Why were large states more popular in the early 20th century than they are right now?

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
13,841
SoCal
#1
What I find fascinating is that, in the early 20th century, large states were more popular than they are right now. For instance, there were prominent movements to unify all Eastern Slavs in a single state as well as to unify all South Slavs other than Bulgarians in a single state and to unify the Czechs and Slovaks in a single state in the early 20th century. However, ultimately all of these ideas ended up failing--culminating in the breakup of the USSR, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia.

This trend towards fragmentation has also been visible in some other places--for instance, the secession of Mongolia from China, the 1947 partition of India, and the secession of Bangladesh from Pakistan.

Why do you think that smaller states and national fragmentation became more popular in the late 20th and early 21st centuries?
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
4,624
Portugal
#3
What I find fascinating is that, in the early 20th century, large states were more popular than they are right now. For instance, there were prominent movements to unify all Eastern Slavs in a single state as well as to unify all South Slavs other than Bulgarians in a single state and to unify the Czechs and Slovaks in a single state in the early 20th century. However, ultimately all of these ideas ended up failing--culminating in the breakup of the USSR, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia.

This trend towards fragmentation has also been visible in some other places--for instance, the secession of Mongolia from China, the 1947 partition of India, and the secession of Bangladesh from Pakistan.

Why do you think that smaller states and national fragmentation became more popular in the late 20th and early 21st centuries?
In Europe, well in Western Europe, after WWII, there was a tendency to unify the states trough the will of the people and international organizations: ECSC, EEC, EU, WEU, ESA…

That path went quite well during the Cold War, but after the fall of the wall, some new problems begin to emerge and grow, especially after 2004 with the inclusion of many countries at the same time, many from the former Warsaw Pact, that I believe hadn’t the same ideals of the first European organizations.

So, as Edric stated, I think there are cycles in history, and some even overlap. Today in Europe we are in a fragmentation cycle: Brexit, Scotland, Catalonia…
 
Likes: Futurist
Mar 2018
487
UK
#4
The cycles of history is not an explanation - it's a restatement of the question! If you take a historical question with two outcomes ("Are states being unified or fragmented?") and look at how the answer changes in time, you either get the same answer all the time, or you see cycles. That's nothing to do with history, it's elementary logic. If you have two outcomes, they're either static (in which case we don't notice it or comment on it), or they alternate. So "it's cycles" isn't answering the question at all, it's merely noticing that things change.

Anyway, are there really been that many countries splitting recently? The only ones I can think of are South Sudan, places in the Balkans, and areas of direct Russian intervention in the Caucuses. There might be some new independence movements (Catalonia, Scotland), but there are also some old ones that have run out of steam (Corsica, Sicily). So I don't think looking at the past 20 years gives any strong trends.


As for answer as to why there are more countries now than, say, 100 years ago; I think it goes to two changes in thinking in the inter-war period. Firstly, the doctrine of self-determination became progressively more accepted in Europe and outside of it. This obviously increases the demand for national groups to be let out of an empire and rule themselves. But it also encourages the fragmentation of national groups themselves, as those who want independence for other reasons see the forging of a new, smaller national identity as a useful political tool to obtain it.

Secondly, the large European empires became unwilling/unable to use force to subjugate populations and territories for economic game. India, Algeria and most of the other colonies get independence because the old powers were unable to pacify them, or it was too expensive to continue to attempt to do so. This is also how the Austria-Hungarian empire fell apart. The USSR proved willing to use force to maintain hegemony in it's immediate borders until 1990, but then was unable to.
 
Likes: Futurist

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