While separatist movements are often peaceful, such as those in Quebec, Canada for the last three decades, or those that broke apart Czechoslovakia, separatism is often a source of violence. Around the world many terrorist groups espouse separatism as their main goal. These include the Basque ETA in France and Spain, Sikh separatists in India during the 1980s, the IRA in Ireland at the turn of the century and the Front de Libération du Québec in the 1960s. These guerrilla campaigns can also lead to full-blown civil wars as has been seen in Chechnya.
Violence is usually reduced when there are free political means that can be used to pursue separatist goals. Free elections and referenda often help reduce tensions. Very few countries are willing to acknowledge that they are divisible, however. The wars erupting with the break-up of Yugoslavia are a principal example of that, despite constitutional provisions allowing division and referenda.
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2 Countries that have recently broken apart because of separatist movements:
3 Countries with substantial separatist movements:
Motivations for Separatism
Separatist movements are often superficially based upon nationalism or religious fervour. More often than not, however, feelings of inadequate political clout and economics play an important role. The northern Italian separatist movement is an example of an almost purely economically based separatist group. The northern separatists feel that the south of the country is an economic hindrance and thus push for separation. Economics can also be seen in the break up of Czechoslovakia; one of the main causes was Slovakia's reluctance to abandon state-run industries, which were the core of its economy. The Czech Republic was far more prepared to embrace the free market, and thus the countries parted. Even in an area like Quebec support for separation clearly decreases when the economy is doing well.
Quebec is also an example of how political disenfranchisement can lead to separatist ambitions. Throughout the first century of Canadian confederation, Quebec was politically and economically dominated by a small minority of Anglophone Montrealers. Rejection of this status quo led to the growth of Quebec-first separatist groups in the 1960s and '70s.
Spain's Basque areas, which have not been independent for millennia, developed violent separatist groups in reaction to the violent suppression of Francisco Franco's regime. A similar pattern was followed in Ethiopia where Eritrean rebels were far more angry at despotism and corruption than passionate about the nation of Eritrea which does not have a long or distinctive history.
Countries that have recently broken apart because of separatist movements:
Countries with substantial separatist movements:
See also declaration of independence.
The term separatism is also used to refer to groups that attempt to separate themselves culturally and economically from a surrounding culture without seeking political autonomy. Examples of this include religious groups whose members believe they should not interact with anyone except co-religionists, and racially-based groups which seek to isolate themselves from other groups. See identity politics.