Looking for a quiet, never changing job? In recent history, barring tectonic shifts in global politics, internationally recognized states rarely come into (or out of) existence and therefore the world map has stayed relatively unchanged. While cartography is seemingly the most consistent (read: boring) occupation as of late, maps aren't always that quiet.
The two World Wars, decolonization, and the fall of the Soviet Union are examples of events that have altered world politics, and at the time, kept cartographers scrambling to keep up with ever-shifting borders. We appear to be witnessing two similarly important (though smaller scaled) phenomena – the localization of Europe, and the ‘unthawing’ of states frozen in the aftermath of the dissolution of the U.S.S.R.
With the expansion of the European Union and the maturation of its institutions, nations within member states that have held on to historic ties with their parent states are finding incentives to seek autonomy. These rewards include retention of economic and political benefits of E.U. membership, while attaining greater sovereignty and, consequently, more control on internal affairs such as taxes, education, and localized government.
Post-Soviet frozen states have operated in a de-facto pariah status since the early 1990s, making little headway toward international recognition, receiving only tacit support from Russia. However the declaration of independence of Kosovo from Serbia in 2008 caused an abrupt change in Russian foreign policy, serving as pretext for war in Georgia the same year, and for the annexation of Crimea in 2014, and the continued Russian support of the rebellion in Ukraine presently. Russia’s endgame remains unclear but looks to potentially result in the ascension of several newly independent states to the world stage.
Some independence struggles such as those in Tibet and Palestine have achieved constant worldwide recognition and media support, yet difficult political circumstances have rendered them ineffective in their goals, decade after decade. However, less geopolitically significant independence struggles have come to fruition, as we have seen in the past decades with Timor Leste and South Sudan.
In the coming years, we may see some of these nations-in-waiting move from the farm leagues to the big time, and hopefully with less loss of life than we’ve seen in the past.
Catalonia is a region of Spain located on the northeast coast of the Mediterranean Sea bordering France and Andorra. It was the first region of what is now Spain to come under Roman rule, and has enjoyed varying degrees of autonomy under successive rulers since the Middle Ages. Under four decades of the Franco dictatorship in the 20th century, the Spanish government suppressed Catalan language and culture. During this period, Catalan language media, along with regional holidays, were outlawed all together.
Since Spain’s transition to democracy in the 1970s-80s, national efforts have been in place to revitalize Catalan culture including the requirement of all primary education in the region to be delivered in Catalan. A 2010 law to promote Catalan culture required all movie theaters to show at least 50% of movies in Catalan, however, it was subsequently annulled by the European Commission two years later,
The Catalan independence movement has been concurrent with Catalan cultural revitalization efforts. Catalan nationalists have held the majority in Catalan Parliament or have been part of a ruling coalition since 1980. Since 2009, several local non-binding referendums on independence have been held in Catalonia. In November of last year, Catalans held the most recent of these referendums, with more than 80% of voters choosing independence. The Spanish government has deemed these referendums illegal and do not officially recognize the results.
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