Nation Building

Published 15 Dec 2016

The aspect of nation-building has been an important component of creating stable states in a liberal democratic environment. With this, there are several ways and methods that a particular state may use to enhance and develop its objectives. In the end, as states try to incorporate a particular method of nation building, there are positive outcomes and negative implications that need to be taken into consideration. It is through this that the process of determining a state’s own values, traditions and ideals are put into practiced and applied.

Seeing this, there are two models in which the paper shall look and consider. The first one revolves around the way Russia has created and developed nation building mechanisms. On the other hand, the other part of the paper looks at Turkish nation building strategies. In the end, there shall be an elaboration of its relevant strengths and weaknesses exhibited by both states. It is through these categories that both states shall be compared and contrasted.

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Nation building – Russia

After the collapse and fall of the USSR in 1991, Russia became the dominant states that took over what was left behind by its predecessor. Though there have been man states that took the opportunity to secede and form their own governments, Russia still maintained control over half of what the USSR controlled during the Cold War.

Contrary to its predecessor, Russian nation building is similar with the overall structure of USSR – the practice of ethno federalism. What distinguishes the mechanism applied by Russia to USSR is the elements circumscribed the tenet of ethno federalism. Hale argues that “the critical distinction between the USSR and Russia lies in the design of ethno federal institutions” (p.56) It is through here that we see a USSR whose core ethnic region is concentrated on one state (Russia) which in turn remains to be problematic on the side of a particular federation. Hale mentions that “core ethnic regions tend to promote state breakup because they facilitate dual sovereignty, exacerbate the security fears of minority-group regions, and promote the “imagining” of core-group identifications independent of the federation.” (p.56)

The collapse of the USSR became a catalyst for Russia to learn from its predecessor and apply an appropriate setup suitable for the region – Ethno federalism. Hale mentions that “ethno federalism, a federal political system in which component regions are intentionally associated with specific ethnic categories.” (p.55) This process enables the state to maintain and promote democracy while at the same time protecting and safeguarding ethnic differences among different sub-states. However, contrary to the USSR, Russia applied ethno federalism without a core ethnic region. Hale points out that “the Russian Federation lacks a core ethnic region; instead it consists of 32 minority ethnic regions (republics, autonomous districts, and autonomous regions) together with its 57 Russian-dominated oblasts.” (p.61) This is why, the government continues to survive, grow and develop for years.


The practice of ethno federalism by Russia has in turn created many positive outcomes for the country. The nation building mechanism employed and used by the state may have been an important component for not repeating the mistakes of the USSR. One important benefit of the ethno federal setup without the core ethnic region is that Russian leaders would find it difficult to control and maintain stability in regions that are ethnically perse. Hale argues that “without Russia’s institutional pision of the core into many regions, Russia’s presidents would have found it much more difficult to employ accommodative tactics toward key minority regions and pide-and-conquer methods vis-à-vis oblasts so as to address potentially threatening minority-region security concerns.” (p.62)

Then there is the issue of creating a sense of community among members of the Russian occupied territories. The oblasts play an important part in the overall success of the Russian federation. Hale mentions that “with a core ethnic religion in place of Russia’s 57 oblasts, Russia would have been much more likely to experience a challenge to the vision of territorial Russian identity.” (p.62) Such action can lead to drastic effects in the way identification is made and categorized.


One impediment in such mechanism is the capability of it to undermine the equal distribution of power among minorities. Such can lead to a scenario wherein one minority is dominant over the other. Hale further points out that “one ethnic region can be considered “clearly dominant” in population if it contains at least 20 percent more than the unionwide population than the next largest region or makes up an outright majority of the country’s population.” (p.64) Such can lead to the formation of core ethnic regions which would be problematic for Russia if it continues.

Another problem of such setup is that there is a tendency to have challenges from secessionist states. Hale mentions that “some ethno federal states without core ethnic regions have avoided state breakup but continue to experience isolated secessionist challenges.” (p.65)

Nation Building – Turkey

The idea of Turkish nation building revolves around the tenet of embracing and incorporating their ideals, culture and values without the consideration of minorities and their relevant practices. The Islamic framework of government seems to overshadow the real fundamentals of nation building. Van Bruinessen argues that “the dominant view among Turkish policymakers has been, however, that it was possible for the non-Turkish ethnic groups to adopt Turkish culture and that forced assimilation was feasible.” (p.4) This became the initial foundation of Turkey’s secular government.

However, there had been continued changes in the Turkish government as they begin to democratize and open up into the world. There have been efforts for the state to apply important components of a liberal nation building schemes. It eliminated the previous defunct system and began to progress forward. Ciddi et al. argues that “against the background of gross economic mismanagement, political scandals of corruption and negligence of the 1990’s, the 2002 general elections impressed upon any desiring government party a number of tangible objectives to address.” (p.1)

In addition, the process of liberalizing and democratizing the state has been a successful trait exhibited by Turkey. Ciddi et al. mentions that “this process, dubbed as ‘conservative democratic’ by Erdoğan, defines democracy as an ideal to “construct a pluralist interpretation of democracy which is not limited to a mechanical interpretation… reduced to a few institutions and elections but one which is organic and has spread to all societal and political arenas” (p.1)

Positive Outcomes

There are indeed important positive outcomes that the initiative of Turkey provided. First is that it slowly begins to recognize and balance domestic and international issues as far as respect of sovereignty is concerned. This specifically applies in the issue of Cyprus. Kymlicka mentions that “liberal principles will also insist that any national group engaged in a project of national building must respect the right of other nations within its jurisdiction to protect and build their own national institutions” (p.189)

Another important positive outcome is the capability of the state to practice fair and just treatment of minorities in a particular area. Contrary to the original initiative of assimilation, with liberal tenets, nation building shall constitute better opportunities for minorities to actively voice out their concerns and welfare in the state. Kymlicka argues that “liberal principles will preclude any attempts at ethnic cleansing, or stripping people of their citizenship, or the violation of human rights.” (p.189)


One important and notable challenge for Turkey is creating a scenario and balancing tradition with modernity. Nation building on one hand entails a liberal approach in the establishment of reforms. However, practices among conservatives continue to apply. Social standards remain to be rooted in Islamic laws as well as traditions. This in turn leaves minorities in a state of confusion as the reality starts to manifest itself. Thus, minorities are still forced to abide to old standards though the process of liberalization has already been in place. Conclusion: Comparison and Contrast

Seeing this, there are indeed different methods that a state can use to appropriate the proper nation building mechanism. One difference between the two states is the approach used by each one to promote nation-building. For Russia, it used an ethno federal approach while on the other hand; Turkey used the Western liberal method. This in turn creates different approaches and scenarios wherein nation building can be enhanced and developed. Also, there is an immediate concern with the facilitation of nation building among minorities. Since they are part of the overall union of the state, the question of assimilation or absorption remains to be an integral part of the nation building strategy. Thus, the process of nation building is indeed a complex one and it caters to different benefits and challenges depending on the method used or advocated by a particular state.

Works Cited

  • Ciddi, Sinan et. al. Religious and Cultural Perceptions of the “Other: in Greek-Turkish Relations. n.d. accessed 29 April 2008
  • Hale, Henry E. The Makeup and Breakup of Ethno Federal States: Why Russia Survives Where the USSR Fell. 2005 3 no.1 accessed 29 April 29, 2008 pp. 55-70
  • Kymlicka, Will. Nation-building and minority rights: comparing West and East in ‘Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. 2000 26 no.2 accessed 29 April 2008 pp. 183-212
  • van Bruinessen, Martin. Race, culture, nation and identity politics in Turkey: some comments. 1997
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