Saturday, January 22, 2011

Top 10 Aspiring Nations

TIME Magazine
Monday, Jan. 10, 2011

Top 10 Aspiring Nations

Sudan held a referendum on Jan. 9 to decide whether to split into two sovereign countries. Here's a sampling of other places vying for independence — some with more legitimate claims for freedom than others

To Be or Not to Be:

1.    Scotland

By Claire Suddath

Scotland has been formally joined with England since 1707, when the two nations dissolved their parliaments and united to form Great Britain. Yet despite centuries of being under London's yoke, Scotland still considers itself a separate country and periodically pushes for independence.
The Scottish National Party (SNP), which supports full independence from Britain, formed in 1934 and won its first British parliamentary seat in 1945. In 1999, Scotland elected its first Parliament in nearly 300 years (though Queen Elizabeth II formally began the opening session — maybe to remind them who was boss?). The Scottish Parliament controls domestic policy in Scotland, while Westminster still handles everything else. Because of this, Scotland could ban smoking when the rest of Britain still allowed cigarettes in public places. The SNP won the nation's 2007 parliamentary elections and has periodically urged Scotland to take up a referendum on independence ever since. Even if passed, the referendum would not be binding unless approved by the British Parliament.

2.    The Basque Country

By Dan Fastenberg

When a group of diverse regions gets stitched together as one nation, it's often thanks to the grip of an iron fist. In the case of modern Spain, the man who held the line was the Generalissimo — the dictator Francisco Franco who ruled Spain from 1939 to 1975. One of the fascist's main challenges was to subdue the national aspirations of Spain's varied linguistic communities, particularly the Catalans and the Basques. In 1959, Franco's government banned the official use of the Basque language in a bid to further assimilate the people often referred to as Europe's first indigenous race. (The Basque language has no direct links to others spoken in Western Europe.)
Franco also outlawed the Basques' semiautonomous councils and their tax-collecting authority. As a result, an already vibrant independence movement started to gain steam and the terrorist group ETA was born. Operating out of Basque country in northeastern Spain — as well as a sliver of southwestern France — ETA placed bombs that indiscriminately killed roughly 820 people over a half-century of activity. But public revulsion over ETA's campaign sullied the image of Basque nationalism, and the group declared a cease-fire in September 2010, pledging to join the cause of furthering Basque autonomy through peaceful means in democratic Spain.

3.    Tibet

By Frances Romero

Pointing to old imperial records, Beijing claims that Chinese sovereignty over Tibet dates back centuries, though these claims have been disputed by some historians and Tibetan nationalists. In 1950, Chinese troops invaded the rugged plateau region, overrunning the outmatched Tibetan army and compelling the then Tibetan government to sign the 17-Point Agreement, which affirmed China's sovereignty over Tibet while also granting the region a degree of autonomy. Some members of the Tibetan Cabinet, however, claimed not to have accepted the agreement. A violent crackdown in 1959 on Tibetan dissidents saw the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet flee to India and repudiate the document as having been forced on his people. The Dalai Lama has spent more than half a century since in exile calling on China to grant his homeland greater freedoms.

4.    South Ossetia

By Ishaan Tharoor

The Ossetians are the descendants of the Alans, a tribe once renowned for their skill at shooting arrows while atop horses. South Ossetia, though, is the product of more recent times — fissured away from its North by Moscow's gerrymandering of borders and subsumed after the fall of the Soviet Union into the new independent state of Georgia. That didn't go down well with the South Ossetians and fighting broke out toward the end of 1990, leading to some 1,000 deaths. A cease-fire in 1992 muted tensions for a time, but an escalation — allegedly provoked by Georgian shelling of a South Ossetian town — in 2008 led to a full-blown war, with Russian troops backing up the South Ossetians as well as separatists in Abkhazia, another de facto independent republic in Georgia. Yet despite winning their nominal nationhood, neither the E.U. nor the U.S. recognize these Georgian breakaways.

5.    Kurdistan
By Ishaan Tharoor

Following the collapse of the world's great empires and the birth of a whole slew of new nations from Eastern Europe to the Middle East, it's fair to say the Kurds got a raw deal. Their homeland was carved up by the borders of Iran, Syria, Iraq and Turkey. To this day, the majority of the world's Kurdish population (some 30 million) live in this contiguous territory as ethnic minorities in other nations.
In a bid to subdue Kurdish identity, Turkey's founders deemed Kurds "mountain Turks" and forbade the use of the Kurdish language until 1991. An outlawed Kurdish guerrilla group, the Kurdistan Workers' Party or the PKK, waged a high-profile insurgency starting in the 1970s that led to over 30,000 deaths in Turkey. Hostilities have died down in recent years, though tensions remain. Kurds have fared somewhat better in neighboring Iraq. Following the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan in the north — which already had de facto autonomy from Baghdad ever since the end of the 1991 Gulf War — has seen relative stability and an economic boom. Much to the chagrin perhaps of dyed-in-the-wool Kurdish nationalists, the biggest economic sponsor in the region is currently Turkey.

6.    Quebec

By Kayla Webley

Quebec fell under British rule in the 18th century, but nostalgia for its French past remains, not least in the Canadian province's French motto: "Je me souviens," or "I remember." Quebec is overwhelmingly French-speaking. According to the 2006 census, 85% of Quebecers list French as their mother tongue (as opposed to residents in most other provinces, of whom more than 90% are English-speaking). Quebecers came close to attaining statehood in October 1995 when a deficit of 53,000 votes (out of a constituency of 7.5 million) prevented secessionists from winning a mandate for independence.
Today, the movement has lost much of the momentum it had at its peak in the '90s, thanks in large part to the parliamentary power of the Bloc Québécois. As the party (the most popular in Quebec) works to promote Quebec's political agenda and protect Francophone interests against perceived English assimilation, separation has been less of a priority for many Quebecers.

7.    Western Sahara

By Ishaan Tharoor

The former Spanish colony is a sparsely populated territory (fewer than 500,000 people live here) wedged between Mauritania and Morocco. By 1979, Morocco had annexed the entirety of Western Sahara, despite the protestations of a long-standing independence movement, headed by a group known as the Polisario Front. In the decades since, a significant Moroccan military presence has kept Polisario's columns of guerrillas at bay; the secessionists control only a sliver of largely uninhabited land in Western Sahara's east. A U.N.-brokered cease-fire in 1991 set the table for a referendum in the country, but the vote has yet to take place, with Morocco adamant that it maintains its sovereignty over the territory. Still, many ethnic Sahrawis live in poor conditions under Moroccan watch. In November 2010, riots at one camp of some 12,000 displaced Sahrawis broke out; reports allege that at least one person was killed by the subsequent Moroccan crackdown.

8.    The Republic of Cascadia

By Kayla Webley

The Republic of Cascadia would bring together Washington State, Oregon and British Columbia. Proponents of the new country (which has little chance of ever becoming a reality) say the approximately 14 million residents of "Cascadia" should demand their freedom from the oppressive governments of Canada and the U.S. "For too long have our people put up with indifference ... from distant seats of power," they write on the Republic of Cascadia website. Supporters point to the words of Thomas Jefferson, who apparently never intended that the U.S. reach all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
Abundant in both natural and industrial resources, home to giant corporations like Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks and Nike, and host to the Hollywood of the North (Vancouver), the country would likely prosper. Socially, it would probably be one of the most liberal countries in the world. While conservatives call much of the rural eastern side of Washington and Oregon home, liberals inhabit the much-larger cities of Seattle, Portland and Vancouver, where all things eco-friendly and organic reign supreme. A far more conservative movement farther north, in Alaska, seeks to make that vast, remote state an independent country.

9.    Padania

By Alexandra Silver

As ancient as Rome may be, Italy's unification only came about in the second half of the 19th century. Regional differences persist: one particular vocal antagonist is the Lega Nord, or Northern League, a political group founded in 1991 by divisive politician Umberto Bossi. Arguing that the poorer south is a drag on the wealthier, industrialized north, Lega Nord literally and figuratively looks down on much of Italy. It champions what it calls Padania, referring to the areas around the Po River Valley. In 1996, Bossi went so far as to declare Padania an independent republic. The declaration didn't really mean anything, though there is now a Padania soccer team (not recognized by FIFA). Secession may be a bit much, but today the extremely anti-immigrant Lega Nord, which continues to advocate for greater autonomy and calls for "fiscal federalism," is strong. Bossi, an ally of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who just a few years ago flipped off the national anthem, continues to lead the party.

10.    Second Vermont Republic

By Frances Romero
Formed in 2003 by Duke University professor emeritus Thomas Naylor, the Second Vermont Republic bills itself as a "nonviolent citizens network" focused on independence for the state of Vermont and the dissolution of the Union. Why? Because of "the tyranny of corporate America and the U.S. government" and so that Vermonters would not be, as Naylor told TIME in 2010, "forced to participate in killing women and children in the Middle East." The group also wants Vermont to become dependent on family-owned farms and businesses so as not to rely on other states or countries to sustain itself. Their flag is similar in design to that of an earlier Vermont secessionist movement from the 18th century.,29569,2041365,00.html

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