With violence in Xinjiang continuing and tensions in Chechnya and Dagestan back in the public consciousness, it seems almost cliché to say the end of the sprawling, imperial nation-state is here, or at least not far off. Hell, a couple thousand signatures for an independent Texas got the foreign press questioning if even the U.S. wasn’t immune from secessionist conflict.
Now, have the massive, multi-ethnic superpowers of the modern world really reached their breaking point? The answer’s a big, emphatic no. While there’s certainly no shortage of secessionist claims in Russia, China, and the surrounding geopolitical region they dabble in, it’s unlikely we’ll see any new (internationally recognized) countries emerge from the Caucuses or Central Asia. A major precedent — any one secessionist success story — could set off new fervor in any number of independence-minded areas that could radically undermine the neighborhood superpowers’ international standing. For the leaders of Russia and China, maintaining their borders against secessionist challenges is an essential part of maintaining their political legitimacy. Sorry, Tibet. Continue reading →