| How the sausage is made|
“”It is remarkable how fast and how effectively you can construct a nationality with a flag, a few speeches, and a national anthem.
|—Nicholas Nassim Taleb, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable|
A nation (often interchanged with country) is a group of people who share certain characteristics, most commonly language, religion, ethnicity, and history. As a sociological and political term, it is a fluid concept — what Benedict Anderson has termed an "imagined community."[note 1] It has been common in history for different nations to fuse together[note 2] or for a single nation to break apart.[note 3] Sometimes, a single person may feel they belong to more than one "nationality", depending on circumstances.[note 4]
Most of the states of Western Europe were built along national lines - Denmark, Malta, and Iceland, for example; but compare Austria, Ulster, Switzerland, Catalonia, San Marino, Belgium, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Alsace-Lorraine, the Vatican City, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. However, nation-building also came about due to European monarchs fostering a sense of nationhood amongst their peoples through nationalism, adopting the "vulgar" languages and concentrated myth-making.[note 5] Since World War I, nationality as the primary prerequisite for statehood has declined. Today, most states are rather multi-national[note 6] though there was a brief resurgence of "ethnic group gets a country" in the 1990s with the break up of the communist system in Eurasia.
- Other scholars like Anthony D. Smith have similarly emphasized how persistent and fluid the notion of nation was even before the modern conception of the nation-state.
- For example, as the different Jurchen and other tribes in Northeast China became the Manchu, or how the Cornish, etc., all became English.
- A modern example of this seems to be the Chinese and the Taiwanese, and possibly the North and South Koreans.
- This sums up the feelings of many Yugoslavs at the beginning of the 1990s.
- Examples of such myth-making include King Arthur, Charlemagne, the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, and El Cid.
- Either because they have national minorities or were never nation-states, to begin with.