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"Separatist" redirects here. For other uses, see Separatist (disambiguation).
For Wikipedia's meaning of separatism, see Separatism.

Separatism is the advocacy of a state of cultural, ethnic, tribal, religious, racial, governmental or gender separation from the larger group. While it often refers to full political secession,[1] separatist groups may seek nothing more than greater autonomy.[2] While some critics may equate separatism with religious segregation, racist segregation, or sexist segregation, most separatists argue that separation by choice is not the same as government-enforced segregation and may serve useful purposes.[3][4][5][6][7]


Support for Catalan independence is based on the thesis that Catalonia is a nation

Groups may have one or more motivations for separation, including:[8]

  • emotional resentment and hatred of rival communities.
  • protection from ethnic cleansing and genocide.
  • resistance by victims of oppression, including denigration of their language, culture or religion.
  • propaganda by those who hope to gain politically from intergroup conflict and hatred.
  • economic and political dominance of one group that does not share power and privilege in an egalitarian fashion.
  • detaching from generally accepted stereotypes and sacrificing more time to create happiness mote sustainability than the current flow of things.
  • economic motivations: seeking to end economic exploitation by more powerful group or, conversely, to escape economic redistribution from a richer to a poorer group.
  • preservation of threatened religious, language or other cultural tradition.
  • destabilization from one separatist movement giving rise to others.
  • geopolitical power vacuum from breakup of larger states or empires.
  • continuing fragmentation as more and more states break up.
  • feeling that the perceived nation was added to the larger state by illegitimate means.
  • the perception that the state can no longer support one's own group or has betrayed their interests.
  • opposition to political decisions.
  • wish to have a more practical political structure and not rely on people who are located far away to govern them or otherwise impractical solutions.

Governmental responses[edit]

In 1861, the American Civil War started after a separatist movement of southern U.S. states seceded from the United States.

How far separatist demands will go toward full independence, and whether groups pursue constitutional and nonviolent or armed violence, depend on a variety of economic, political, social and cultural factors, including movement leadership[9] and the government's response.[10] Governments may respond in a number of ways, some of which are mutually exclusive. Some include:[11]

  • accede to separatist demands
  • improve the circumstances of disadvantaged minorities, be they religious, linguistic, territorial, economic or political
  • adopt "asymmetric federalism" where different states have different relations to the central government depending on separatist demands or considerations
  • allow minorities to win in political disputes about which they feel strongly, through parliamentary voting, referendum, etc.
  • settle for a confederation or a commonwealth relationship where there are only limited ties among states.

Some governments suppress any separatist movement in their own country, but support separatism in other countries.

Types of separatist groups[edit]

Pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine

Separatist groups practice a form of identity politics - "political activity and theorizing founded in the shared experiences of injustice of members of certain social groups." Such groups believe attempts at integration with dominant groups compromise their identity and ability to pursue greater self-determination.[12] However, economic and political factors usually are critical in creating strong separatist movements as opposed to less ambitious identity movements.[10]

See more complete lists of historical and active autonomist and secessionist movements, as well as a list of states with limited recognition.

Religious separatism[edit]

Religious separatist groups and sects want to withdraw from some larger religious groups and/or believe they should interact primarily with co-religionists.[citation needed]

  • English Christians in the 16th and 17th centuries who wished to separate from the Church of England and form independent local churches were influential politically under Oliver Cromwell, who was himself a separatist. They were eventually called Congregationalists.[13] The Pilgrims who established the first successful colony in New England were separatists.[14]
  • Christian separatist groups in Indonesia,[15][16] India[17] and South Carolina (United States).[18][19]
  • Zionism sought the creation of the State of Israel as a Jewish homeland, with separation from gentile Palestinians. Simon Dubnow, who had mixed feelings toward Zionism, formulated Jewish Autonomism, which was adopted in eastern Europe by Jewish political parties such as the Bund and his own Folkspartei before World War II.[20] Zionism can also be seen as somewhat ethnic too, however, as its definition of who is Jewish has often included people of Jewish background who do not practice the Jewish religion. This is further complicated as some who had ancestors who converted to Judaism, such as some Ethiopian Jews, may not share ethnic history with the Jews however are considered to be so although not without debate.[21]
    Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighter in the Philippines
  • The Partition of India and (later Pakistan and Bangladesh) arose as a result of separatism on the part of Muslims.
  • Sikhs in India sought an independent nation of Khalistan after an agitation in 70's and 80's for implementation of the Anandpur Sahib Resolution (which amongst other things demanded greater share of river water and autonomy for Punjab) resulted in the storming of the Harimandir Sahib (Golden Temple) by the Government of India troops in 1984. The storming of the temple to flush out Sikh Militants who were gaining momentum in their agitation for greater autonomy for Punjab resulted in Sikhs demanding an independent state for the Sikhs situated in Punjab Khalistan movement. The conflict escalated and led to an assassination of the then Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi as a retaliation of an Indian military operation called 'Operation Blue Star' directed against the Sikhs' holiest shrine, the Golden Temple, in which many innocent Sikh civilians too lost their lives. The revenge murder of Mrs. Indira Gandhi evoked a Congress Party led backlash in the form of the Sikh Genocide which started in New Delhi and swept India in November 1984, which only further strengthened the Khalistan Movement, but it was largely subdued owing to the efforts of the police in Punjab. The controversial response by the Punjab state reportedly involved the use of human rights violations in the form of unexplained disappearances, faked encounters killings, rape and torture. However, many in the Sikh diaspora in the West and even Sikhs in India, still support the idea of Khalistan, although support is dying and generally the Indian Sikh population is patriotic towards India, or at least not supportive of the idea of Khalistan.[22]
  • Muslim separatist groups in the Philippines (Mindanao and other regions: Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Abu Sayyaf), in Thailand (see also South Thailand insurgency), in India (see also Insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir), in the Peoples Republic of China (Xinjang: East Turkestan Islamic Movement), Tanzania (Zanzibarian separatist movements), in the Central African Republic (Regions who inhabited by Muslims: Séléka), in Russia (in the Northern Caucasus, especially in Chechnya: Caucasus Emirate), in Yugoslavia (Bosnia and Herzegovina: Alija Izetbegovic espoused an Islamic inspired separatism)

Ethnic separatism[edit]

Mural for Catalan independence in Belfast.
OLF rebels in Kenya armed with AK-47 rifles.
A Tuareg rebel fighter in northern Niger.
Silesians demonstrating in Katowice (in Silesia).

Ethnic separatism is based more on cultural and linguistic differences than religious or racial differences, which also may exist. Ethnic separatist movements include:

Racial separatism[edit]

Some separatist groups seek to separate from others along racial lines. They oppose interracial marriage and integration with other races and seek separate schools, businesses, churches and other institutions; and often separate societies, territories, countries, and governments.

Territories considered for "Aztlán"

Geographic and socioeconomic separatism[edit]

Gender and sexist separatism[edit]

Queer separatism[edit]

Main article: Queer nationalism

See also[edit]




  1. ^ Free Dictionary; Merriam Webster dictionary; The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current= English 2008.
  2. ^ Harris, R.; Harris, Jerry (2009). The Nation in the Global Era: Conflict and Transformation. Brill. p. 320. ISBN 90-04-17690-X. 9789004176904 
  3. ^ Leo, John (June 13, 2007). "Let the Segregation Commence, Separatist graduations proliferate at UCLA". City Journal. 
  4. ^ Levit, Nancy (August 29, 2005). Embracing Segregation: The Jurisprudence of Choice and Diversity in Race and Sex Separatism in Schools (PDF). University of Illinois Law Review (University of Illinois). p. 455. 
  5. ^ Arenson, Karen W. (April 19, 2006). "CUNY Program to Help Black Men Is Called Discriminatory". New York Times. 
  6. ^ Dobratz, Betty A.; Shanks-Meile, Stephanie L. (Summer 2006). "Strategy of White Separatism". Journal of Political and Military Sociology. 
  7. ^ Howell, Nancy B. "Radical Relatedness and Feminist Separatism". 
  8. ^ Spencer, Metta (1998). Separatism: Democracy and Disintegration. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 2–4. ISBN 9780847685851. 
  9. ^ Link to: Chima, Jugdep. "Effects of Political Leadership on Ethnic Separatist Movements in India" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Palmer House Hotel, Chicago, Illinois, April 12, 2007 (PDF); Chima, Jugdep. "How Does Political Leadership Affect the Trajectories of Ethnic Separatist Insurgencies?: Comparative Evidence from Movements in India" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Marriott Wardman Park, Omni Shoreham, Washington Hilton, Washington, D.C., September 01, 2005 (PDF).
  10. ^ a b See D.L. Horowitz's "Patterns of Ethnic Separatism", originally published in Comparative Studies in Society and History, 1981, vol 23, 165-95. Republished in John A. Hall, The State: Critical Concepts, Routledge, 1994.
  11. ^ Metta Spencer, 5-6.
  12. ^ Identity Politics. Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Stanford University). November 2, 2007. 
  13. ^ "Encyclopædia Britannica on religious separatists". 
  14. ^ Goodwin, John Abbot (1888). The Pilgrim republic: an historical review of the colony of New Plymouth. Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 1. 
  15. ^ "Christian separatist on trial in Indonesia". BBC. British Broadcasting Corporation. August 19, 2002. 
  16. ^ Brummitt, Chris (April 5, 2002). "Christian separatist leader threatens to raise independence flags in Maluku". Associated Press. 
  17. ^ Hussain, Syed Zarir (December 31, 2002). "Christian separatist group in Tripura target tribal Hindus". Indo-Asian News Service. 
  18. ^ "Christian separatist ready for new home". Ventura County Star. June 9, 2007. 
  19. ^ "Colorado Rep. disavows ties to SC Christian separatist group". Associated Press. October 9, 2005. 
  20. ^ Pinson, Koppel S. (1958). Simon Dubnow. pp. 13–69. 
  21. ^ Lucotte G, Smets P; Smets (December 1999). "Origins of Falasha Jews studied by haplotypes of the Y chromosome". Human Biology 71 (6): 989–993. PMID 10592688. 
  22. ^ Punj, Blbir (June 16, 2006). "The Ghost of Khalistan". Sikh Times. 
  23. ^ "Niger, hit by Tuareg revolt, adopts anti-terror law". Reuters. April 20, 2008. 
  24. ^ Mughal, Muhammad Aurang Zeb. 2012. Spain. Steven L. Denver (ed.), Native Peoples of the World: An Encyclopedia of Groups, Cultures, and Contemporary Issues, Vol. 3. Armonk, NY: M .E. Sharpe, pp. 674-675.
  25. ^ "Who were the Celts? ... Rhagor". Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales website. Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales. 2007-05-04. Retrieved 2009-12-10. 
  26. ^ The Bavaria's right to separate itself from the Federal Republic of Germany [1]
  27. ^ Harold E. Glass, Ethnic Diversity, Elite Accommodation and Federalism in Switzerland, Publius, Vol. 7, No. 4, Federalism and Ethnicity (Autumn, 1977), 31-48. Oxford University Press.
  28. ^ African Ethnicities University of Florida online library.
  29. ^ Excerpt from book Ethnic Conflicts in Africa, Okwudiba Nnoli, Distributed by African Books Collective, 1998, 417, University of Florida online library.
  30. ^ Emmy Godwin Irobi, Ethnic Conflict Management in Africa: A Comparative Case Study of Nigeria and South Africa, May, 2005, Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, Boulder.
  31. ^ a b Reviews of Katharine Adeney Federalism and Ethnic Conflict Regulation in India and Pakistan, Palgrame MacMillan, 2007.
  32. ^ Telangana
  33. ^ Muini, S.D.; Rupesinghe, Kumar; Tishkov, Valery A. (1996). "Ethnic conflict, federalism, and democracy in India". Ethnicity and Power in the Contemporary World. United Nations University Press. ISBN 92-808-0908-3. 
  34. ^ "China issues call to crush Tibetan 'separatists'". Agence France-Presse. 2009-02-19. Retrieved 2010-07-29. 
  35. ^ a b Professor Predicts 'Hispanic Homeland', Associated Press, 2000
  36. ^ Foer, Franklin (November 23, 1997). "Racial Integration". Slate. 
  37. ^ Barlow, Rich (April 26, 2008). "Topic turns to Wright case". Boston Globe. 
  38. ^ Dobratz, Betty A.; Shanks-Meile, Stephanie L. (2000). The White Separatist Movement in the United States: "White Power, White Pride!". The Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 1–3, 10. ISBN 9780801865374. 
  39. ^ Frye, Marilyn; Meyers, Diana Tietjens (1997). Some Reflections on Separatism and Power. Feminist Social Thought: A Reader (Routledge). pp. 406–414. 
  40. ^ Joyce Cheney, Lesbian Land, Word Weavers Press, 1976.
  41. ^ Mark K. Bloodsworth-Lugo, In-Between Bodies: Sexual Difference, Race, and Sexuality, SUNY Press, 2007, ISBN 0-7914-7221-3
  42. ^ Richard D. Mohr, Gays/Justice: A Study of Ethics, Society, and Law, Columbia University Press, 1988, ISBN 0-231-06735-6

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]