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   Course Title    Comparative History of National Minorities in Europe: Status, Approaches and Mechanisms of Protection
Lecturer    Konstantin I. Zubkov
Institution    Urals State Pedagogical University
Country    Russia

This course is designed to highlight the national minority problem as inherent in the history of both Western and Eastern Europe and the important prerequisite for building a new united Europe as open society based on the respect for individual and collective cultural needs and rights. The course will focus predominantly on the European history of the 20th century, supposedly, starting from the rise of nationalist and regionalist movements in the European countries in the late 19th century.

The idea of the course is to display how the rise of the movements for national minority rights influenced the transformation of the traditional European concept of uniform «national state» towards more decentralized, multicultural and democratic patterns of the state-building compatible with the effective tools of the national minority protection.

To start with, it is worth noting that the concept of the national minority is still one of the most confused and controversial things we could find in the up-to-date worldwide agenda. For most people in the post-Communist countries, it’s quite difficult now to be certain over greatly increased, almost «explosive» cultural, religious and ethnic divergence, as only recently they succeeded to win the genuine revival of their nation-states overflowed, in addition, with the emergence of new all-European identity. So, usually it’s quite difficult to put the fact of growing cultural, confessional and regional diversity into the center of newly born, fledgling nation-states in Central and Eastern Europe. In particular, it’s evident that so frequently the «minor» nationalism of the ethnic minorities proves to echo the «major» nationalism focused on «gathering» their split-off nations. European societies are seen to face now the situation of re-shaping the whole bunch of multi-tier identities, and many authors find this as threatened with a ‘ghost’ of bloody re-mapping and delineating the new borders between states and nations. It’s evident that acquiring the new national identities should re-shape the old slogan of ‘nation-building’ and replace it with much more cautious and loose formula of ‘nation-searching’. The political approach favoring the national minority protection could be considered as bringing the important positive connotation to the concept of ‘nation-searching’ and contributing into the formation of new tolerable multicultural environments on the European continent.

Another point at debate is what the national minority protection really implies. While national minorities rights and dignity may be viewed as only the extension of the universal human rights, national minority should be comprehended, nevertheless, as a collective or group identity than the individual one. As the basic concept underlying the 1996 Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, emphasizes, «a pluralist and genuinely democratic society should not only respect the ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious identity of each person belonging to a national minority, but also create appropriate conditions enabling them to express, preserve and develop this identity». Those conditions are of societal, not individual, nature, and, as Ernest Gellner argued, nationalism seems to be a ‘shared culture’ which allows the individual in the modern industrial society to negotiate his social position through a multitude of ‘minor contracts’ with others. While the national identity itself may be represented as purely imagined personal choice of difference, the collective one presupposes inevitably the institutional framework and practical things for implementing and maintaining, i.e. taking part in the decision-making effectively. The classical notion of nationalism as recognition of rights and dignity for its own group, fits not easily to democracy which implies preferably values of tolerance, civic solidarity and respect for others, just as the classical ‘democracy by majority’ is not adapted to perceive specific cultural needs and concerns of any national minority thoroughly. Perhaps, both are approaching now to their limits of functionality. The emerging philosophy of post-modernity focused on smaller setting of values, personal choices, and identities gives way to the concept of multiculturalism as a post-nationalist mentality. At the same time, the latter is not the only solution. In less homogeneous Central and Eastern European societies (including Russia as the easternmost case in geographical as well as political sense) where the so called ‘ligatures’ of nationalism are kept alive, the lines for federation-building and non-territorial ‘cultural autonomy’ might be at their best. The fact is that the transition towards the federalism or ex-territorial political bodies tends to modify the universalistic ‘democracy by majority’ into the flexible, less monolithic pattern of governance relied upon prevailing the distinctive nationality groups within the administrative borders or ‘intangible space’ of political competences. So, in variety of senses, the pattern of favoring the national minority protection gives birth to constructive combination of nationalism and democracy.

The differences between the West European countries and the more backward societies of Eastern Europe (Russian/Soviet Empire is seen as an extreme case) give a comprehensive comparative base for studying the diversity of patterns in solving the national minority protection problems. The up-to-date context of the national minority problems will be considered in the light of the European integration (thought more broadly than only the formation of the European Union) and discussions over the fate of modern state: Is the «homogenous» liberal state sufficient for the realization of the individual rights and, after that, for independent cultural self-identity of any individual? Or the post-modern state should be inevitably «heterogenous» structure assuming the «areas» of exclusive or preferable cultural rights for distinctive national minorities? Another problem is interpreted as follows: How the policy of multiculturalism may be feasible in contemporary European states and especially in Eastern European societies being under transition towards political democracy and common European cultural matrix? (The relative «backwardness» of Central and Eastern European countries in dealing with the legal instruments for the national minority protection, however, should be recognized only in general, taking into account, for example, of the experiences of today’s Hungary being among the first European states committed to the 1996 Framework Convention. It should be assumed that, on the contemporary spiral of their ‘nation-building’ policies, the Central and Eastern states could be, no doubt, more advanced and innovative in terms of «ethnic democracy» than, for instance, the French ‘civic society’ centered exclusively on the individual rights and freedoms).

The comparative inquiry into the national minority protection implies that the focus will be brought on, first, theoretical implications and stereotyped social attitudes of the national minority problem in different countries; second, the institutional frameworks (primarily, constitutional law regulations) and policies designed either to encourage the national minority protection or, on the contrary, to favor the forced «elimination» of the national minority problem itself (out-migration, assimilation, etc.); third, the feasibility of different policies toward the resolution of the national minority problem in positive way (with the special emphasis on the international law regulations and approaches). The latter issue is of the highest importance for the Russian students, implying the fact that, in contemporary Russian Federation, there are still signs of fundamental underestimation of both the ex-territorial, preferably cultural and linguistic, vision of «national autonomy» and the international framework regulations being of great relevance to the national minority protection. By referring to the valuable and approved experiences of both Western and Central Europes, the course program would fill such a gap with strong arguments and conceptual findings.

On the other hand, the course on comparative history of the national minority policies in the 20th century’s Europe will benefit fortunately by emphasizing the precisely targeted relevance of such comparative materials to comprehension of the inter-ethnic situation in the Urals region. For many centuries, unlike a number of other Russian regions that have the ethnic structures to be either relatively invariable or unilaterally shifted (as a result of the successive Russian colonization waves), the Urals region was a natural cross-road scene where the large ethno-linguistic groups, such as Finno-Ugrian, Samodian, Turkic and, at last, Slavic ones, closely interlaced to promote mutual economic, cultural, and socio-demographic contacts. Apart from the native peoples inhabited the Urals through historical times (Bashkirs, Udmurts, cis- and trans-Ural Tartars, Mansi, Nenetzs, Permian Komi), the stream of the Russian colonization involved a number of nations from the Volga Region and the Russian North (Mari, Mordva, Kazan Tartars, Mishari, Chuvashs, Zyrian Komi) in ethno-demographic migration moves and economic development of the region. With the intensive growth of the Urals’ mining industries, small compact groups of professionals from West European countries (Swedes, Italians, Dutchmen, Germans and others) had been periodically attracted into the regional towns and settlements, while much greater inflows of the Ukrainian serf peasants were forcibly ‘attached’ to the Urals mining works. During the 18—19th centuries, the Northern Trans-Urals saw a self-sustained immigration of Izhma Komi reindeer-breeders, while the south of the region was at times penetrated with the Kazakh nomads and the influx of Tadjik-Turkic expatriates from Central Asia – the so called ‘Bukharanians’. Since the half of the 19th century, Jewish diaspora had taken its place in the urban centers of the region. Agricultural migrations of the late 19th – early 20th centuries had resulted in settling down compact rural communities of the Ukrainians, Bielorussian, Latvian, Estonian, and German origins in the middle and southern Urals. During the World War I, the Chinese and Korean contract workers were recruited to do some jobs in the Urals’ works. Historically, the most recent substantial penetration of strange ethnic elements into the region was the forced deportation of the Volga Germans to urban places of the Northern Urals in 1941-42. In ethnicity terms, the Urals region seems to be literally a junction knot where the Occident faced the Orient.

Similarly, there was a surprising confusion of religions among the Urals’ nationalities: Tartars and Bashkirs were stubborn adherents of the Sunnite Islam, while Germans and Baltics represented ‘islands’ of Protestantism within the bulk of the Russian (as well as Ukrainian and Bielorussian) population confined themselves faithfully to the Orthodox Church. The Finno-Ugrian nationalities variously affected by the official Christianization still continued to be devoted to their traditional pagan world-outlook or syncretic beliefs with a strong core of paganism. During the 18—19th centuries, the intensive inter-ethnic mixation encouraged by the state policies and institutions gave birth to the ‘contact’ ethnic groups, such as Kryashens and Nagaibaks (Christianized Tartars) attached to the Cossack military service or Teptyars, the Finno-Turkic mixture of immigrants from the Volga Region, who occupied the ancestral Bashkir lands under conditions of paying rents.

As a result, the Urals had acquired the ethnic distribution structure dispersed to such a high degree that no attempt to fix land area as appropriate to a certain ethnicity was, in fact, impossible. (The illustrating instance might be the case of north-west Bashkiria – the area formerly inhabited by the mixed ethnic group of Teptyars and now put in a claim as an authentic home region by both the Tartar and Bashkir nationalist movements). Today that situation still determines substantial incongruity between the nationalities’ settling patterns and their ‘home’ areas.

It’s why the case of the Urals’ ethnic composition allows the binding comparisons with the inter-ethnic situation in Central and Eastern Europe in terms of limits to what the territorial autonomy of the national minorities could be feasible. Through the 1920s, under the Bolshevik rule, the immense experiment for the administrative nationality-building had been implemented in the Urals, as well as in Russia on the whole. Within the vast Urals Oblast, the declared aim of allotting every compact nationality group with its own homogeneous ‘national home’ resulted in establishing a multitude of smaller and, literally, diminutive ‘national administrative units’, including districts and rural clusters. By 1928, there were 1 ‘national okrug’, 14 ‘national rayons’, and 454 ‘national rural Soviets’ in the Urals Oblast. But, in reality, only slightly more than 65 per cent out of the total national minorities population were covered by that newly created network, and the escaping criterion of ethnic homogeneity proved to be completely unrealized in regard to distinctive nationality groups. It’s why those ‘national administrative units’ were successively abolished by the late 1930s. Nowadays, in most of the Urals’ administrative regions (oblasts) where the Russian component is surpassingly prevailing, law regulations on the national minorities protection and regeneration follow the 1996 Federal Law on ‘National-Cultural Autonomy’, the latter being established on the non-territorial base. (For instance, the Sverdlovsk Oblast (located in the middle Urals) alone includes the portions of 82 nationalities and ethnic groups scattered basically throughout regional urban centers).

However, it doesn’t mean that the federalist alternative should be denied completely as the solution directed to the national minority protection. The search for reasonable, less monolithic and flexible federal setting within the modern states greatly modifies the concept of national minority, as the ethnic group once being a stateless national minority within the unitary state, gains a great deal of governance on its own as the dominant core group within one of the Federation’s member states. The process of federation-building is capable to change the structure of ethnic dominance up to a direct opposite.

Thus, within the Urals region, the Republic of Bashkortostan declared its «sovereignty» in 1990 on the basis of the Bashkir «nation»’s inherent right for the state self-determination and the independent «national statehood». This pressure for the national sovereignty appeals continuously to historical precedent of declaring the Bashkir national autonomy in 1919 as a result of particular political bargain between the Moscow’s Bolsheviks and the Bashkir nationalists headed by A.-Z.Validov. Since then, this fact serves the modern leadership of Bashkortostan as a political symbol of faith and a kind of decisive judicial precedent. Nowadays, winning the national «sovereignty» is viewed as a restitution of the real self-government and cultural rights of the Bashkir people which have been abolished under the Communist rule towards the late 1920s. In turn, striving for the dignity of the nation led to a fast growing ethnic mobilization among the ‘title’ Bashkir nationality and resulted in line of policies favoring the rise of Bashkir language and culture, heightened social status for the ethnic Bashkirs and their consolidation as a «political majority». Of no less significance seems to be a line encouraging the return of all ethnic Bashkirs scattered over Russia and abroad back to their «historical motherland». The idea of building the «national home» for all Bashkirs manifests itself in convening periodically the World Bashkir Kurultais. Paradoxically, now, within Bashkortostan itself, the «title» nation – Bashkirs – makes up only the third nationality group in amount, the Russians and the Tartars being on the first and second places, respectively. But it would be incorrect to consider the Bashkirs to be a national minority in strict sense, because their lower demographic weight has been offset by their real status of «political majority». So, the national minority concept seems to be relevant one mostly for stateless nationality groups which have no their own state or, at least, law-based regional autonomy as a support base for implementing effective self-protection.

Of course, such a situation is not so far a common rule elsewhere in the Russian Federation. In the adjacent Udmurt Republic, the Udmurts proved to reach only as much as 31 per cent of total population and only around 20 per cent of all urban residents, while the bulk of nation is scattered over the rural surroundings being a somewhat isolated from the general economic and social march of their «home» Republic. So, the greater portion of the Udmurts, much committed to their native language and cultural traditions, is still kept out of the effective leverage for ethnic mobilization in the field of state politics. Over centuries of Russian colonization, the Udmurts tended to become neglected national minority in their own homeland. However, the situation is changing very fast within the framework of the so called «real» federalism. The fact is that the federation-building leads to converting the former Soviet-type unimportant and purely symbolic form of the «national republics» into very substantial thing, and at present the Udmurt nationalist movement has gained the array of officially patronized institutions (among them, the all-Udmurt Association «Udmurt Kenesh» headed by the President of the Republic) to press for the national regeneration.

The third aspect of referring to the comparable instructive findings concerns the necessity for maintaining the so called ‘check and balances’ approach when facing the whole set of multi-tier identities. For example, the sociological surveys have displayed that in the Urals’ North where the small groups of indigenous nationalities (Nenetzs, Mansi, Khanty) are drastically outnumbered by the bulk of the indelicate ‘southern’ newcomers, the regional ‘independence’ is frequently perceived by natives as the threat to their traditional way of life and culture. So, unlike the ‘southerners’, the natives are prone to search for the strong ‘counterbalance’ to their majority ‘compatriots’ in the effective supervisory policies of the federal Center as well as the international law support – just as the regions and small ‘stateless’ nationalities in Europe look up to the institutions of integrated Europe for securing their loose and comfortable existence within the nation-states.

The course considered has been projected by the History Department, the Urals State Pedagogical University, for teaching as a subsidiary component of the special educational program focused on senior History Department students (the 7—10th semesters) which opt to engage in specialty of ‘Regional and Nationality Studies’. Apart from its methodological and knowledge values, this course involves strong pragmatic raison d’etre as the instructive support in training future teachers for specialty ‘Teaching Skills for the Ethnic Minorities Schools’. The course designed for 30 academic hours (15 lectures) is planned to be taught from February, year 2000.

The composition of the course covers the following milestone topics:

  1. Introductory Guide to the Problems of the National Minorities Protection and Cultural Promotion.

  2. Ethnic and Ethno-Cultural Composition of the European States at the End of the 19th Century. The Rise of Nationalist and Regionalist Movements: Programs and Actions.

  3. The Early Stage of the International Law Regulation for the National Minorities Problems: the Idea of «Nationality Cultural Autonomy».

  4. The National Minorities Problems in the Context of Building the Regionalized and Federal States. Towards the Multicultural Societies.

  5. The Influence of the European Integration and the Collapse of the Soviet Empire on the National Minorities Status and International Regulations.

  6. Discussions over the Nature of Modern State. Multiculturalism in Europe.

  7. Configuration of Inter-Ethnic Conflicts in Today’s Europe. Prospects for Resolutions in the Context of the European Integration.


Course Outline

Lecture I. Introductory Guide. The subject and aims of the course on comparative history of national minorities in Europe.

On definitions of «national minority» in the European socio-political and cultural context. Supplementary set of notions: «ethnic minority», «minority relations», «minority ethnicity». Regionalist, cultural and confessional implications of the national minority concept. Non-domination as the universal denominator of the national minority.

Nationalism and national identity. National minority identity as the core representation of difference. Integral minority nationalism.

Main features of national minorities. National minority in regard to the host «majority» v. «minority» relations: the problem of ethnic dominance and ethnic equality in legal and socio-psychological dimensions. The number ratio as a determinant of national minority: arguments and controversies. Integration v. seclusion and segregation. National minorities as dispersed and stateless ethnic group: the importance of state-run support base. Divided (irredenta) peoples and externalities of the national minority problem: a provoking integrism or promise for international cooperation within the ‘open society’?

— 4 academic hours

Lecture II. Ethnic and ethno-cultural composition of the European states from the late 19th century to the World War I. The rise of nationalist and regionalist movements: programs and actions.

Integral model of nationalism in the 20th century’s Europe. The origins of the national minority problem in Europe: the appearance of national minorities and self-determination rights based on ethnic or linguistic criteria. The West – East watershed in patterns of nationality policies. Civic identities as the base of West European nation-states. The rising ethnic identities in the east of Europe. ‘Jacobinian’ national state v. multinational Empires.

The cases of West European countries. Welsh, Scottish and Irish nationalisms in Great Britain: towards the recognition of ‘partner nations’ or Home Rule? The Scottish self-government structures. Gaelic cultural revival. The Irish struggle for Home Rule. Problem of Brittany and Occitanie: integration into the French society v. separatism. The rise of Breton ‘activism’. Issue on political support bases for the West European minority nationalisms: right-wing conservatism or left-wing radical liberalism?

The cases of Central and Eastern European countries. National minorities on the Polish lands: Polish-Russian and Polish-German antagonisms. ‘Young’ nationalisms and national minorities in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Nationalism and national liberation movements in the Russian Empire: the cases of Poland, Ukraine, Finland and the Baltic States.

– 4 academic hours

Lecture III. The Early Stage of the International Law Regulation for the National Minorities Problems: the Ideas of «Nationality Cultural Autonomy» and Transnational Regime of Protection.

The Austro-Marxist idea of ‘nationality cultural autonomy’ and its implications in pre-war Eastern Europe and Russia. Legalist option: ex-territorial ‘personality principle’ in K.Renner’s conception of resolving the national question. O.Bauer’s view of resolving the national problems in the Hapsburg Empire. The federalist option as the device of protecting the national minorities (K.Kautsky). Trotsky’s ‘revolutionary Marxism’ as a model of settling the ‘national question’ in Europe: the idea of the ‘United States of Europe’.

Re-mapping of Europe after the World War I. The quest for self-determination rights. In search of the ‘democratic’ world order for protecting the national minorities: Woodrow Wilson’s view of self-determination for Eastern Europe and Russia (the 14 points). The Bolsheviks’ conception of national liberation movements and their goals (Declaration of the Rights of the Toiling Masses). K.Renner’s proposal for the Central European ‘Mitteleuropa’. Model of the ‘nation-state’ in postwar East Central Europe.

Towards the internationalization regime: the role of the League of Nations in raising the problem of national minorities. The experiences in settling the national minorities protection and emigration problems. National minority problems during the interwar period. The Versailles system and new nationalist ‘mini-empires’. The exaggeration of national minority problems in the East Central Europe. German-Polish contest for Upper Silesia. The Sudetian German problem in Czechoslovakia.

— 4 academic hours

Lecture IV. The National Minorities Problems in the Context of Building the Regionalized and Federal States. Towards the Multicultural Societies.

The cases of resolving the national minorities problems by means of autonomy approaches. Evolution of federalism in Belgium: the case of ‘majority v. minority’ counterbalancing. The Spanish experiences of ‘federo-regionalism’. The Basque problem in Spain and France. The postwar Scottish and Welsh nationalisms: the struggle for national parliaments and the first steps to federalist state structure. Transition to multiculturalism.

Violations of the national minorities rights and assimilation policies in the ‘East Bloc’ Communist countries. The Pomaks’ problem in Bulgaria. The suppression of Hungarian minority in Romania. Anti-German policies in Communist Poland. Re-consideration of the nationality policies: the experiences of Hungary. The 1993 Law ‘On the Rights of National and Ethnic Minorities’ and the multi-community approach to protecting minorities’ rights.

— 4 academic hours

Lecture V. The Influence of the European Integration and the Collapse of the Soviet Empire on the National Minorities Status and International Regulations.

The UNO resolutions on the national minorities protection in the postwar period. The 1992 UNO Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. The features of the UNO approach.

The European security dimension of the national minorities protection. The 1975 CSCE Helsinki Conference: timid approaches to the national minorities rights in divided Europe. The first outbreaks of conflicts: the questions about the Hungarian minority in Romania and the ethnic cleansings in Bulgaria. The turning point of Vienna (1988): recognition of the collective minorities rights (protection for the ‘ethnic, cultural, language and religious identity’). The ‘third basket’ filled up: cultural, educational and information rights to the minority groups.

The national minorities as the beneficiaries of the ‘human dimension’ approach. The 1990 Copenhagen Meeting on the Human Dimension of the CSCE. The role of the Central European ‘pentagonale’: initiatives on the ‘Charter of Rights’ for the national minorities. Towards the interconnection between the respect for national minorities and democratic system of governance. The 1991 Geneva meeting on the expertise and supervisory activities of the CSCE.

The outbreak of the Yugoslavian crisis and problems of the national minorities protection. The lessons of the Yugoslavian missions of the CSCE: a necessity for effective international system of the minority rights protection. The program for ‘preventive diplomacy’: mechanisms and instruments. The founding of the office of the Supreme Commissar on the National Minorities Issues (1992).

From Helsinki to Budapest (1992—1995): the CSCE activities in the post-Soviet space: the cases of the Baltic countries, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, and Nagorno-Karabakh, Chechnia. Instruments of ‘early preventing’ the inter-ethnic conflicts. The ‘Code of Behavior’. The concept of ‘humanitarian intervention’: pro et contra in the light of the Kosovo conflict.

The national minorities protection in the context of European integration. European Parliament’s Resolution on linguistic and cultural minorities (1994). Annual Reports on Human Rights. The Treaty of Amsterdam’s idea of promoting the European cultural diversity. The importance of the 1996 Council of Europe’s Framework Convention.

— 6 academic hours

Lecture VI. Discussions over the Nature of Modern State. Multiculturalism in Europe.

Alternative visions of the modern state’s transformation. The crisis of the nation-states. Dahrendorf’s critics of regionalizing the ‘heterogeneous’ national states. Proposal for the ‘code of self-determination’. The ‘state of nationalities’ idea in the light of European integration. Subsidiarity principle as the base for establishing pluriform European states. The national minority concept in transforming contemporary view of nationalism and national state. The multi-tier structure of identities. In support for the combined pattern: respect for national minorities rights within plus sub-regional cooperation between states. The significance of the cross-border cooperation.

National minorities problems and the right for state-building. National minorities and international law: beyond the ‘sovereignty’ conception. National self-determination and the rights of the national minorities. Minorities – ‘ethnic’ or ‘national’? ‘Peoples’ and ‘minorities’: debates on the valid beneficiary of the self-determination rights. The UNO preferable approach to the national minority protection: the priority of the individual rights for non-discrimination and equality. New approaches to the national minority rights: the ‘right for development’ as an integrative scheme of combining both the individual and collective minorities rights.

The ‘fascination of diversity’: the formula of multiculturalism in the West European states. The influence of immigration policies. The experiences of Great Britain and the Netherlands. Multiculturalism as a feature of ‘dying’ nationalism in ‘homogeneous’ Western society. The opposite stream: the French ‘assimilation’ pattern. Discussions on the future of multicultural state. On feasibility of multiculturalism in Central and Eastern Europe. The issue of ‘autonomy’ approaches to the state-building.

— 4 academic hours

Lecture VII. Conclusive Remarks (Configuration of Inter-Ethnic Conflicts in Today’s Europe and Prospects for Resolutions in the Context of the European Integration).

— 4 academic hours






(as attached to the course syllabus)

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