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Ethnic Nationalism in the Former Yugoslavia in Comparison With Czechoslovakia, Thesis Paper Example

Pages: 32

Words: 8669

Thesis Paper


The following research intends to reveal the Eastern characteristics of nationalism in the light of research based on the events and political movements in the former Communist states; Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. Reviewing the traditional approaches to determine the focal points and characteristics of ethnic nationalism and the effects of political / historical events in the region, the researchers are attempting to reveal the motives of national movements in the region. While different theoretical approaches will be reviewed in the Literature Review section, the main purpose of the study is to create a full analysis of ethnic nationalism, comparing the events and political movements of the two countries in the past three decades.


Ethnic identity is best reviewed in the light of the nation’s development. Smith[1] determines three vital questions to be answered in order to determine the nation’s identity based on their identity, purpose, history and location.Smith first determines the difference between territorial nationalism and ethnic nationalism.[2] It is evident from the definition of ethnic nationalism that this is the one present in the countries formed after the collapse of the artificially created Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. The pre-independence and post-independence movements of the nations are in line with the political events of the two countries.

The two types of nationalism according to Kohn[3] are the Western and the Eastern types. While the Western nationalism is liberal and inclusive, the Eastern is exclusive, illiberal and often results in authoritarianism. Smith[4] takes the process of distinction one step further; according to him the Western nationalism is civic and political, while the Eastern version is cultural and ethnical. This is where the term “ethnic nationalism” originates from. However, it is evident that every nationalism can only be fully examined in the light of the political and sociological events. Eastern nationalism is deeply rooted in traditions and culture.[5] While some authors claim that conceptualizing nationalism based on culture and traditions is not an approach that can be solely used to determine individual characteristics.[6]

This statement is also confirmed by Dungaciu [7] who states that the Eastern type of nationalism can only be explained and examined looking at the historical patterns. He also suggests that “ethnic nationalism” as such, even in the countries classed as “civic states” like Britain appear to be a revolt against “civic nationalism”. This proves the existence of mixed nationalism in different countries and denies the existence of a sole type of nationalism in one single state.

While some authors claim that the dichotomy of Kohn’s model is “valid and useful”, the basis of comparison and distinction might be questionable.The main purpose of the current research is not to question the validity of differentiating between Western and Eastern (or civic and ethnic) nationalism, simply to determine the points which can be used for the comparison and contrast in order to be able to determine the main differences and specifics of Eastern nationalism; most importantly the characteristics of the artificially created countries’ nationalist movement. While most authors are using Eastern nationalism to define the national movements in the former Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, the authors of the current study would like to reveal the national differences based on the history and the countries’ different nations. When the West decided to create Czechoslovakia amalgamating two different nations into one and created Yugoslavia as an artificial national and political entity.Country characteristics will be taken into consideration when creating a “nationalism” profile for the two formal countries, based on literature and theoretical research.

Thesis: Nationalism in the East has its specific characteristics. Compared to the American model, the suppression of nationalism results in a different society and approach. Therefore, there is a need for comparing the characteristics of ethnic and civic nationalism. The historical patterns on the Balkan are different, the Western type of civic nationalism is “voluntarist” while the Eastern is “organic”. (Kohn)

Literature Review

The approach to understanding nationalism has changed significantly after Hans Kohn’s dichotomy between Eastern and Western nationalism.[8] Since the publication of the theory, many authors have tried to question the validity of the model. Some claim that it is a simplified model which does not reflect the true nature of nationalism, while others call it an idealized framework which does not completely reflect the historical realities of individual countries. Indeed, there are some points Kohn misses regarding the fact that many countries were “man-made”. For example, neglecting the fact that the borders of Eastern and Central Europe were “redrawn” after the Trianon agreement and many Hungarian nationals were “stuck outside of their political homeland”[9] in Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia alike. Given the above conditions and the diversity of ethnicities being forced to live together as one artificial nation, there are certainly some specific characteristics to be revealed regarding the two countries examined.

Kohn’s Basic Concepts and Ideology

Kohn determines nationalism as a “group-consciousness” but also states that the psychological and sociological analysis of the movement is not sufficient. He also sets three criteria for nation formation; each nation needs to form a state, this state needs to include the whole nation and the loyalty for the state needs to have a higher priority than public loyalties. He confirms that nations and nationalitics are “the product of the historical development of the society”. [10] Therefore, he assumes that while “nationalism is a state of mind”, it is influenced by history, communal psychology, language, sentiments, therefore, it is also an idea. While Western nationalism lies in the social base, Eastern does not have the social classes that determine nationalism, therefore, it is more “organic”. One could argue with this statement, as there are indeed some aristocratic traditions in Eastern Europe, as well. During the Austria-Hungarian Empire’s reign, these countries were the subject of “westernization”. According to Kohn, the typical (and clear) civic West countries are UK, Netherlands, France and Switzerland, alongside with the USA. In Eastern nationalism (Central and Eastern Europe, for example), the attachments to the nation and traditions are inherited and not chosen like in the civic type of nationalism.

Smith and National Identity

Smith’s most important statement regarding the theory of differentiating between Western and Eastern nationalism is that the transformation is constant from ethnic to civic, and the initial form of nationalism in the West was also civic. This means that it is impossible to call the Western nationalism plainly civic and the Eastern plainly ethnic; there is a constant movement towards civic nationalism, which (based on research) started earlier in the Western civilizations than in the East. Further, Smith argues that labeling Western and Eastern nationalism as “liberal” and “blood and soil” is not relevant to the complexity of the problem. He also denies that “civic nationalism” would be inclusive at all. Multiculturalism did not exist in these cultures for a long time; America has denied native Americans and Black Americans the same rights as their own nationals. It certainly does not confirm the statement that this type of nationalism would be liberal. It might be moving towards liberalism faster, due to some political and historical events, but is clearly not “civic” from the beginning. Smith also states that there is a difference in the nationalism of dominant ethnic groups and minorities.

Kuzio’s Criticism

Kuzio[11] argues that the evolution process from Communist to civic states also has a great importance when defining nationalism in the region. According to the author, the main problem with Kohn’s theory is that plainly “civic” or “ethnic” states do not exist in reality. Kuzio also says that both types of nationalism are present in individual countries’ movements.[12] He also agrees with Smith[13], who confirms that while “ethnic” or “civic” nationalism might be predominant in a country. Kuzio finds six different problems with the Kohn framework, still used in current research and publications.

  • the denial of cultural values, ideas and historical myths
  • not dealing with anti-democratic nationalisms, however, these largely differ from the one of Eastern Europe.
  • ignoring ethnic and territorial violence’s existence in the West (Northern Ireland, for example)
  • the idealization of the “West” as being an inclusive nationalism, which is not true. Kuzio mentions the exclusion of Native Americans by Americans as an example.
  • Eastern nationalism is a constantly evolving movement which means that shifting towards “civic nationalism” is possible
  • the different judgment of homogenization; calling it “nation-building” in West and “nationalizing states” in the East.

He recommends that nationalism should be viewed as a process or evolution, with consideration given to ethno-cultural factors.

Jaskulowski’s Views on Dichotomy

Jaskulowski[14] criticizes Kohn from a completely different angle, and this angle is certainly relevant to our current research. He finds that the categorization of Kohn is not relevant. He states that while according to Kohn’s categories, Poland is a non-Western state, while the emergence of Polish nationalism had civic origins. Similarly, Hungarian nationalism was based on civic values and putting these states into the same category as Latvia and Estonia where the presence of ethnic nationalism, roots and traditions are much stronger is wrong. According to Jaskulowski, similarly to Kuzio, Kohn simplified the categories and idealized Western states’ civic nationalism, ignoring its negative aspects. He interestingly brings in the theory of Marx and Engels, differentiating between historical and history-less nations. The historical category includes Hungarians, Polish and Germans (considering the traditions, culture and the involvement in the Austria-Hungarian Empire) and the Slavic nations as history-less. While this dual category of Europe is not without faults, either, and to simply state that a nation has no history just traditions and roots would be exaggeration, this distinction is a valid point and will be used in the research to determine the different characteristics of the former Yugoslavian and Czechoslovakian states’ nationalism. The author also looks at the diversity of nations within the state, which will also be the topic of the present research. Homogenization a nation is close to simplifying the problem, and it just does not work in the current research, as both states are formed by different nations with various histories, traditions, beliefs and political background. This might be the reason why the “man-made” states never survived the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Shulman[15] argues that the main distinction between civic and ethnic states is whether the national unity is founded on a historic territory or a fictive super-family, quoting Smith. He confirms that it is true that the countries put into the “Western” category primarily are based on civic values while the “Non-western” are primarily ethnic nations. He creates a framework which describes the different contents of a national identity, as: civic, cultural and ethnic. This said, the dichotomy is no longer valid from the reading of Shulman. He also discusses the different cultural and immigration policies of the states. Reviewing his three new categories; civic, cultural and ethnic, he deals with the question of immigration, assimilation and ethnic dominance, adding additional scope to political research. The study also measures responses of different countries regarding nationalism, immigration, politics and values and national identity as a whole. When reviewing assimilation and nationalism in the formal states of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, the research findings will be used to reason the different specifics of the countries’ nationalism. It is, however, important to note here that in Central and Eastern Europe, 55 percent of respondents were against assimilation, while this score in the West is only 30 percent. While the introduction of the third type of nationalism into the research has its benefits, the authors of the current study believe that the three newly created categories are still not appearing in a standalone manner in any country. It is true that there are some countries where cultural nationalism is more prominent, and this statement would be valid for countries in the Middle-East.[16] These countries are often mis-categorized and put into the Eastern (ethnic) state group, however, it is evident that when looking at Arabic countries, the highest prominence nationalism is cultural the second highest is ethnic and the third highest is civic.


From the above literature review it is evident that the dichotomy of Kohn can not be applied for the current research for various reasons. First of all; the categorization of nations is not relevant to the definition of state at all. The countries do not form a state on their own (or not completely), not all the members of the nation are included in the state and in many times public loyalty has a higher priority than the national one. This would be the first, but not the only problem with the framework.

The question of ethnic dominance and ethnic minority is not fully discussed by any theories. After the decades of nations being forced to live together as one large nation (remember, Yugoslavian and Czechoslovakian nationals did not exist before the formation of the countries), there is a question of mixed national identities and traditions. The perception of individual nations regarding the political events of the 20th Century need to be examined, or a very important point will be missed.

On the other hand, reviewing the criticism of Kohn’s framework, using the “ethnic nationalism” in the view of dichotomy would not be relevant, either. Labeling the formal countries as “cultural” states (using Shulman’s framework) is not There is a need for reviewing the two countries based on their national characteristics, history, civic background and beliefs to determine a new category that they can be fitted into. This calls for the thorough examination of the societies, movements and history of nationalism. While this seems like a huge task for the researchers, there are plenty of resources to draw from and the authors believe that the correct categorization of the countries would be making the research more relevant to the countries.

Country Characteristics- Common Features

Both of the countries were “man-made”, as this has been previously determined through historical review. Both consist of nations with strong ethnic nationalism features, have cultural nationalism present,  however, all of them were ruled by states where civic nationalism and liberalism was present, therefore, the influence is not negligible. Both of the formal countries consist of several Slavic ethnic groups. Both of them have minorities living on the territory. According to the Marx-Engels categorization of European nations, the countries fall into the history-less category. Therefore, summarizing the findings of the research, the authors find it necessary  to create a new sub- category in which the two formal states fall into, (without taking away the validity of Kohn’s dual model) which is:

– a collective state of multiple nations homogenized into one

– shows strong ethnic nationalism features

– has minorities

– history-less states.

To simplify the terminology, the collective name of the new sub-category created would be Collective Ethnic History-less States. (CEHS)  This category would not only include formal Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia but also the formal USSR. (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) It would not, however, include the formal Western and Eastern Germany and Hungary (old and new)  as they were not amalgamated but divided into different countries by political forces.

While the states examined were certainly nations from the civic perspective, they were not from the ethnic one. This meant that after the “man-made” civic states got weaker the remaining loyalty towards the collective state weakened as well, ethnic identity became stronger. If the case of Czechoslovakia, there were only two major ethnic groups imposing little or no territorial or dominance threat on each other and the borders were easily reinstated. However, in Yugoslavia the power struggle between different provinces, groups, clans and religions was persistent throughout the history, and the conflicts were the result of the renewal of the old power struggles.

Political Influences of  CEHS [17]

The above noted political influences created the specific type of nationalism in the region, which is unique and ever changing. The independence wars in Yugoslavia and the peaceful breakup of Czechoslovakia represented a different solution for independence and was followed by the revival of nationalism. However, it is important to add one more element to the process, which is ongoing; globalization. There is no need to explain this force’s effects on national identity, language and culture.

Cultural Differences

One of the most important mistakes politicians have made when analyzing the ethnic features of the former Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia is that they often used the collective phrase “Slavic nations” to describe the ethnic groups. This practice is not new in literature, and if this type of categorization was true, the Balkan wars would never have happened.

Samantha Power [18] concludes that the American intervention was wrong because the military did not take into consideration cultural-ethnic differences. Creating a state for a history-less country is a hard enough task, but it is even harder when the population of the countries is mixed and the territorial boundaries do not determine nations any more. This is the reason why formal Czechoslovakian and Yugoslavian nations cannot be reviewed as a “classic nation”. Taking Smith’s criteria of a nation word by word, it is not true that these Slavic ethnicities do not fall into the category at all, and that is why the “organic” nationalism theory does not stand.

The reason for the conflict in the area was based on strong ethnic nationalism and not civic, that is true. However, it is important to determine what counts as a nation in this case. There are – in the case of former Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia – multiple ethnic nations and one civic nation, based on Kohn’s concept. As the ethnic nationalism was stronger than the civic type, national conflicts occurred. This way, the statement that these countries are showing the strong prevalence of “organic” or ethnic nationalism is true. Still, when looking at the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, it is evident that the cultural aspect of nationalism is also extremely strong.

As a conclusion, the authors would like to confirm that while the national identity of the Slavic nations included in the state of former Yugoslavia was based on culture and ethnicity, when the new collective state was created, the nations were forced to accept a new, civic national identity. After this “artificial belonging” was not held together by force (the fall of the Eastern Block), the people refused to accept the values of a civic state and returned to an ethnic and cultural type of nationalism.

The Effects of Suppression

Suppression of ethnic and civic nationalism was one of the methods of creating a new ideology in the Communist world. In order to idolize the Great Soviet Block, it was necessary for the politicians to get rid of other values or at least suppress them. This is why communists did not promote religion. For them, the Soviet state was above all; even above national identity. Therefore, the suppression strengthened the ethnic conflicts after the collapse of the state. This thesis has been confirmed by Brown, who stated that “these deep-seated animosities were held in check for years”. [19]

During the almost five decades of communism, politics tried to change people’s values and identities. With the new system everyone was the member of the great Soviet Bloc. Suppression of nationalism was also one of the major factors in the revival of ethnic nationalism in the region.

In Czechoslovakia, the national identity was somewhat more preserved than in Yugoslavia. There were only two dominant nations and while they had their own language, they were allowed to freely use it. That is why the collapse of the country was peaceful, while in Yugoslavia it was followed by civil war and national conflict. It is also important to note that there were no huge differences between the traditions, customs, beliefs, religion and history of  Slovakian and Czech people, unlike between the nations living in former Yugoslavia. While at the point of creating Czechoslovakia Czechs and Slovaks were on a different level of development and they had a large German population, the unity seemed to work. Minority problems were prominent in Czechoslovakia even from the date of the Trianon Treaty when a large part of Hungary’s territory was attached to the country, meaning  more than 900,000 Hungarians were living in the civic state of Czechoslovakia.

Looking back again at the argument of Dungaciu[20], who claims that the history of ethnic cleansing in Eastern Europe was the reason why the countries were classed as “ethnic nations”.

Nationalism or Nationalisms

In the case of former Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia it is impossible to talk about nationalism in singular term. Nationalism only exists within one ethnic nation, according to Smith, and the collective states included more than one nation. While in Czechoslovakia there were two dominant nationalities and a few (but large) minority groups, in Yugoslavia the situation was much more complicated.

Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Serbia, including Vojovodina and Kosovo were made to form Yugoslavia.  This did not only mean ethnic diversity but cultural at the same time. Among the many religions practiced here were Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Protestantism, Judaism and Islam.

The differentiation between individual and collective identity was clearly described by Krasznay[21]. The author states that there is a need for a cultural and emotional bond between the individuals belonging to one nation. This ideology suggests that every type of nationalism (civic or ethnic) is also cultural. The article quoted assesses the identity of Catalans living in Spain. While the Spanish example is not relevant to our current research, it is important to highlight that the author finds ethnic nationalism in the region, suggesting that civic nationalism as a clear category does not exist in the West, and that nationalism always involves exclusion of other groups. The feeling of belonging would not be strong enough to form a nation if some differentiation was not present, which in the end results in discrimination and exclusion.

The case of Yugoslavia – Particularities

Andersen [22] investigates the Kosovo conflict from the ethno-nationalistic sentiment perspective. He examines five different elements of the current process of the society; the question of Albanian culture and state oppression, the question of trans-national communities and changes in the civil society, the formation of international elite, multi-culturalism and territorial identity. He agrees that nationalism is a result of a long historical process. Interestingly, he denies that ethnic “excluding” type of nationalism spread as a German idea. The authors of the current study agree that nationalism has existed long before the German collective nation ideology was invented. People and nations were formed on an ethnic basis initially from different groups and tribes.

The question of Slavic nations is particularly interesting, because they had a history of alliances and conflicts together. The similarity of culture, language and traditions should have meant lower level of exclusion, at least this would have been a logical outcome. The reason why the conflicts occurred in the region from time to time lies in exclusion and protectionism, mentioned before. Individual groups were finding it necessary to protect the smaller group’s interests from other nations.

The author concludes that when examining Kosovo as a nation it appears to be a new nation. It is also not a nation-state, more like a nation with “state-like structures” [23] Further, he states that “social organization based on ethnicity regulates interaction between individuals; both within the ethnic group and between them”. This also indicates that there is a categorization of “other nations” present; the strong presence of “we” and “them”. This form of exclusion is clearly visible in the former Yugoslavian states. There are clans and blood feuds which have been going on for generations.

As highlighted before, it is not possible to talk about classical “nations” and states in the case of former Yugoslavia. Andersen [24] concludes the problematic features of the country and the main source of conflict in the region.

“The ideal type of ethnic nationalism is where the borders of the state and the  ethnic boundary are the same. In many cases the state act as if these borders     were the same, but they are not. Powerful ethnic minorities, and especially those  who controls who exerts some sort of territorial control, pose a serious threat for          states which is legitimized by the dominance of one particular ethnic group.”[25]

Czechoslovakia – Organic or Civic Nationalism

In the case of Czechoslovakia, it is important to take into consideration the effects of communism and political forces. The previously mentioned Benes decrees were the immediate result of political ideology, which made Germans and Hungarians collectively responsible for the sin of the Nazis. It is important to note that this political ideology would normally have been refused if it was not forced by those in power. Europe has already seen where the idea of collective sin led to after Holocaust, and in that sense the Benes decrees were the repetition of Holocaust the other way. Looking at the ideological background of nationalism as a whole picture, putting the blame on Jews was indeed not the invention of Hitler; it appears in political theories well before him. While Hitler made the Jewish nation collectively responsible for the inequality in the society, the Soviet Union’s politicians also had to find groups of people to blame. The most important example of this is the attack of the Bourgeoisie power. In Czechoslovakia nationalism was not based on the fact that two nations were united as a civic nation; it was aimed at minorities.

Ethnic Dominance and Minorities

The internal conflict of countries between ethnic majorities and minorities is well explained by Andersen[26] who brings up the Albanian legend of Gorg Kastrioti Skendebeg. The historical figure is a national symbol of history today and represents the nation’s resistance against large empires’ expansion. The flag of Ksendebeg was used for a long time by clans to show their national identity. The author confirms that historical legends are political and excluding. He confirms that education played  a great part in spreading ideologies among the new generations and confirming national identities. This said, it is important to highlight the cultural nature of nationalism. While the Slavic nations’ legends and origin myths are not as strong as for example the Hungarians, who have a complete mythology built around the great leaders of the nation leading the people into the middle of Europe, they are still strong enough to reinforce national identities of people. These myths built in the educational curriculum have an effect on people’s ideologies, and as Smith confirms, nationalism is a state of mind, a collective sense of belonging.

Brubaker[27] confirms that there is a triangular relationship between the minority groups, newly formed states and external homelands. A good description of national minority is found in Brubaker’s article, which will be explaining the main source of conflict. According to the author, a national minority is not a demographic fact, more like a dynamic potential stance. The dynamics within the state create conflicts and this results in ethnic violence. A national minority is also a field of struggle, and that explains the violence that accompanies nationalization. The author does not call the civic state as a national state; he used the “nationalizing state” definition instead, which highlights the active part of the state in nationalism.

As territorial boundaries of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia were not representing  ethnic boundaries, the minority question became serious. However, what heats violence against minorities is a question that needs to be answered, before the problem can be analyzed. One of the examples Andersen [28] brings up is the Ashkalija minority of Albanians. These people consider themselves Albanians but the rest of the nation thinks that they are Albanian-speaking Romas. They are considered to be ranked higher in the society than “real” Romas but they are still excluded. In Czechoslovakia, however, the atrocities against Romas and Hungarians (who were forced to live outside of their civic state border) are similar. Slovaks (as a part of Hungary currently belongs to the new Slovakia) have a long history of excluding Hungarian nationals from the society. For a long time, they prohibited the traditionally Hungarian settlement names to be displayed in the population’s language, even the use of their own language. However, it is important to differentiate between two types of ethnic discrimination present in the region.

A, discrimination against minority groups based on the perception that the other   nation belongs to a “lower” social class. This is the case in almost all Eastern and            Central European countries where Roma population is present. Slovaks, Czechs   and Hungarians all believe that Roma is a history-less, and culture-less nation    which needs to be placed lower in the society.

B, Exclusion and discrimination based on threats. The threats can be imagined or  real. This is true in the former Yugoslavia, where the power struggle for territorial dominance is present. On the other hand, the recent atrocities against Hungarians and the state affairs between Slovakia and Hungary show that  Slovaks still think that Hungary might request that the borders before the Trianon agreement would be reinstated.

Ethnic Conflict

Brown[29] confirms the previously mentioned hypothesis that age-old animosities contribute towards internal conflict, however, he denies that this would be the only source of aggression. He builds a framework that determines the four underlying sources of conflict; these are:

a, structural factors

b, political factors

c, economic/social factors

d, cultural-perceptual factors

Looking at the structural factors of the region it is evident that all those three sources of the conflict are present in the region. It has also been confirmed that the countries were not “organic” but “forced civic”, it is evident that this factor is present in the two former countries of the Eastern Bloc. States were weak because the only thing that kept the nations together was the political power. While the individual nationalisms were suppressed, there was no real civic nationalism created, at least not one that is similar to Great Britain. While Welsh and Northern Irish people do not like being called English, they consider themselves British. This identity of being Yugoslavian or Czechoslovakian was never that strong in the Eastern Bloc. Intra-state security concerns were present in former Yugoslavia, and the ethnic geography had an important role in the conflict. Brown confirms that “some states are born weak”. [30] He mentions as an example states that “were carved out of colonial empires” and this is what really happened in the case of Yugoslavia. When the state becomes weaker the conflict increases. This – according to Brown – is a result of individual ethnic groups or nations trying to defend their identity and autonomy. Ethnic geography also has a great impact on internal conflicts, especially when it comes to territories, majority and minority group struggles. Brown describes the political factors of Yugoslavia as those provoking conflict. Mentioning scapegoating and the actions of Milosevic are the examples he uses. Politics used mass media and propaganda to heat conflicts and increase civic nationalist tension.

Economic and social factors like inflation after the collapse of the Eastern Bloc were present in the region. This contributed towards social disorder and internal conflict.   The cultural and perceptual aspects of the internal national conflict were present in the form of discrimination against minorities. It is important to note here that both countries have had a history of ethnic violence and some of these were leading to a war, others to a political action. It is crucial that we bring into context the Benes decrees which was a series of discriminative laws against minority Hungarians and Germans after the war. It was a clear action of ethnic cleansing. It withdrew some property rights from the minorities, clearly declaring Hungarians and Germans state enemies. This also led to deportation of almost 3 million Germans and Hungarians between 1945 and 1947.

The pre-existing grievances between different ethnic groups are the main  cultural and perceptual aspects of the ethnic conflicts today.

The responsibility of political elite is also not negotiable when looking at the ethnic conflicts in former Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia.

Westernization of East – Complexity of Nationalism and Globalization

Smith [31] confirms that “the contradiction between European identity and existing national identities may be more apparent than real”. Further, he also assumes that while the Western model of nation is built on homeland and national territory, citizenship, the Eastern is based on culture and ethnicity. [32] He also talks about the revival of ethnic nationalism in Europe. Smith admits that there is a motion in the European societies  which should not be ignored, and it is “challenging the accepted frameworks of the national state”. [33] He describes this process as three different trends’ influence.

a, transnationalism

b, the rise and fall of power blocks

c, increase of the scale of communication and power

He states that alongside with the globalization and westernization of states there is another process present, which is rediscovering the ethnic and cultural values of the nation. According to Smith, this is the main source of the revival of ethnic nationalism in Eastern Europe. Interestingly, again, the author uses a broad category of Europe and ethnic states and misses a very important point of differentiation. This being the effect of the rise and fall of power blocks. We should not forget that Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia were created, most likely based on Marx-Engels ideology that categorized Slavic nations being history-less. This categorization must have impacted the decision to create the states, and indicated that the structures would work. While the cultural element of the nations (or the low impact of it) was taken into consideration, the ethnic aspect was not. While the nations individually rarely formed a civic state, they did have a cultural and ethnic identity after all.

Below the authors would like to demonstrate the political and global forces’ effects on the two countries. It is important to revisit the initial statement the paper has started with from Smith: “Ethnic identity is best reviewed in the light of the nation’s development.”

It is also important to note that after the independence (or partial independence) of states, two processes are working against each other. The first one being the “westernization of Europe” and the second one is the revival of cultural-ethnic nationalism.

The Westernization of Yugoslavia was highly affected by the presence of US military in the region during the wars and ethnic conflicts, according to Power. It was a forced oppression of ethnic and cultural nationalism, just like Communism. That is possible the right explanation for the atrocities against US military forces. The autonomy of the region was a result of both a civic and ethnical- cultural movements. Politics, oppression of nationalism, intervention of the West and the westernization of the East all contributed towards the political changes that resulted in the increase of nationalism.

According to Andersen [34] nation-building in Yugoslavia was nothing more than a rational approach of creating a political framework for institutionalizing the region.


From the research and overview of the two former countries, there are a few emerging theses that need to be detailed below.

The dichotomy of civic and ethnic nationalism is a good starting point for research, however, as it has already been confirmed by several authors, there are no clear categories, therefore, plainly civic nationalism does not exist in the West; looking at example brought in by Krasznay; the autonomy of Catalonia [35] it is clear that the nationalism is not based on civic and political values. The autonomy of the region is sought by people based on their culture and ethnicity, not their historical traits. We could also mention the political movements in the United Kingdom, seeking Wales’ and Northern Ireland’s autonomy. The regions have been the part of the British Empire for hundreds of years, the nations still have a strong ethnic and cultural identity which overrides their loyalty towards the civic state. The non-existence of plain civic or ethnic nationalism has made it clear that it is now important to bring in the cultural element into the research as well. Looking at the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, this element is clearly visible. The conflict was based on different values, religions and ethnic identities.

Another important finding of the research was that the instability of civic states increases the chances for a conflict in the region. This has been confirmed by researchers, and is also evident from the Yugoslavian example.

Looking at nationalism as a complex system, consisting of different facets determined in the research and the effects of historical events is a much better approach. It is impossible to find a state in Europe where during its history, only one type of nationalism would have been present.

The researchers have also found that it is important to look at individual countries and nations from the development perspective, taking into account Smith’s theory of the development of ethnic identities. This also indicates that every nationalism has a cultural elements and the more “civic” the society becomes (see westernization) the more responsibility and impact the state has on the traits of nationalism.

Analyzing a nation the same way as one would approach a person, the researchers have found that ethnic groups also have their “personality traits” based on their collective personality. Civic states use education to reinforce communal knowledge, myths legends and different national or ethnic identities. Even when analyzing the “Western” type of nationalism, we can find some trace of this effort.

When creating a nationalism profile for an ethnic or civic group, there is a need to review where they are coming from, what their beliefs are and what happened to them in the past, That is why this type of analysis is similar to creating a person’s traits. A nation’s traits can be determined by its culture and traditions; myths that determine the group’s ethnic identity, The impacts of the past have also got to be analyzed as well as the influences. Which countries they were in good terms; what type of conflicts they had to come to terms with, was there at any time an oppression of national identity and whether or not the country was created voluntarily.


The main findings of the research have confirmed the initial thesis of the study and have revealed some distinct characteristics of the nations examined. The common “traits” of the countries were identified, and a new category within  “Eastern nationalism” was created. It is important to note that the initial that presumed that Eastern countries were indeed different and oppression of nationalism had an effect on their ethnic identities was confirmed. However, what is more important is that the study revealed a new relationship between the intervention that took place and ethnic identities’ development. When boundaries of ethnic groups and territorial boundaries do not meet (there are several examples for this in the West as well) there is an increased prevalence of conflict. Below the authors would like to revisit some of the points of which the two formal communist countries were compared, so the main similarities and differences will be identified.

a, Similarities between former Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia’s   nationalism and history

  • both were formed from multiple ethnicities; the ethnic and civic boundaries were different
  • oppression of nationalism by Communist system
  • ethnic and cultural national identity stronger than civic national identity; that is the reason for the break up of civic states
  • history-less states
  • movement towards civic nationalism due to globalization
  • exclusion of minority groups (ethnic nationalism features)

b, Differences between the two countries’ nationalism
Differences between the two countries' nationalism

The main differences between the two countries’ nationalism were identified as a result of different histories, impact and ethnic identities. While the initial statement that Eastern nationalism is different from “the rest”, some critical points of argument regarding the statement were identified. First of all, not taking into consideration the “civic” features of the Austria-Hungarian Empire and its impact on the nations of the formal Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia would be wrong. It is well-known that the empire had strong aristocracy in the 18th Century and the civic state was more “Western-like than Eastern. To state that the nationalism was plainly ethnic and cultural, even considering that some of them had partial autonomy within the  Austria-Hungarian Empire would not reflect the whole truth. Hall[36] confirms that the differentiation between the “West” and the Rest is completely unfounded. Claiming the superiority of Western Europe is certainly not valid in this form, either. As the research has already confirmed, the social and political development phases took place in different times in Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Asia and so on. However, much of the differentiation between “worlds” is still based on ideology and not facts.

Using a collective group name of “ethnic nationalism” and “Eastern type of nationalism” would not be a proven strategy, either. Different countries can only be observed based on their histories, and every nation is different. From the appearance of a “state” in the region, the influence of power and politics on the ethnic groups should also not be neglected. The research has identified some important faults of categorization, and agreeing with Hall, it is evident that the categories of “ethnic” and “civic” nationalism are based on stereotypes, based on some advanced discursive strategies. The strategies include idealization (mentioned before; Western is better and more advanced), projection, the failure to recognize and respect difference (see the collective term: “Slavic nations”) imposing European (in this case Western) categories and norms on countries. Therefore, seeing nationalism as a duality of two opposite approaches is plainly “stereotypical dualism”. [37]

The categorization of nations and the collective phrase of “Slavic nations” is also not relevant to the research, as there are different elements of nationalism that influenced the ethnic collective perception that need not to be neglected. Brown’s framework on the underlying sources of conflict reflect on the main influences; political, structural, economic and cultural traits of the ethnic nations need to be considered before categorization. The structural traits of the two former countries were different, as the study revealed previously; while there were only two majority nations in Czechoslovakia, there were multiple in Yugoslavia. Culturally, there was not much difference between Slovaks and Czechs, at least not as much as between Serbs and Kosovans. While the recent political influences and the presence of Communism was common between the two states, the economies were different. Therefore, while a new category was created and the two countries were referred to as  CEHS (Collective, Ethnic and History-less[38] States), still some major differences were identified between their nationalism.


The above research was intending to reveal the specific characteristics of former Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia in order to determine whether the classic category of “ethnic” nationalism fits their profiles. While the authors examined the validity of Kohn’s dichotomy, it became evident that the categories do not exist in a standalone manner. The dichotomy is only valid if one presumes that “ethnic” or “civic” nationalism has a higher prominence in the country, while its national identity is shaped by potentially the other type of nationalism, as well as cultural factors. If plain “ethnic nationalism” or “organic nations” really existed, they would not form a country or civic nation with infrastructure and government, but they would be tribes living freely without a leader. This is true because the influence of politics and the responsibility of leaders in relation to ethnic identity and nationalism has been revealed. Similarly, those countries brought up as an example for “civic” states show the signs of “ethnic” nationalism. Spain and Catalonia, Great Britain and Wales are excellent examples of this.

Further analyzing the question, it is also important to define “Eastern nationalism” and diversify it. The research suggests that nationalism in Eastern Europe has started off as “ethnic” with strong cultural influences. The main source of people’s sense of belonging lied in the myths, legends, history and ethnicity. However, as the states became more democratic and “westernized”, they started to show signs of “civic nationalism”.

Dungaciu[39] confirms that while “history is not the first explainatory argument for the Western nationalism, but it is for the Eastern one”. This means that the war of Bosnia cannot be examined without looking at the sociological, economical, political and cultural reasons of the conflict.

Summary of Findings

The above research has found that while the examined countries had similar types of nationalism and the suppression of ethnic identity was present in both states, there are some major differences that need to be highlighted. The original concept of dichotomy has been adjusted to better suit the research and provide a clearer picture of the motivators for ethnic conflicts and nationalism. The authors have concluded that the concept of categorizing former Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia as a plainly “ethnic” nation is not a suitable method. Therefore, examining the different historical, ethnic and political influences, the cultures of the nations within the multi-cultural states a new category was created. This category takes into consideration not only one element of nationalism, but all the forces that influence it.

Further, it is important to examine whether it is possible to talk about a nation in the ethnic sense when examining Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. As the state boundaries were not the same as ethnic boundaries, and there was already a large number of ethnic minorities living in the geographical territory, it was not suitable to call the states “ethnic states” at all. As such, an ethnic state does not exist due to the globalization movements.

Examining the two countries’ history and nationalism, it was also evident that they needed to be examined as collective entities. The authors suggested that – in line with Smith’s suggestions – the nationalism of the countries should be examined based on the individual traits of the country.

Some of the main specific characteristics of Eastern nationalism have been identified in both countries. While the demographic features of the states were different, some of the elements were present in both of the countries. As the mains source of ethnic conflict and ethnic nationalism, two elements were discovered; oppression of ethnic identity by the Communist regime and the fact that the states were not formed voluntarily. One of the main conditions of ethnic nationalism is voluntary formation of the state, and this was certainly not present in the case of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia.

The types of ethnic nationalism and violence were determined in both countries and some major differences were found. While exclusion of other nations in former Yugoslavia was an ongoing power struggle and based on protecting dominance over territory, in Czechoslovakia violence only occurred based on the fears of the ethnic entity. While discrimination against Romas in both countries was based on the sense of the nation’s superiority over the other ethnic group, when examining the Slovakian-Hungarian conflict, the fear of the threat the Hungarian government could impose on the Slovakian people was the main motivator. The connection between the minority group, the nationalizing state and the home country was present in the case of Czechoslovakia, it was not prominent in Yugoslavia.


It is recommended that recent political and economical changes, as well as the effects of the globalization would be taken into consideration when conducting research on nationalism in Eastern Europe. The country-specific variables should always be considered, and the dichotomy of “Eastern” and “Western” type of nationalism needs to be reconsidered in the light of the current research. The findings indicate that there are currently two different forces working against each other in Eastern and Central Europe; westernization or globalization and the revitalization of ethnic nationalism. While the first force promotes civic nationalism in the classical format, the second one strengthens national identity and feeds ethnic conflicts to this day.Nationalism, therefore, should not be examined as a static aspect of a state, more importantly as an ever changing process. This is the reason why it cannot be fully studied without looking at the history of the nation, or the ethnic traits.

Researchers need to examine history of the nations, countries and states, determining whether the formation of the state was organic or civic. A nation that has been created as a result of a political decision of a third party can never be considered an organic or ethnic nation.

The difficulty of researching multicultural countries and those with multiple dominant ethnic groups is that there are two different conflicts to be analyzed; the power struggle (if there is any) between the nations living in one civic state and the question of minority groups.

Future Research

The research of Eastern type of nationalism in the future needs to focus on the nation’s traits, history and the process instead of handing nationalism as a static formation. The speed of information, globalization and westernization of the East has impacted not only Central and Eastern Europe but the rest of the world as well. Ethnic conflicts cannot be viewed as stagnant any more and the forces that trigger them need to be carefully evaluated. Research comparing an ethnic group’s self perception with its image within other nations can be a good approach to examining minority questions, ethnic conflicts and the types of nationalism. Assuming that plain categories of “ethnic” and “civic” nationalism exist is not relevant to research any more. Instead, the main characteristics and dominant features of the nationalism need to be reviewed and the influential factors need to be determined. Cultural, historical and political researchers need to be working together to determine one nation’s nationalistic profile and the main forces that trigger ethnic conflict.

In the future, based on the new category created considering different variables; future CEHS country comparison can be created involving the new states formed after the collapse of the Soviet Union to determine similar nationalism patterns and review the common features of ethnic identities.


Brown, M. (2001) Nationalisms and Ethnics Conflicts. MIT Press.

Brubacker, R. (1995). “National Minorities, Nationalizing States, and External National  Homelands in the New Europe” Daedalus124.2 (1995): 107-132.

Dentch, B. (1996) Ethnic nationalism: the tragic death of Yugoslavia. U of Minnesota Press. (Google Books) Chapters 4, 6 and Conclusion

Dungaciu, D. (1999) East and West and the “Mirror of Nature”∗Nationalism in West and East Europe -Essentially Different?

Jaskulowski, K, (2010) Western (civic) versus Eastern (ethnic) Nationalism.The Origins and Critique of the Dichotomy. Polish Sociological Review. 3(171)’10

Kaufman, E.(2000) ETHNIC OR CIVIC NATION?: THEORIZING THE AMERICAN CASE. Canadian Review of Studies in Nationalism 27 , pp. 133-154.

Kohn, H, (1955) N Its Meaning and History. Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Company

Kuzio, T. (2002) The myth of the civic state: a critical survey of Hans Kohn’s framework for understanding nationalism. Ethnic and Racial Studies Vol. 25 No. 1 January 2002 pp. 20–39

Power, S. (2002) A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. Flamingo.

Shullman, S. (2002) Western Nationalism versus Eastern Nationalism. COMPARATIVE POLITICAL STUDIES / June 2002

Smith, A. (1991) National Identity. University of Nevada Press,

Smith, A. (1992) National Identity and the idea of European Unity. International Affairs. Vol. 68. (1992) 55-68

[1]          Smith, A. (1991) National Identity. University of Nevada Press. 19.

[2]          Idem. 82.

[3]           Kohn, H, (1955) Nationalism. Its Meaning and History. Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Company

[4]          Smith, A. (1991) National Identity. University of Nevada Press. 22.

[5] Jaskulowski, K, (2010) Western (civic) versus Eastern (ethnic) Nationalism.The Origins and Critique of the Dichotomy. Polish Sociological Review. 3(171)’10

[6]            Hall, Stuart. 1992.The West and the Rest. Discourse and Power 

[7] Dungaciu, D. (1999) East and West and the “Mirror of Nature”∗Nationalism in West and East Europe -Essentially Different?

[8]          Kohn, H, (1955) Nationalism. Its Meaning and History. Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Company

[9]            Smith, A. (1991) National Identity. University of Nevada Press. 21.

[10]         Kohn, H, (1955) Nationalism. Its Meaning and History. Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Company

[11]        Kuzio, T. (2002) The myth of the civic state: a critical survey of Hans Kohn’s framework

            for understanding nationalism. Ethnic and Racial Studies Vol. 25 No. 1 January 2002 pp. 20–39

[12]        Idem

[13] Smith, A. (1991) National Identity. University of Nevada Press,

[14]        Jaskulowski, K, (2010) Western (civic) versus Eastern (ethnic) Nationalism.The Origins and Critique of the Dichotomy. Polish Sociological Review. 3(171)’10

[15]        Shullman, S. (2002) Western Nationalism versus Eastern Nationalism. COMPARATIVE POLITICAL STUDIES / June 2002

[16] Shullman, S. (2002) Western Nationalism versus Eastern Nationalism. COMPARATIVE POLITICAL STUDIES / June 2002

[17]        Table 1. Political traits of the CEHS states

[18]        Power, Power, S. (2002) A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. Flamingo.

[19]        Brown, Nationalims and Ethnics Conflict. 3.

[20]        Dungaciu

[21]        Krasznay, 2010

[22]        Andersen, 2002

[23]        Andersen, 15

[24]        Idem 22

[25]        Idem 22

[26]        Andersen 67

[27]        Brubaker, 1995

[28]        Andersen 73

[29]        Brown, Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict.

[30]        Brown, 5

[31]        Smith, 1992 p.56.

[32]        Idem p. 61.

[33]        Idem p. 63.

[34]        Andersen 2002; 16

[35]        Krasznay, 2010

[36]          The West and the Rest. Discourse and Power

[37]        Hall, 1992; 215

[38]        History-less here is used as a category based on Marx-Engels theories, not as a judgmental term

[39] Dungaciu, D. (1999) East and West and the “Mirror of Nature”∗Nationalism in West and East Europe -Essentially Different?


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