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Unit 4

4.8 Defining Devolutionary Factors

3 min readโ€ขmay 4, 2020

Amanda DoAmaral


What is Devolution?

Devolution is the transfer of power from one central government to many local or regional governments, like the Fall of the Soviet Union. This has happened many times before as an empire or country breaks up into several countries, but itโ€™s not super common. Itโ€™s a big deal when it happens because several new states could be created.ย  Review devolution with Dustin Fowler

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Forces that Lead to Devolution

Physical geography can cause isolation due to natural features. The Kashmir area between India and Pakistan can feel isolated because it is separated by the Himalayan and Pir Panjal mountains. These areas have some local autonomy because the physical barriers make it difficult for a central government to rule. Other physical features that can lead to devolution include deserts and large bodies of water.ย 

Ethnic separatism occurs when minority groups fight for independence. In Spain, the Basques & Catalans are two such groups that have a unique culture/language and desire to be independent from Spain. The Spanish government has tried to placate these groups by giving them more freedoms and representation, but the will of the people to be independent from Spain is strong and these movements continue to protest for separation. The Netflix documentary Two Catalonias highlights this struggle.

Terrorism is organized violence, usually for a political goal. For example, Al Qaeda conducted attacks in the United States, eastern Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula to seek power and push their ideology. Sometimes, ethnic separatists use terrorism to reach their goal of independence. The Basques in Spain have organized in part through a terrorist organization, the ETA, that has used violence to escalate the isssue.

Economic devolutionary forces can occur when regions seek control of natural resources. In Brazil, Amazonian tribes want more ownership of the resources in their area. Social issues due to different languages, cultures, or religions can lead to devolution. Belgium is distinctly divided into two distinct regions, the Flemish in the north and the Walloons in the south. This may eventually lead to Belgium splitting into two different countries.ย 

Irredentism, as previously mentioned, is annexation of other regions because of a shared culture or language. Armenians were concentrated in Azerbaijan when it was part of the Soviet Union; when it collapsed, Armenia wanted this region to be part of their country. It eventually did.ย 

๐ŸŽฅ Watch: AP HUG - Devolution

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Fragmentation of States

Devolutionary forces can eventually lead to fragmentation of the state. Autonomous regions are relative to stateless nations, and are groups that have independence to manage daily governance, but not their own state. The Navajo Nation in the United States is an autonomous region.

Sub-nationalists are connected more to their nationality than to the central government. The people of Quebec identify more as Quรฉbรฉcois than Canadian. Jews in Poland/Ukraine are more loyal to their religion and history than the state they live in.ย 

Balkanization occurs when a state fragments into smaller, often hostile, states based on language/ethnic lines. The largest example of this is when the Balkan region experienced ethnic conflict and split into several states.ย 

Yugoslavia was ruled by Tito for many decades after WWII as a member of the non-aligned movement. It was a communist state, but was not aligned with the Soviets. After Tito died in 1980, there were years of uncertainty and unrest. The Yugoslav region includes several ethnicities including Serb, Bosniak, Croat, Albanian, Macedonian - to name a few. There were also stark divisions between the religions of christianity and Islam.ย 

All of these tensions and the power vacuum left by Tito opened the door for violence. In 1987, Slobodan Miloลกeviฤ‡ came to power and ruled over almost a decade of ethnic violence that left thousands dead. By 1997, the Yugoslav region officially broke into several new states including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia, and Slovenia.

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