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An 1887 painting depicting schoolchildren in France being taught about the province of Alsace-Lorraine, lost in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War, which is depicted by black coloring on a map of France.

Irredentism is a political and popular movement whose members claim (usually on behalf of their nation) and seek to occupy territory which they consider "lost" (or "unredeemed"), based on history or legend.[1][2] The scope of this definition is occasionally subject to terminological disputes about underlying claims of expansionism, owing to lack of clarity on the historical bounds of putative nations or peoples.

This term also often refers to revanchism but the difference between these two terms is, according to Merriam-Webster, that the word "irredentism" means the reunion of politically or ethnically displaced territory, along with a population having the same national identity. On the other hand, "revanchism" evolved from the French word "revanche" which means revenge. In the political realm, "revanchism" refers to such a theory that intends to seek revenge for a lost territory.

For a list of current and historical irredentist claims, see the list of irredentist claims or disputes.


The word (from Italian irredento for "unredeemed") was coined in Italy from the phrase Italia irredenta ("unredeemed Italy").[3] This originally referred to rule by Austria-Hungary over territories mostly or partly inhabited by ethnic Italians, such as Trentino, Trieste, Gorizia, Istria, Fiume and Dalmatia during the 19th and early 20th centuries.[4] An area liable to be targeted by a claim is sometimes called an "irredenta".[5]

A common way to express a claim to adjacent territories on the grounds of historical or ethnic association is by using the adjective "Greater" as a prefix to the country name. This conveys the image of national territory at its maximum conceivable extent with the country "proper" at its core. The use of "Greater" does not always convey an irredentistic meaning.


Nazi Germany[edit]

In Nazi German terminology, "Volksdeutsche" were "people whose language and culture had German origins but who did not hold German citizenship".[6] The term is the nominalised plural of volksdeutsch, with Volksdeutsche denoting a singular female, and Volksdeutsche(r), a singular male. The words Volk and völkisch conveyed the meanings of "folk".[7]

The Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans at the time) shed their identity as Auslandsdeutsche (Germans abroad) and morphed into the Volksdeutsche in a process of self-radicalisation.[8] This process gave the Nazi regime the nucleus around which the new Volksgemeinschaft was established across the German borders.[8]


Greater Israel is an expression that has held several different biblical and political meanings over time. It is often used, in an irredentist fashion, to refer to the historic or desired borders of Israel.


Pan-Islamism is a political ideology advocating the unity of Muslims under one Islamic country or state – often a caliphate[9] – or an international organization with Islamic principles. Pan-Islamism differentiates itself from pan-nationalistic ideologies, for example Pan-Arabism, by seeing the ummah (Muslim community) as the focus of allegiance and mobilization, excluding ethnicity and race as primary unifying factors.

Greater Serbia[edit]

The term Greater Serbia or Great Serbia describes the Serbian nationalist and irredentist ideology of the creation of a Serb state which would incorporate all regions of traditional significance to Serbs, a South Slavic ethnic group, including regions outside modern-day Serbia that are partly populated by Serbs.[10] The initial movement's main ideology (Pan-Serbism) was to unite all Serbs (or all territory historically ruled or populated by Serbs) into one state, claiming, depending on the version, different areas of many surrounding countries.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kornprobst, Markus (2008-12-18). Irredentism in European Politics: Argumentation, Compromise and Norms. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-89558-3.
  2. ^ "Irredentism". Merriam_Webster dictionary. Retrieved 14 February 2020.
  3. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Irredentists" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 14 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 840.
  4. ^ Bozeman., Adda Bruemmer (1949). Regional Conflicts Around Geneva: An Inquiry Into the Origin, Nature, and Implications of the Neutralized Zone of Savoy and of the Customs-free Zones of Gex and Upper Savoy. Geneva. ISBN 9780804705127.
  5. ^ "Irredenta". Free Dictionary.
  6. ^ Bergen, Doris (1994). "The Nazi Concept of 'Volksdeutsche' and the Exacerbation of Anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe, 1939-45". Journal of Contemporary History. 29 (4): 569–582. doi:10.1177/002200949402900402. S2CID 159788983 – via JSTOR.
  7. ^ As to older meanings of völkisch, see "Völkisch movement".
  8. ^ a b Wolf, Gerhard (2017). "Negotiating Germanness: National Socialist Germanization policy in the Wartheland'" (PDF). Journal of Genocide Research. 19 (2): 215. doi:10.1080/14623528.2017.1313519. S2CID 152244621.
  9. ^ Bissenove (February 2004). "Ottomanism, Pan-Islamism, and the Caliphate; Discourse at the Turn of the 20th Century" (PDF). BARQIYYA. 9 (1). American University in Cairo: The Middle East Studies Program. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 23, 2015. Retrieved April 26, 2013.
  10. ^ Tomasevich 1975, pp. 167–168.

Further reading[edit]

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