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"Every national border in Europe," El Eswad added ironically, "marks the place where two gangs of bandits got too exhausted to kill each other anymore and signed a treaty. Patriotism is the delusion that one of these gangs of bandits is better than all the others."
—Robert Anton Wilson[1]

Irredentism is the nationalist belief that a territory belonging to another country should be annexed for ethnic or historical reasons. Irredentist claims are usually justified on the basis that the irredentists' ethnic group now, or historically, formed the majority in that territory, or that the territory was part of the irredentists' nation-state at some point in the past.

Irredentism is to be distinguished from territorial expansionism, in that irredentism claims to advocate taking back land that is "rightfully ours," while expansionism advocates annexation regardless of whether the territory was "ours" in the first place. The name of the hypothetical country resulting from successful annexation frequently contains the word "Greater," such as, for example, in Greater Serbia,Wikipedia's W.svg Greater Albania,Wikipedia's W.svg Greater Greece,Wikipedia's W.svg Greater India,Wikipedia's W.svg Greater Russia,Wikipedia's W.svg Greater HungaryWikipedia's W.svg, Greater RomaniaWikipedia's W.svg, and Greater Bulgaria.Wikipedia's W.svg


[edit] In times of yore

Historically, there have been many territories that have changed hands very often, and territories in which the ethnic composition has changed over time. This means the claims of different irredentist movements of what is "rightfully theirs" very often overlap. Traditionally, such questions of rightful claims have been answered by the use of arms. Since the borders of nearly all nations have changed over time, irredentist attitudes can be found in most parts of the world. Usually, they are part of nationalist ideologies, though by far not all nationalist ideologies and groups include them. Fortunately, irredentism usually does not receive the official support it once did.

[edit] Gimme gimme gimme!

Extreme forms of irredentism seek to expand the country to its maximum historical extent, regardless of whether the irredentists' ethnic group ever actually formed the majority in the territories in question. Examples include the irredentist claims by Hungarian right-wing extremists to the entire Pannonian Basin, Zionists to Palestine, or irredentist claims by Russian conservatives (including Vladimir Putin) to the Baltic States, Ukraine, Poland (off which they already shaved the eastern third) and Finland (see previously listed affair). In a sense, West Germany had irredentist attitudes in claiming that East Germany was a part of Germany, too.

Irredentists often argue at length that a region rightly belongs to their country, without actually providing any reasons why such transfer of land would be beneficial. For instance, the territories claimed by irredentists may have no or a negligible presence of their ethnic group (rendering claims of "our brothers are being oppressed" moot), and in some areas (such as the European Union) there may be no barrier to travel, meaning the irredentists can go there anytime as if it were in their own country.

[edit] Irredentism in education

See the main article on this topic: Nationalism in history textbooks
On this globe there are national boundaries marked, but on photographs of the Earth from space, there are no national boundaries to be seen, which is perhaps a useful lesson for politicians.
Carl Sagan[2]

One cause of irredentism, both presently and historically, has been educational systems. Education is often used as a means of instilling nationalism, xenophobia, exclusionary ethnic loyalty, irredentist attitudes, and the idea that only one ethnic group has the "right" to live in a certain area.

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