What are your thoughts on the fact that a lot of different ethnic groups in Europe have their own state(s) right now?

Apr 2019
United States
I quite like it. It is easy to look at a certain group and trace its history and migrations and see the combinations of cultures and then splits. And everyone can get religious and political freedom there.
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Jul 2012
The OP raises a number of fundamental questions for me.

What came first - the state or the ethnic/nation?
For there to be an ethnic group there must have been a polity that kept an environment stable long enough for certain cultural elements to blend in a particular way to produce something distinct. Without that, individuals and small groups would pursue relationships that benefited themselves without building connections to others of similar sentimentality.

Does a state need a cultural group behind it? Not necessarily if it can wield power to force people to act in a particular manner and to express particular sentiments.

Why would individuals and small groups give up their independence to be part of larger groups?
Where it is voluntary it can only be that there is a greater benefit to them to do so. Often there was no choice as some other power has forced another mode of action on them and been able to break their ability to resist.

If the Empires of the 17th - 19th centuries were such great developments, why were they pulled apart in the 20th century?
From the beginning of the 19th century the Ottoman Empire was called "the sick man of Europe"; the Austro-Hungarian Empire was not far behind; the Russian Empire was straining from its own successes and backwardness; Germany was the new kid on the block whose growth was stunted by coalition wars; the British Empire disappeared peacefully in the 20th century and the American Empire rose while no one was bothering to pay any attention to them.

It is impossible to get a handle on a situation when you just refer to an ethnic group; you have to recognise the ethnic group is just one manifestation of larger group formations. Larger groupings emerged because there was a benefit to individuals and smaller groups to do so. These larger formations may have come about by consensus or by force of one group over others. The character these groups will have will depend on available resources, knowledge, skills, its environment and the presence of competitors. Those groups came with their own problems that required particular solutions which may have been at odds with the interests of the individuals and small groups that made them up and to the process of how they came together. The main driver of groups is to provide the goods and services needed for individuals firstly to physically survive and secondly to pursue their desires and interests. As these demands change with time the larger group must change with it, and if it can't then a process of destruction commences that will lead to a new arrangement evolving. A large group may be a hapless victim of the processes of time, or it may contribute to its own destruction by pursuing actions that prevent it from making necessary changes to changing circumstances.

Compare these 3 political maps of Europe, for 1500, 1900 and 2000.
Euratlas Periodis Web - Map of Europe in Year 1500
Euratlas Periodis Web - Map of Europe in Year 1900
Euratlas Periodis Web - Map of Europe in Year 2000

Its great to have a concept that allows like-minded and like-acting individuals to determine their own fates. However, do they have the resources to meet the needs of their members, and to resist other competitors? Lets not forget that the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth extended privileges to a far greater percentage of its population than any other state of its time, and that it pursued a form of liberty and democracy unknown elsewhere, yet it took actions that prevented it from changing to meet changing circumstances and to be able to defend itself against competitors.

The modern world provides a benevolent environment for small groups to pursue their own interests in the manner of their own choosing. But the past has shown we cannot expect any particular environment not not to change, or that change to be necessarily beneficial, or the processes of change benign.

What changed that the Empires of the 19th century could not adjust to and ensure their survival?
I believe there are a few independent themes -
globalisation that commenced with Europe sailing around the Cape of south africa and sailing westward;
rationalisation of thought that lead to the Scientific Age and a new philosophy that lead to an industrial revolution and the bureaucratisation of economic and cultural life; and
the shift away from personal relationships to contractual relationships as the basis of social life.

The 19th century saw the Empires struggle to keep their states together (excepting Britain who continued to expand) and eventually failing with World War I. Who knows whether the current arrangement (re-establishing the primacy of the personal relationships as the basis of society through ethnicity and national groupings first before pursuing contractual relationships) is a good, stable one and whether it will last, but for the time being it has no better alternatives and is keeping competitors at bay.
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