern country.

As was pointed out in ‘Is India a nation?’ large countries have the striking feature of being demographically, culturally & geographically diverse, and take up large chunks of continents. The reason all that territory is unified is because of historical reasons, for large territories usually it’s because of colonization of foreign powers.
Sep 2017
Nation must have its dominant ethnic group with a distinct language. For example yugoslavia is a country whereas serbia, croatia and bosnia are nations. USSR is a country and russia, estonia and lithuania are nations. Theoretically, North india can be considered a nation but no way on earth is south india a nation. South india consists of the nations of karnataka, maharashtra, tamilnadu and andhra.
Last edited:


Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
New Delhi, India
There is no difference between the term 'nation' and 'country', they will have one national government. In cases like Canada's Quebec or Spain's Catalonia, regions may be given special powers, but still they remain only a part of one nation or country. Kashmir in India too has been given special powers, but these powers can be taken away by the national government after fulfilling the necessary requirements. They do not make the regions independent nation or countries. The word nation has also been used to indicate a particular cultural or ethnic region. But that is not its political use.
Sep 2015
Sri Lanka
Nation vs state !

In a simplicitic term "Nation" means a Cultural and Ethnic entity And "State" means a Political Entity---Country is a rather a vague layman term for a "Functional State"--Size Does not Matter for a Nation Or a State!!

To be a Nation --There should "a Group of people" sharing mainly same Culture[ Mainly Language] /Ethnicity[ perhaps religion Eg Israel ] living Historically in a more or less in a well defined "Land Geograpically" as the "Indegenous people" of that land-- Hence "Maha Bharatha War" in India Ever Since the Migration/ Invasion of Indo--Aryans :) :) Lol

After the WW II It had been accepted every Nation has the Right of Self-Determination to decide their political destiny ---what they think is best for them normally by a referrandom Eg Scoland, Quebec , Catalonia Etc
However When a Nation becomes a State it should be able to have a "Legitimised Power" [Normally Military] able to exercise to control any Threat/ Violence as a Challenge from within [ Maoist terrorism] or Outside Agression[ eg Chinese boader Skirmishes-

Finallaly and importantly now -a- days that State should be accepted or recognised by the so called International Community --Normally By UN---Especially for Trade and Diplomatic Relations and Defence Etc--Other wise it known as De-facto State !
A State can be an "Unitary State" Eg" Rama Raj with capital at Ayodya" :) or Federal State when there were Sustantial multi ethnic / Religious groups of people Eg Switziland--if not sustantial theywere considered as "Minorities"!

There are many types of "State Structures" devised by the Constitution in Between Eg Confederal Eg Canada More Powers to Periferal states than a Federal Constitution! EU is the very loose co-fedration of "Independent States" With Common Currency /Defence/Law and Immigration Etc At the centre [ Brussel] by Treaty of Rome---A Step towards the so called "One World Oder" :)
Indian Constitution Says India --"The Bharat" --Which is a "Union Of States"[ They Mean Nations with Police powers with Lathies[Sticks] to maintain Social Order ----With the Real Power rests with the "Centre" at New Delhi-known inter-nationlly a "Quasi--Federal State"---Neither Unitary nor Fully Fedral but Appears to a Federal--I think it was since Indra Ghandi who removed lots of Powers one by one From the Periphral States to Centre-She wanted a highly "Centalised State" after Emergency ---Like Modi Ji Now !


Ad Honorem
Jul 2014
Lower Styria, Slovenia
Which term is more appropriate to describe USSR and yugoslavia? Nation or country?
I was taught that a nation is an ethnicity with its own country. I'd certainly say Yugoslavia was a country that tried to become a nation by merging all the ethnicities to a common Yugoslav one, but failed exactly because of that.

Russia too I wouldn't consider a nation by that definition as although you have ethnic Russians, Russia is home to many other ethnicities like the Saami, Yakuts, Chechens etc. The Russian language even distinguishes that with using different terms when dealing with thinga connected to Russian people or language (russkiy) and the Russian state (rossiyskiy).


Ad Honorem
Apr 2015
I was taught that a nation is an ethnicity with its own country.
There are numerous countries in the world that don't have single ethnicity like United Kingdom(English, Scots, Cornish, Welsh, Irish), Switzerland(Germans, French, Italians, Romani), Belgium, Spain, Canada(English and French), elsewhere in the world like China, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, most of the countries of Africa.

Even within Europe there are numerous countries who were carved out mainly because of the interference of great powers.


Forum Staff
Mar 2008
On a mountain top in Costa Rica. yeah...I win!!
NATION. From the dictionary of ideas.
Natio derives from the Latin verb to be born (nasci ) and refers to societies constituted by (assumed) common birth or descent, a meaning akin to the English word race.

Prepolitical Usages
In late Roman and early medieval texts, natio was less frequently used than gens, which also meant groups of common descent, though emphasizing kinship and family rather than race. Another group noun, populus, referred to the assembled citizens of a city-state. (Plebs referred to people in the negative sense of the masses.) This meaning translated from Greek city-states to the Roman Republic and then to the Roman Empire. Romans used gens and natio to describe other peoples perceived as extended kinship groups or subjects of quasi-religious dynasts. Such groups were given specific names. Tacitus (c. 55– c. 117) in Germania (98 C.E.) named the people (gens) of “Germania,” differentiating distinct nations and subnations. However, there was no consistency in relating general labels to specific names. This ethnography was taken over by the late Roman Latin-writing intellectual elite and continued by their successors, the Roman Catholic clergy. The names given to certain territories (England, France, Germany) derive from Latin labels.
(this article goes on for two pages covering its history upto modern times.)

COUNTRY. from Wiki
The word country comes from Old French contrée, which derives from Vulgar Latin (terra) contrata ("(land) lying opposite"; "(land) spread before"), derived from contra ("against, opposite"). It most likely entered the English language after the Franco-Norman invasion during the 11th century.

In English the word has increasingly become associated with political divisions, so that one sense, associated with the indefinite article – "a country" – through misuse and subsequent conflation is now a synonym for state, or a former sovereign state, in the sense of sovereign territory or "district, native land". Areas much smaller than a political state may be called by names such as the West Country in England, the Black Country (a heavily industrialized part of England), "Constable Country" (a part of East Anglia painted by John Constable), the "big country" (used in various contexts of the American West), "coal country" (used of parts of the US and elsewhere) and many other terms.

The equivalent terms in French and other Romance languages (pays and variants) have not carried the process of being identified with political sovereign states as far as the English "country", instead derived from, pagus, which designated the territory controlled by a medieval count, a title originally granted by the Roman Church. In many European countries the words are used for sub-divisions of the national territory, as in the German Bundesländer, as well as a less formal term for a sovereign state. France has very many "pays" that are officially recognised at some level, and are either natural regions, like the Pays de Bray, or reflect old political or economic entities, like the Pays de la Loire.

A version of "country" can be found in the modern French language as contrée, based on the word c**trée in Old French, that is used similarly to the word "pays" to define non-state regions, but can also be used to describe a political state in some particular cases. The modern Italian contrada is a word with its meaning varying locally, but usually meaning a ward or similar small division of a town, or a village or hamlet in the countryside.

Similar History Discussions