Political separatism is a movement to obtain sovereignty and split a territory or group of people (usually a people with a distinctive national consciousness) from one another (or one nation from another; a colony from the metropolis).
Separatist movements are often strictly political and peaceful. There has been a variable, generally peaceful separatist movement in the province of Quebec, Canada for the last thirty years (with a brief period of violence culminating in the October Crisis), and peaceful movements ending in the break up of Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union.
Separatism is also often a violent response to a past military takeover. Around the world many terrorist groups espouse separatism as the only way to achieve their goal of national liberation. 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, culminating in the October Crisis 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 exist political means that can be used to gain more political and economic autonomy within the current constitutional order. 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.
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. 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.
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.
The northern Italian nations have been independet for centuries (for example Veneto has been independent from X century to XIX century, Liguria has been independent for 7 centuries). The northern Italian separatism is not only economics, but also linguistic (gallo-romance languages group) and cultural.
Countries that have recently broken apart because of separatist movements
Entities which have proclaimed independence, but are not internationally recognized as independent countries
See also: List of unrecognized countries
Countries with separatist movements
Other uses of the term "separatism"
Ethnic separatism is also used to refer to groups that attempt to separate themselves culturally and economically or racially though not always seeking political autonomy. Examples of this include:
Fictional separatist organisations