Bottom-up blog

“Self-determination without tanks “!


How to solve an ethnic clash on the basis of universal principles?

  1. 1. The “nation state principle” at the origin of ethnic conflicts

Since the French revolution the idea of a “nation” is based on a territory, on which a democratic elected majority officially should act on the basis of liberty, equality and fraternity.

Although within the concerned territory there are mostly living different cultural, linguistic or religious communities, the elected group having got the democratic majority is empowered to decide and make laws for until the next elections.

With the exception of Island and Portugal, nearly no “nation state” in Europe is composed of one single cultural, linguistic or religious community; nearly all borders on this continent have changed during more than 2000 years of civil wars, so that any “nation state” within Europe is culturally and linguistically heterogeneous, and, very often, specific localities and regions within the nation state have other cultural and linguistic majorities as the total majority in the nation stage.

If the governing majority in such a “nation state” is changing basic linguistic rights for one cultural community, like, as it happened in Ukrainija, scratch the Russian language as official language of the country, then the reaction of the concerned group is evident, especially, if this linguistic community is very numerous and represents a large majority in many municipalities and parts of the country.


  1. 2. A cultural and linguistic heterogeneous “nation state” must be organized in a federal way!

Federal means: “Democracy in diversity”, a multi-level governance (application of the subsidiarity principle), and financial solidarity among the federated political entities.

As culture, language and religion are basic elements of communities, all daily aspects in these fields have to be tackled in the smallest political entity democratically elected. The larger the territory of that political entity, the more heterogeneous is its population. Therefore, already in the smallest village, town or municipality, minority rights and obligations have to be monitored by the democratically elected majority.

As to public traditions in culture, language and religion, every local community must have its autonomy, as free movement of people and the right of installing oneself everywhere within the “nation state” (or within the European Union) might provoke a “democratic majorisation” of the indigenous population living since centuries at the concerned place. The principle: “The new comer has to adapt, to integrate into the local community and has to acknowledge the public traditions of the people who lived there since generations!”

Local autonomy in culture, language and religion therefore means, that an immigrated and democratically elected majority cannot change public traditions like cultural and religious feasting days, the official language of the municipality, or, financial support for activities of local cultural or religious associations.

It is evident, that neighboring municipalities with the same cultural, linguistic and religious background should have the possibility to form a greater common political entity, a culturally autonomous canton, province or region.

The territorial size, the number of inhabitants and the economic and social interdependencies might force autonomous cantons, provinces and regions to join and organize themselves within a multi-cultural Federation, where economies of scales can be realized and common internal and external interests more efficiently be followed.

For better checks and balances, such a Federation or State then normally needs a bi-cameral system, one chamber where the demographic majority counts, and, one, where the interests of the governments of the autonomous cantons, provinces or regions are represented.


  1. 3. Where is the answer of the European Union?


Applying universal principles instead of nationalistic confrontation !

Democracy from the bottom-up and financial solidarity between rich and poor tax income municipalities, between rich and poor income cantons, provinces or regions, are elementary corner stones for a federal multi-level governance system.

Under such like political conditions, there would be no ground for the Russian speaking community in Ukrainija to separate or split away; local autonomy of every municipality as to public traditions in culture, language and religion, and, economic self-governance of every canton, province or region would guarantee, at least, human and civic rights to the Russian speaking population in that country, that they probably never can enjoy in the Russian Federation. But a global peace plan should give them in a final referendum without tanks the possibility to choose the state in which they want to live in.

Why the EU did not take over the proposal of the Russian foreign minister for a future decentralized country, an Ukrainija of regions? – Besides the request for cease-fire and economic sanctions against Russia, no pressure for a federal country has come from the “west” …


  1. Let the people decide …


The referendum on the Crimea peninsula was considered by the world community as “self-determination under the pressure of tanks” and therefore its annexation to Russia not recognized !

In order to built a “diplomatic bridge” to reintegrate the Russian government into to the world community, one should take the proposal of the Russian foreign minister to decentralized Ukrainija into regions on the basis of a country wide local election poll.

Take the Russians by their words by adding only the formulation: The United Nations shall organize and control an elections poll in all municipalities of the country without military threat or civil or military occupation of specific territories.

This formulation would allow the Russian government to accept a second, internationally controlled population poll on the Crimea peninsula, where the outcome for a pro-Russia party will be evident, but the dimensions of the existing local minorities, in Ukrainian and Crimea Tatar municipalities would still be seen by the whole world community.

It is further evident that the necessary conditions have to be prepared by stages:

  1. Any military operation on the territory of Ukrainija has to be ceased and all border and control posts have to be taken over by UN authorized military contingents.
  2. Every citizen with a former Ukrainian identity card/pass port is authorized to vote at his place of residence before …. (Date considered as start the conflict)
  3. The results of the elections by municipalities will show the repartition of parties (on the basis of their declared programs), which have then to form local majorities. The local majority has to decide about the maintenance of the public traditions of the place; cultural, linguistic and religious minorities have to get a guarantee as to their human and civic rights.
  4. In a second phase after the internationally controlled local elections, the local majorities have the right to form with their neighbors common political cantons, districts or regions on the basis of a political cooperation agreement, which should include, among others, a financial solidarity mechanism between tax income rich and poor municipalities.

This would create a cluster of cantons, which could form, like the Swiss model, a federated country;

  1. In a third phase after the internally controlled local elections on the former territory of Ukraijnija, the possibility must be given to regionally organized cantons to decide whether they want to stay in the Ukrainian Federation, or, whether they want to become a part of the Russian Federation.


Remark: There are examples in history, where internationally controlled elections or referenda have solved ethnic and national conflicts … just for memory: Under the auspices of he League of Nations, after the first world war, elections in every municipality in Silesia (Oberschlesien) had been organized; municipalities with a Polish majority came to Poland and with German majority remained with Germany.


Tervuren, 5.9.2014 Michael Cwik (

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