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National Unification and Popular Sovereignty
Since the collapse of the Soviet empire, new states have been emerging in fast-moving sequence—whether through the secession of formerly ‘autonomous’ territories, or through the reunification of national states that had fallen into dependence and partition. [*] These would appear to be only the clearest symptoms that a phenomenon more or less forgotten, or anyway neglected, in postwar Europe has plenty of life left in it. A colleague of mine describes the situation as follows: ‘With the break-up of the imperial realms, the world of states is re-forming at borders marked by the origins of those states, whose contours are to be explained in national-historical terms.’  Today, the political future again seems to belong to the ‘ancestral powers’—primarily, religion and the nation. In the social sciences, the talk is of ‘ethno-nationalism’ which is a way of stressing a common heritage, whether in the physical sense of common descent or in the broader sense of a common cultural tradition.
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