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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Secession is the withdrawal of a group from a larger entity, especially a political entity, but also from any organization, union or military alliance. Some of the most famous and significant secessions have been: the former Soviet republics leaving the Soviet Union, Ireland leaving the United Kingdom, and Algeria leaving France. Threats of secession can be a strategy for achieving more limited goals.[1] It is, therefore, a process, which commences once a group proclaims the act of secession (e.g. declaration of independence).[2] A secession attempt might be violent or peaceful, but the goal is the creation of a new state or entity independent from the group or territory it seceded from.[3]

Secession theory

There is a great deal of theorizing about secession so that it is difficult to identify a consensus regarding its definition.[3] There is also a claim that this subject has been neglected by political philosophers and that by the 1980s – when it finally generated interest – the discourse concentrated on the moral justifications of the unilateral right to secession.[4] It was only in the early 1990s when American philosopher Allen Buchanan offered the first systematic account of the subject and contributed to the normative classification of the literature on secession. In his 1991 book Secession: The Morality of Political Divorce From Fort Sumter to Lithuania and Quebec, Buchanan outlined limited rights to secession under certain circumstances, mostly related to oppression by people of other ethnic or racial groups, and especially those previously conquered by other people.[5] In his collection of essays from secession scholars, Secession, State, and Liberty,[6] professor David Gordon challenges Buchanan, pointing out that the moral status of the seceding state is unrelated to the issue of secession itself.[7]

According to the 2017 book Secession and Security by George Mason political scientist Ahsan Butt, states respond violently to secessionist movements if the potential state would pose a greater threat than a violent secessionist movement would.[8] States perceive future war as likely with a potentially new state if the ethnic group driving the secessionist struggle has deep identity division with the central state, and if the regional neighbourhood is violent and unstable.[8]

Justifications for secession

Some theories of secession emphasize a general right of secession for any reason ("Choice Theory") while others emphasize that secession should be considered only to rectify grave injustices ("Just Cause Theory").[9] Some theories do both. A list of justifications may be presented supporting the right to secede, as described by Allen Buchanan, Robert McGee, Anthony Birch,[10] Jane Jacobs,[11] Frances Kendall and Leon Louw,[12] Leopold Kohr,[13] Kirkpatrick Sale,[14] Donald W. Livingston[15] and various authors in David Gordon's "Secession, State and Liberty", includes:

  • United States President James Buchanan, Fourth Annual Message to Congress on the State of the Union December 3, 1860: "The fact is that our Union rests upon public opinion, and can never be cemented by the blood of its citizens shed in civil war. If it can not live in the affections of the people, it must one day perish. Congress possesses many means of preserving it by conciliation, but the sword was not placed in their hand to preserve it by force."
  • Former President Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to William H. Crawford, Secretary of War under President James Madison, on June 20, 1816: "In your letter to Fisk, you have fairly stated the alternatives between which we are to choose: 1, licentious commerce and gambling speculations for a few, with eternal war for the many; or, 2, restricted commerce, peace, and steady occupations for all. If any State in the Union will declare that it prefers separation with the first alternative, to a continuance in union without it, I have no hesitation in saying, 'let us separate.' I would rather the States should withdraw, which are for unlimited commerce and war, and confederate with those alone which are for peace and agriculture."[16]
  • Economic enfranchisement of an economically oppressed class that is regionally concentrated within the scope of a larger national territory.
  • The right to liberty, freedom of association and private property
  • Consent as important democratic principle; will of majority to secede should be recognized
  • Making it easier for states to join with others in an experimental union
  • Dissolving such union when goals for which it was constituted are not achieved
  • Self-defense when larger group presents lethal threat to minority or the government cannot adequately defend an area
  • Self-determination of peoples
  • Preserving culture, language, etc. from assimilation or destruction by a larger or more powerful group
  • Furthering diversity by allowing diverse cultures to keep their identity
  • Rectifying past injustices, especially past conquest by a larger power
  • Escaping "discriminatory redistribution", i.e., tax schemes, regulatory policies, economic programs, etc. that distribute resources away to another area, especially in an undemocratic fashion
  • Enhanced efficiency when the state or empire becomes too large to administer efficiently
  • Preserving "liberal purity" (or " conservative purity ") by allowing less (or more) liberal regions to secede
  • Providing superior constitutional systems which allow flexibility of secession
  • Keeping political entities small and human scale through right to secession

Aleksander Pavkovic,[17] associate professor at the Department of Politics and International Studies at Macquarie University in Australia and the author of several books on secession describes five justifications for a general right of secession within liberal political theory:[18]

  • Anarcho-Capitalism: individual liberty to form political associations and private property rights together justify right to secede and to create a "viable political order" with like-minded individuals.
  • Democratic Secessionism: the right of secession, as a variant of the right of self-determination, is vested in a "territorial community" which wishes to secede from "their existing political community"; the group wishing to secede then proceeds to delimit "its" territory by the majority.
  • Communitarian Secessionism: any group with a particular "participation-enhancing" identity, concentrated in a particular territory, which desires to improve its members' political participation has a prima facie right to secede.
  • Cultural Secessionism: any group which was previously in a minority has a right to protect and develop its own culture and distinct national identity through seceding into an independent state.
  • The Secessionism of Threatened Cultures: if a minority culture is threatened within a state that has a majority culture, the minority needs a right to form a state of its own which would protect its culture.

Types of secession

Hashim Thaçi (left) and then-US Vice President Joe Biden with Declaration of Independence of Kosovo
Hashim Thaçi (left) and then-US Vice President Joe Biden with Declaration of Independence of Kosovo

Secession theorists have described a number of ways in which a political entity (city, county, canton, state) can secede from the larger or original state:[1][18][19]

  • Secession from federation or confederation (political entities with substantial reserved powers which have agreed to join together) versus secession from a unitary state (a state governed as a single unit with few powers reserved to sub-units)
  • Colonial wars of independence from an imperial state
  • Recursive secession, such as India seceding from the British Empire, then Pakistan seceding from India, or Georgia seceding from the USSR, then South Ossetia seceding from Georgia.
  • National (seceding entirely from the national state) versus local (seceding from one entity of the national state into another entity of the same state)
  • Central or enclave (seceding entity is completely surrounded by the original state) versus peripheral (along a border of the original state)
  • Secession by contiguous units versus secession by non-contiguous units (exclaves)
  • Separation or partition (although an entity secedes, the rest of the state retains its structure) versus dissolution (all political entities dissolve their ties and create several new states)
  • Irredentism where secession is sought in order to annex the territory to another state because of common ethnicity or prior historical links
  • Minority (a minority of the population or territory secedes) versus majority (a majority of the population or territory secedes)
  • Secession of better off regions versus secession of worse off regions
  • The threat of secession is sometimes used as a strategy to gain greater autonomy within the original state

Arguments against secession

Allen Buchanan, who supports secession under limited circumstances, lists arguments that might be used against secession:[20]

  • "Protecting Legitimate Expectations" of those who now occupy territory claimed by secessionists, even in cases where that land was stolen
  • "Self Defense" if losing part of the state would make it difficult to defend the rest of it
  • "Protecting Majority Rule" and the principle that minorities must abide by them
  • "Minimization of Strategic Bargaining" by making it difficult to secede, such as by imposing an exit tax
  • "Soft Paternalism" because secession will be bad for secessionists or others
  • "Threat of Anarchy" because smaller and smaller entities may choose to secede until there is chaos, although this is not the true meaning of the political and philosophical concept
  • "Preventing Wrongful Taking" such as the state's previous investment in infrastructure
  • "Distributive Justice" arguments that wealthier areas cannot secede from poorer ones

Explanations for the 20th century increase in secessionism

According to University of California, Santa Barbara, political scientist Bridget L. Coggins, there are four potential explanations in the academic literature for the drastic increase in state birth during the 20th century:[21]

  • Ethnonational mobilization – Ethnic minorities have been increasingly mobilized to pursue states of their own.
  • Institutional empowerment – The growing inability of empires and ethnic federations to maintain colonies and member states.
  • Relative strength – Increasingly powerful secessionist movements are more likely to achieve statehood.
  • Negotiated consent – Home states and the international community increasingly consent to secessionist demands.

Other scholars have linked secession to resource discoveries and extraction.[22] David B. Carter, H. E. Goemans and Ryan Griffiths find that border changes among states tend to conform to borders for previous administrative units.[23][24][25]

Several scholars have argued that changes in the international system have made it easier to survive and prosper as a small state.[26][27][28][29][30] Tanisha Fazal and Ryan Griffiths link increased numbers of secessions to an international system that is more favorable for new states. For example, new states can obtain assistance from international organizations, such as the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and United Nation.[27] Alberto Alesina and Enrico Spolaore argue that greater levels of free trade and peace have reduced the benefits of being part of a larger state, thus motivating nations within larger states to seek secession.[28]

Woodrow Wilson's proclamations on self-determination in 1918 created a surge in secessionist demands.[27]

Rights to secession

Most sovereign states do not recognize the right to self-determination through secession in their constitutions. Many expressly forbid it. However, there are several existing models of self-determination through greater autonomy and through secession.[31]

In liberal constitutional democracies the principle of majority rule has dictated whether a minority can secede. In the United States Abraham Lincoln acknowledged that secession might be possible through amending the United States Constitution. The Supreme Court in Texas v. White held secession could occur "through revolution, or through consent of the States".[32][33] The British Parliament in 1933 held that Western Australia could secede from Australia only upon vote of a majority of the country as a whole; the previous two-thirds majority vote for secession via referendum in Western Australia was insufficient.[34]

The Chinese Communist Party followed the Soviet Union in including the right of secession in its 1931 constitution in order to entice ethnic nationalities and Tibet into joining. However, the Party eliminated the right to secession in later years, and had anti-secession clause written into the Constitution before and after the founding the People's Republic of China. The 1947 Constitution of the Union of Burma contained an express state right to secede from the union under a number of procedural conditions. It was eliminated in the 1974 constitution of the Socialist Republic of the Union of Burma (officially the "Union of Myanmar"). Burma still allows "local autonomy under central leadership".[31]

As of 1996, the constitutions of Austria, Ethiopia, France, and Saint Kitts and Nevis have express or implied rights to secession. Switzerland allows for the secession from current and the creation of new cantons. In the case of proposed Quebec separation from Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada in 1998 ruled that only both a clear majority of the province and a constitutional amendment confirmed by all participants in the Canadian federation could allow secession.[31]

The 2003 draft of the European Union Constitution allowed for the voluntary withdrawal of member states from the union, although the State which wanted to leave could not be involved in the vote deciding whether or not they can leave the Union.[31] There was much discussion about such self-determination by minorities[35] before the final document underwent the unsuccessful ratification process in 2005. Although in 2007 the Treaty on European Union included Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, the right to withdraw from the EU, which has been the case with Brexit.

As a result of the successful constitutional referendum held in 2003, every municipality in the Principality of Liechtenstein has the right to secede from the Principality by a vote of a majority of the citizens residing in this municipality.[36]

Secession movements

National secessionist movements advocate for the claim that a population within a state is a nation that has the right to form its own nation-state.[37] Movements that work towards political secession may describe themselves as being autonomy, separatist, independence, self-determination, partition, devolution, decentralization, sovereignty, self-governance or decolonization movements instead of, or in addition to, being secession movements.

Countries which separated from a colonial empire but which were never an integral part of the colonial state are not included in the list below; instead see Decolonization and Unilateral declaration of independence.


During the 19th century, the single British colony in eastern mainland Australia, New South Wales (NSW) was progressively divided up by the British government as new settlements were formed and spread. Victoria (Vic) in 1851 and Queensland (Qld) in 1859.

However, settlers agitated to divide the colonies throughout the later part of the century; particularly in central Queensland (centred in Rockhampton) in the 1860s and 1890s, and in North Queensland (with Bowen as a potential colonial capital) in the 1870s. Other secession (or territorial separation) movements arose and these advocated the secession of New England in northern central New South Wales, Deniliquin in the Riverina district also in NSW, and Mount Gambier in the eastern part of South Australia.

Western Australia

Secession movements have surfaced several times in Western Australia (WA), where a 1933 referendum for secession from the Federation of Australia passed with a two-thirds majority. The referendum had to be ratified by the British Parliament, which declined to act, on the grounds that it would contravene the Australian Constitution.


After being liberated by the Red Army and the U.S. Army, Austria seceded from Nazi Germany on April 27, 1945. This took place after seven years of Austria's being part of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich due to the Anschluss annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in March 1938, and could not have taken place without the Third Reich being defeated by the Allies.


The Banga Sena (Bengal Army) is a separatist[38] Hindu organisation, which supports the making of a Bangabhumi/separate homeland for Bengali Hindus in the People's Republic of Bangladesh.[39] The group is led by Kalidas Baidya.[38]

The Shanti Bahini (Bengali: শান্তি বাহিনী, "Peace Force") is the name of the military wing of the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Sanghati Samiti - the United People's Party of the Chittagong Hill Tracts aims are to create an indigenous Buddhist orientated Chacomas state within SE Bangladesh.

Belgium and the Netherlands

On August 25, 1830, during the reign of William I, the nationalistic opera La muette de Portici was performed in Brussels. Soon after, the Belgian Revolt occurred, which resulted in the Belgian secession from the Netherlands.


In 1825, soon after the Empire of Brazil managed to defeat the Cortes-Gerais and Portugal in an Independence War, the platinean nationalists in Cisplatina declared independence and joined the United Provinces, which led to a stagnated war between both, as they were both weakened, without manpower and fragile politically. The peace treaty accepted Uruguay's independence, reasserted the rule of both nations over their land and some important points like free navigation in the Silver River.

Three rather disorganized secessionist rebellions happened in Grão-Pará, Bahia and Maranhão, where the people were unhappy with the Empire (these provinces were Portuguese bastions in the Independence War). The Malê Revolt, in Bahia, was an Islamic slave revolt. These three rebellions were bloodily crushed by the Empire of Brazil.

The Pernambuco was one of the most nativist of all Brazilian regions, which in five revolts (1645–1654, 1710, 1817, 1824, 1848), the province ousted the Dutch West India Company, tried to secede from the Portuguese Empire and from the Brazilian Empire. In the attempts the rebels were crushed, the leaders shot and its territory divided, nevertheless they kept revolting until its territory was a little fraction of what it was before.

In the Ragamuffin War, the Province of Rio Grande do Sul was undergoing a (at that time common) liberal vs conservative "cold" war. After the Emperor favoured the conservatives, the liberals took the Capital and declared an independent Republic, fighting their way to the Province of Santa Catarina, declaring the Juliana Republic. Eventually they were slowly forced back, and made a reunification peace with the Empire. The war was not a secessionist war, even if it could become if the Empire were defeated, after the Empire agreed to aid its economy by taxing Argentina's products (like dry meat), the rebels reunited with the Empire and even filled its ranks, as the rebels were very good fighters.

In modern times, the South Region of Brazil has been the centre of a secessionist movement led by an organization called The South is My Country since the 1990s. Reasons cited for South Region Brazil's secession are taxation due to it being one of the wealthiest regions in the country and political disputes with the northernmost states of Brazil as well as the recent scandal revolving around the Workers Party found to be making shady deals with state-owned oil company Petrobras and the impeachment of then-President Dilma Rousseff additionally there is also an ethnic divide as the South Region is predominately European populated primarily by Germans, Italians, Portuguese and other European countries in contrast to the rest of Brazil which is a multicultural melting pot "Racial Democracy". The South Region in 2016 voted in an unofficial referendum called "Plebisul" in which 616,917 (or half a million) voters overwhelmingly supported secession and the creation of an independent South Region by 95%. Another Brazilian secession movement is based in the state of Sao Paulo which seeks to create to make the state an independent country from the rest of Brazil.


In October 2017, Ambazonia declared its independence from Cameroon. Less than a month beforehand, tensions had escalated into open warfare between separatists and the Cameroonian military. The conflict, known as the "Anglophone Crisis", is deeply rooted in the October 1, 1961 incomplete decolonization of the former British Southern Cameroons (UNGA Resolution 1608). On January 1, 1960, French Cameroon was granted independence from France as the Republic of Cameroon and was admitted into the United Nations. The more advanced democratic and self-ruling people of British Cameroon were instead limited to two choices. Through a UN plebiscite, they were directed to either join the federation of Nigeria or the independent Republic of Cameroon as a federation of two equal states. While the Northern Cameroons voted to join Nigeria, the Southern Cameroons voted to integrate into the Republic of Cameroon, but they did so without a formal UN Treaty of Union on record at the UN. In 1972, Cameroon used its majority population to abolish the federation and implement a system which resulted in the occupation of the former South Cameroons territory by French-speaking Cameroon administrators. To make matters worse in 1984, Cameroon returned to its name at independence "Republic of Cameroun" which did not include the territory of the former British Southern Cameroons or Ambazonia. For more than fifty years the English-speaking people of the Former British Southern Cameroons made multiple attempts both nationally and internationally to get the Cameroon government to address these issue and possibly return to the previously agreed federation at independence. When all these attempts failed in 2016 and Cameroon engaged in a military crackdown including cutting the internet in the English-speaking regions, the people of Southern Cameroons declared on October 1, 2017, the restoration of their UN state of Southern Cameroons, which they called the "Federal Republic of Ambazonia".


Throughout Canada's history, there has been tension between English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians. Under the Constitutional Act of 1791, the Quebec colony (including parts of what are today Quebec, Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador) was divided in two: Lower Canada (which retained French law and institutions and is now part of the provinces of Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador) and Upper Canada (a new colony intended to accommodate the many new English-speaking settlers, including the United Empire Loyalists, and now part of Ontario). The intent was to provide each group with its own colony. In 1841, the two Canadas were merged into the Province of Canada. The union proved contentious, however, resulting in a legislative deadlock between English and French legislators. The difficulties of the union led (amongst other factors) in 1867 to Confederation, the adoption of a federal system that united the Province of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick (later joined by other British colonies in North America). The federal framework did not eliminate all tensions, however, leading to the Quebec sovereignty movement in the latter half of the 20th century.

Other occasional secessionist movements have included anti-Confederation movements in 19th century Atlantic Canada (see Anti-Confederation Party), the North-West Rebellion of 1885, and various small separatism movements in Alberta particularly (see Alberta separatism) and Western Canada generally (see, for example, Western Canada Concept).

Central America

After the 1823 collapse of the First Mexican Empire, the former Captaincy-General of Guatemala was organized into a new Federal Republic of Central America. In 1838 Nicaragua seceded. The Federal Republic was formally dissolved in 1840, all but one of the states having seceded amidst general disorder.



In 1960 the State of Katanga declared independence from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. United Nations troops crushed it in Operation Grand Slam.


Northern Cyprus
Northern Cyprus

In 1974, Greek irredentists launched a coup d'état in Cyprus, in an attempt to annex the island with Greece. Almost immediately, the Turkish Army invaded northern Cyprus to protect the interests of the ethnic Turkish minority, who in the following year formed the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus and in 1983 declared independence as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey.

East Timor

September 1999 demonstration for independence from Indonesia
September 1999 demonstration for independence from Indonesia

The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (also known as East Timor) has been described as having "seceded" from Indonesia.[40][41][42] After Portuguese sovereignty was terminated in 1975, East Timor was occupied by Indonesia. However the United Nations and the International Court of Justice refused to recognize this incorporation. Therefore, the resulting civil war and eventual 2002 East Timorese vote for complete separation are better described as an independence movement.[43]


Following the May 1991 victory of EPLF forces against the communist Derg regime during the Eritrean War of Independence, Eritrea (formerly known as "Medri Bahri") gained de facto independence from Ethiopia. Following the United Nations observed 1993 Eritrean independence referendum, Eritrea gained de jure independence.

European Union

Before the Treaty of Lisbon entered into force on 1 December 2009 no provision in the treaties or law of the European Union outlined the ability of a state to voluntarily withdraw from the EU. The European Constitution did propose such a provision and, after the failure to ratify the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe, that provision was then included in the Lisbon Treaty.

The treaty introduces an exit clause for members who wish to withdraw from the Union. This formalises the procedure by stating that a member state may notify the European Council that it wishes to withdraw, upon which withdrawal negotiations begin; if no other agreement is reached the treaty ceases to apply to the withdrawing state two years after such notification.[44]


Finland successfully and peacefully seceded from the newly formed and weak Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic in 1917, the latter led by Lenin who had goodwill towards the Finns due to their having helped in his revolutionary struggle. Unsuccessful attempts at greater autonomy or peaceful secession had already been made during the preceding Russian Empire but had been denied by the Russian emperor.


France was one of the European Great Powers with populous foreign empires; like the others – the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands; and formerly Germany and the Ottoman Empire – populous states abroad have all seceded, in most cases granted independence. These generally took place at similar stages by continent, see decolonization of the Ottoman Empire, Americas, Asia and Africa. As to France's contiguous state, these have few present representatives at national level, see:

Gran Colombia

Map showing the shrinking territory of Gran Colombia from 1824 to 1890 (red line). Panama separated from Colombia in 1903.
Map showing the shrinking territory of Gran Colombia from 1824 to 1890 (red line). Panama separated from Colombia in 1903.

After a decade of tumultuous federalism, Ecuador and Venezuela seceded from Gran Colombia in 1830, leaving the similarly tumultuous United States of Colombia, now the Republic of Colombia which also lost Panama in 1903.


Pakistan seceded from the British Indian empire in what is known as the Partition. Today, the Constitution of India does not allow Indian states to secede from the Union.

The Indian Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir hosts some paramilitary Muslim-state-advocating nationalists, operating against the Indian establishment. They are mostly in the Valley of Kashmir since 1989, where the Indian army sometimes patrol, having bases along the nearby international border. They are supported via Pakistan which has allegedly funded many terrorist, separatist outfits for destabilising india according to the indian intelligence, though the country denies any direct involvement. The militancy reached at its peak influence in the 1990s.

Other secessionist movements in Nagaland, Assam, Manipur, Punjab (known as the Khalistan movement), Mizoram and Tripura, Tamil Nadu . The violent, Maoist, Naxalite insurgency operates in eastern rural India is rarely considered secessionist as its goal is to overthrow the government of India. Its commanders idealise a Communist republic to be made up swathes of India.


Active secession movements include: Iranian Azeri, Assyrian independence movement, Bakhtiary lurs movement in 1876, Iranian Kurdistan; Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), Khūzestān Province Balochistan and independence movement for free separated Balochistan, (Arab nationalist); Al-Ahwaz Arab People's Democratic Popular Front, Democratic Solidarity Party of Al-Ahwaz (See Politics of Khūzestān Province: Arab politics and separatism), and Balochistan People's Party (BPP) supporting Baloch Separatism.[45]


The Movement for the Independence of Sicily (Movimento Indipendentista Siciliano, MIS) has its roots in the Sicilian Independence Movement of the late 1940s; they have been around for 60 years. Today, the MIS no longer exists, though many other parties have been born. One is Nation Sicily (Sicilia Nazione), which still believes in the idea that Sicily, due to its deeply personal and ancient history, has to be a sovereign country. Moreover, a common ideology shared by all the Sicilian independentist movements is to fight against Cosa Nostra and all the other Mafia organizations, that have a very deep influence over Sicily's public and private institutions. Also, the Sicilian branch of the Five Star Movement, which is according to the polls Sicily's most popular party, has publicly expressed the intention to start working for a possible secession from Italy in the case where the central government would not collaborate in shifting the nation's administrative organization from a unitary country to a federal state. Lega Nord has been seeking the independence of the so-called region of Padania, which includes lands along the Po Valley in northern Italy. Some organizations separately work for the independence of Venetia or Veneto and the secession or reunification of South Tyrol with Austria. Lega Nord governing Lombardy has expressed a will to turning the region into a sovereign country. Also the island of Sardinia is home to a notable nationalist movement. In Southern Italy several movements have expressed a will to secede from Italy. This newborn ideology is so-called neo-Bourbonic, because the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was under the control of the House of Bourbon. The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was created in 1816 after the Congress of Vienna, and it comprised both Sicily and continental Southern Italy. The Kingdom came to an end in 1861, being annexed to the newborn Kingdom of Italy. However, the patriotic feelings shared among the southern Italian population is more ancient, starting in 1130 with the Kingdom of Sicily, which was composed by both the island and south Italy. According to the neo-Bourbonic movements the Italian regions which should secede are Sicily, Calabria, Basilicata, Apulia, Molise, Campania, Abruzzo, and Latio's provinces of Rieti, Latina and Frosinone. The major movements and parties which believe in this ideology are Unione Mediterranea, Mo! and Briganti.


The ethnic Ryukyuan (a branch of modern Okinawan) people had their own state historically (Ryukyu Kingdom). Although some Okinawan people have sought to become independent from Japan since they were annexed by Japan in 1879, and especially after 1972 when the islands were transferred from U.S. rule to Japan, their activism and movement have been consistently supported by single digit[46] of Okinawan people.[47]


When racial and partisan strife erupted, Singapore was expelled from the Malaysian federation in 1965.


The Territorial evolution of Mexico after independence, noting losses to the US (red, white and orange) and the secession of Central America (purple)
The Territorial evolution of Mexico after independence, noting losses to the US (red, white and orange) and the secession of Central America (purple)


The United Provinces of the Netherlands, commonly referred to historiographically as the 'Dutch Republic', was a federal republic formally established from the formal creation of a federal state in 1581 by several Dutch provinces seceded from Spain.

New Zealand

Secession movements have surfaced several times in the South Island of New Zealand. A Premier of New Zealand, Sir Julius Vogel, was amongst the first people to make this call, which was voted on by the Parliament of New Zealand as early as 1865. The desire for South Island independence was one of the main factors in moving the capital of New Zealand from Auckland to Wellington in the same year.

The NZ South Island Party with a pro-South agenda, fielded only five candidates (4.20% of electoral seats) candidates in the 1999 General Election but achieved only 0.14% (2622 votes) of the general vote. The reality today is that although "South Islanders" are most proud of their geographic region, secession does not carry any real constituency; the party was not able to field any candidates in the 2008 election due to being unable to enlist 500 paying members, a requirement by the New Zealand Electoral commission. The party is treated more as a "joke" party than any real political force.


A girl during the Nigerian Civil War of the late 1960s. Pictures of the famine caused by Nigerian blockade garnered sympathy for the Biafrans worldwide.
A girl during the Nigerian Civil War of the late 1960s. Pictures of the famine caused by Nigerian blockade garnered sympathy for the Biafrans worldwide.

Between 1967 and 1970, the state of Biafra (The Republic of Biafra) seceded from Nigeria and fought a war that ended with the state returning to Nigeria. [48]Later in 1999 at the beginning of a new democratic regime, other secessionist movements emerged, the movement for the Actualization of a Sovereign state of Biafra was formed as a military wing of the Republic of Biafra.[49]

Norway and Sweden

Sweden, having left the Kalmar Union with Denmark and Norway in the 16th century, entered into a loose personal union with Norway in 1814. Following a constitutional crisis, on June 7, 1905 the Norwegian Parliament declared that King Oscar II had failed to fulfill his constitutional duties. He was therefore no longer King of Norway and because the union depended on the two countries sharing a king, it was thus dissolved. After negotiations Sweden agreed to this on October 26 and on April 14.


After the Awami League won the 1970 national elections, negotiations to form a new government floundered, resulting in the Bangladesh Liberation War by which the eastern wing of Pakistan seceded, to become Bangladesh. The Balochistan Liberation Army (also Baloch Liberation Army or Boluchistan Liberation army) (BLA) is a Baloch nationalist militant secessionist organization. The stated goals of the organization include the establishment of an independent state of Balochistan free of Pakistani, Iranian and Afghan Federations. The name Baloch Liberation Army first became public in summer 2000, after the organization claimed credit for a series of bomb attacks in markets and removal of railways lines.[citation needed]

Papua New Guinea

The island of Bougainville has made several efforts to secede from Papua New Guinea.


Somaliland is an autonomous region,[50] which is part of the Federal Republic of Somalia.[51][52] Those who call the area the Republic of Somaliland consider it to be the successor state of the former British Somaliland protectorate. Having established its own local government in Somalia in 1991, the region's self-declared independence remains unrecognized by any country or international organization.[53][54]

South Africa

In 1910, following the British Empire's defeat of the Afrikaners in the Boer Wars, four self-governing colonies in the south of Africa were merged into the Union of South Africa. The four regions were the Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Natal and Transvaal. Three other territories, High Commission Territories of Bechuanaland (now Botswana), Basutoland (now Lesotho) and Swaziland (now Eswatini) later became independent states in the 1960s. Following the election of the Nationalist government in 1948, some English-speaking whites in Natal advocated either secession or a loose federation.[55] There were also calls for secession, with Natal and the eastern part of the Cape Province breaking away.[56] following the referendum in 1960 on establishing a republic, and in 1993, prior to South Africa's first elections under universal suffrage and the end of apartheid, some Zulu leaders in KwaZulu-Natal[57] considered secession as did some politicians in the Cape Province.[58]

In 2008, a political movement calling for the return to independence of the Cape resurged in the shape of the political organisation, the Cape Party. The Cape Party contested their first elections on 22 April 2009.[59] They finished the Western Cape provincial elections in 2019 with 9,331 votes, or 0,45% of votes, gaining no seats[60]

The idea has gained popularity in the early half of the 2020s, with polling suggesting that 58% of Western Cape Voters want a referendum on independence in July 2021.[61]

South Sudan

A referendum took place in Southern Sudan from 9 to 15 January 2011, on whether the region should remain a part of Sudan or become independent. The referendum was one of the consequences of the 2005 Naivasha Agreement between the Khartoum central government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M).

A simultaneous referendum was supposed to be held in Abyei on whether to become part of Southern Sudan but it has been postponed due to conflict over demarcation and residency rights.

On 7 February 2011, the referendum commission published the final results, with 98.83% voting in favour of independence. While the ballots were suspended in 10 of the 79 counties for exceeding 100% of the voter turnout, the number of votes were still well over the requirement of 60% turnout, and the majority vote for secession is not in question.

The predetermined date for the creation of an independent state was 9 July 2011.

Soviet Union

The Constitution of the Soviet Union guaranteed all SSRs the right to secede from the Union. In 1990, after free elections, the Lithuanian SSR declared independence and other SSRs soon followed. Despite the Soviet central government's refusal to recognize the independence of the republics, the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991.


A republican mural in Belfast showing solidarity with the Basque nationalism
A republican mural in Belfast showing solidarity with the Basque nationalism

Present-day Spain (known officially as "the Kingdom of Spain") was assembled as a central state in the French model between the 18th and 19th centuries from various component kingdoms with varying languages, cultures and legislations. Spain has several secessionist movements, the most notable ones being in Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia.

Sri Lanka

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, operated a de facto independent state for Tamils called Tamil Eelam in eastern and northern Sri Lanka until 2009.


In 1847, seven disaffected Catholic cantons formed a separate alliance because of moves to change the cantons of Switzerland from a confederation to a more centralized government federation. This effort was crushed in the Sonderbund War and a new Swiss Federal Constitution was created.[62]


Donetsk status referendum organized by pro-Russian separatists. A line to enter a polling place, 11 May 2014.
Donetsk status referendum organized by pro-Russian separatists. A line to enter a polling place, 11 May 2014.

In 2014 after the start of Russian intervention in Ukraine, several groups of people declared independence of several Ukrainian regions:

  • The Donetsk People's Republic was declared to be independent from Ukraine on 7 April 2014, comprising the territory of the Donetsk Oblast. There have been military confrontations between the Ukrainian Army and the forces of the Donetsk People's Republic when the Ukrainian Government attempted to reassert control over the oblast.
  • The Lugansk Parliamentary Republic was proclaimed on 27 April 2014.[63] before being succeeded by the Lugansk People's Republic. The Lugansk forces have successfully occupied vital buildings in Lugansk since 8 April, and controlled the City Council, prosecutor's office, and police station since 27 April.[64] The Government of the Lugansk Oblast announced its support for a referendum, and granted the governorship to independence leader Valeriy Bolotov.[65]

United Kingdom

A mural in Belfast depicting the Easter Rising of 1916
A mural in Belfast depicting the Easter Rising of 1916

The Republic of Ireland is the only part of the British Isles that has withdrawn from the United Kingdom. Ireland proclaimed independence in 1916 and, as the Irish Free State, gained independence in 1922. The United Kingdom has a number of secession movements:

United States

Discussions and threats of secession often surface in American politics, and secession was declared during the American Civil War. However, in 1869, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Texas v. White that unilateral secession was not permitted, saying that the union between a state (Texas in the case before the bar) "was as complete, as perpetual, and as indissoluble as the union between the original States. There was no place for reconsideration or revocation, except through revolution or through consent of the States."[33][32]

In January 2021, after President Donald J. Trump lost to Joe Biden in a hotly debated election, President Trump encouraged his supporters to march on the Capitol building. The supporters proceeded to break into, and invade the building forcing an evacuation of the area. In the days after the riot, there were growing threats by militia groups and other Southern organizations to secede from the U.S.

Thought leaders including Michael Malice have proposed that non-violent secession is a viable and humane outcome of the political strife the U.S. faces in 2021.


North Yemen and South Yemen merged in 1990; tensions led to a 1994 southern secession which was crushed in a civil war.[67]


A destroyed T-34-85 tank in Karlovac, Croatian War of Independence, 1992
A destroyed T-34-85 tank in Karlovac, Croatian War of Independence, 1992

On June 25, 1991, Croatia and Slovenia seceded from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia also declared independence, after which the federation broke up, causing the separation of the remaining two countries Serbia and Montenegro. Several wars ensued between FR Yugoslavia and seceding entities and among other ethnic groups in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and later, Kosovo. Montenegro peacefully separated from its union with Serbia in 2006.

Kosovo declared de facto independence on February 17, 2008, and was recognized by several dozen countries, but officially remains under United Nations administration.

See also





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  2. ^ Pavkovic, Aleksandar; Radan, Peter (2013). The Ashgate Research Companion to Secession. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 3. ISBN 9780754677024.
  3. ^ a b Pavkovic, Aleksandar; Radan, Peter (2007). Creating New States: Theory and Practice of Secession. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing. p. 6. ISBN 9780754671633.
  4. ^ Pavkovic, Aleksandar; Radan, Peter (2008). On the Way to Statehood: Secession and Globalisation. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 133. ISBN 9780754673798.
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  6. ^ Gordon, David (February 28, 2002). Secession, State, and Liberty. ISBN 0765809435.
  7. ^ Gordon, David (December 5, 2012). "Is Secession a Right?". Mises Institute.
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Further reading

  • Buchanan, Allen, Justice, Legitimacy, and Self-Determination: Moral Foundations for International Law (Oxford Political Theory), Oxford University Press, 2007.
  • Buchanan, Allen, Secession: The Morality Of Political Divorce From Fort Sumter To Lithuania And Quebec, Westview Press, 1991.
  • Coppieters, Bruno; Richard Sakwa, Richard (eds.), Contextualizing Secession: Normative Studies in Comparative Perspective, Oxford University Press, USA, 2003
  • Dos Santos, Anne Noronha, Military Intervention and Secession in South Asia: The Cases of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Kashmir, and Punjab (Psi Reports), Praeger Security International, 2007.
  • Gordon, David, Secession, State and Liberty, Transactions Publishers, 1998.
  • Hannum, Hurst, Autonomy, Sovereignty, and Self-Determination: The Accommodation of Conflicting Rights, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996.
  • Hawes, Robert F., One Nation, Indivisible? A Study of Secession and the Constitution, Fultus Corporation, 2006.
  • Jovanovic, Miodrag, Constitutionalizing Secession in Federalized States: A Procedural Approach, Ashgate Publishing, 2006.
  • Kohen, Marcelo G. (ed.), Secession: International Law Perspectives, Cambridge University Press, 2006.
  • Kohr, Leopold, The Breakdown of Nations, Routledge & K. Paul, 1957.
  • Lehning, Percy, Theories of Secession, Routledge, 1998.
  • Norman, Wayne, Negotiating Nationalism: Nation-Building, Federalism, and Secession in the Multinational State, Oxford University Press, USA, 2006.
  • Orlov, Dimitry, Reinventing Collapse, New Society Books, 2008, ISBN 978-0-86571-606-3
  • Pascalev, Mario, "Territory: An Account of the Territorial Authority of States". Dissertation, Bowling Green State University, VDM, 2009.
  • Roeder, Philip G. 2018. National secession: persuasion and violence in independence campaigns. Cornell University Press.
  • Sorens, Jason, Secessionism: Identity, Interest, and Strategy, McGill-Queen's University Press, 2012.
  • Sorens, Jason (2008). "Secessionism". In Hamowy, Ronald (ed.). Sessionism. The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE; Cato Institute. pp. 455–56. doi:10.4135/9781412965811.n277. ISBN 978-1-4129-6580-4. LCCN 2008009151. OCLC 750831024.
  • Spencer, Metta, Separatism: Democracy and Disintegration, Rowman & Littlefield, 1998.
  • Weller, Marc, Autonomy, Self Governance and Conflict Resolution (Kindle Edition), Taylor & Francis, 2007.
  • Wellman, Christopher Heath, A Theory of Secession, Cambridge University Press, 2005.
  • Secession And International Law: Conflict Avoidance – regional Appraisals, United Nations Publications, 2006.

External links

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