Nationalism is a feeling of loyalty and devotion towards a nation, often characterized by the people praising it above all the other nations. They place emphasis on the promotion of the interests, culture, history or language of the country rather than those of other countries (White).
Human beings have a tendency of organizing themselves into distinct groups based on their birth, culture, religion, or identity group. These groups are found within specified geographical regions that border other regions containing people of a different culture or ethnicity. They desire a state that in their opinion represents their unique national and cultural interests.
Territories are formed due to nationalism. They are geographical regions that are considered to belong to a certain person, organization, institution or state subdivision. People of the same ethnicity or culture tend to live in the same territory that is marked by boundaries to indicate their farthest limits. The people living within these boundaries are often loyal to their ethnic or national groups (White).
The territories within which these persons live determines their nationalism. Conflicts arises when national sentiments are instilled in a group of the population as against those who do not live in the same region as they do. It can be done through nationalist propaganda, symbols, emphasis on national language, history and other methods.
Such propaganda tends to divide the people based on the geographical regions or the ethnic tribes they belong to thus the country risks being unstable. The groups tend to adopt the victim mentality where both sides feel aggrieved by the other and attach blame on each other, thus the beginning of civil conflicts which later develops into civil war in countries that are not able to stop them in time (Titanski).
Nationalism is sometimes used by nationalist governments as a political weapon to invoke feelings of division among the population in order for them to appeal to the groups of people they target.
They use the divide and rule tactic to gain popularity as they support different conflicting nationalistic ideas among the different people who as a result do not see eye to eye and sometimes end up fighting each other.
National minorities are often the targets of politicians. They are an easy target as they live together in defined territories. The leaders employ ethnic stereotyping to give them a sense of nationalism, thus a sense of belonging to the nation and strive to preserve this as against the majority groups. It can lead to aggressiveness towards a different national group thus create a conflict in the country.
Conflict also arises whenever a bordering state is perceived to be encompassing a territory the nationalistic group believed to be rightly in their possession. These groups defend their territories as they believe that that is the place where their culture and historical background lies. They even resort to the use of violence to protect their lands leading to a breakout of warfare.
Nationalist affiliations formed based on territorial backgroundsof the people often have their political aims that brings them together. They may be of the idea that they deserve to live separately from the rest of the stateor they may desire to form their own independent state and in furtherance of these ideas, political affiliations are formed.
The state in question may do everything possible to prevent them from reaching a statehood. It may resort to measures that will suppress the minority nationalist group within the country and the likelihood of an eruption of violence within the state is high.
This is what happened in Sudan between 1983 and 2005. Allegations of marginalization were raised by the dominating people of the periphery against the central government. The Muslim government had imposed sharia law on the people, including the non-Muslim southerners.
The Southerners therefore wanted to form a state of their own that would cater for their needs but the government resisted their claims. They also wanted to control of their natural resources such as oil that was being exploited with no returns to the community. The violence used by the government eventually led to civil war in the country leading to the loss of many lives. This war yielded results when South Sudan was declared an independent state.
Nationalist groups found in a state who desire to have their own independent state may be involved in regular or irregular warfare so as to forcibly persuade the central state to grant them independence.
A good example of this is The Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka who were in constant warfare with the country for twenty six years fighting for an independent Tamil state in the east and north of Sri Lanka. They carried out many high profile attacks and even managed to assassinate two world leaders and several high ranking Indian and Sri Lankan politicians. It resulted in the death of tens of thousands.It led to the organization being listed as a terrorist organization in more than thirty countries (Winslow and Woost).
Syria is still undergoing a civil war. There is a conflict between the people loyal to the existing government and those who want to overthrow it. The protestors earlier on were demanding economic and democratic reforms in the framework of the government, but this was not done. This led to the evolution of the war into an armed rebellion (lProvence).
Hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed and thousands of students, human rights advocates and protesters were imprisoned and tortured mercilessly. It led to millions of Syrians fleeing their countries; millions were displaced and another million left to live in poor living conditions without drinking water or food to ensure their survival.
In conclusion, boundaries and territories are the blocks of nationalism. They are therefore a direct or indirect cause of conflict in states with the people living in these territories trying to get independence from the central government which they deem to be oppressive.
The oppression of these groups leads to the breakout of violence in the course of their retaliation. The more the nationalist minorities are oppressed by the state, the higher the chances are that they will resort to violence so that they can achieve their aims. No violence is experienced where the central state does not resist the breakup.
Governments should therefore ensure that there is peace within the country. To do this, they need to take into consideration the complaints of the people living in the different regions of the country. This will prevent the country from experiencing bouts of violence that leads to too much loss of innocent lives.
lProvence, Michael. The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism. Texas: University of Texas Press, 2009.
Titanski, Jennifer L. Ethnicity, Boundaries, and Nationalism. Newyork: Newyrk Publishers, 2011.
White, George W. Nationalism and Territory. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000.
Winslow, Deborah and Michael D. Woost. Economy, Culture, and Civil War in Sri Lanka. Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2004.