Vielvolkerstaat is a German word meaning multi-ethnic state. According to political scientist Christoph Schnellbach of Oldenburg University in Germany, a Vielvolkerstaat or multi-ethnic state is a territorially limited political sovereignty comprising of two or more nations and whose members, including all people, are granted the equal right or legal status even at a the lowest level to self-determination.
Historically, the term originated through the combination of states like the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary. Following Emperor Franz Joseph’s Ausgleich (the Hungarian Compromise), both Austria and Hungary coexisted in equal partnership. The goal of the compromise was to give Hungary considerable leverage to extend their influence. Austro-Hungary was founded off of the progressive fundamental law of basic equality of all national groups, but as the empire was populated by a German-Austrian and Hungarian overlordship, other various nationalities under the Crown were forced into submission. Equality reformation was attempted many times, but was vetoed by Franz Joseph under pressure from German-Austrian nationalistic influence. This intolerance turned their Slavic neighbors into enemies which eventually lead to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and the beginning of World War I. Franz Joseph paid too little attention toward internal affairs and failed to understand the nationality problems and all its weight.
The term Vielvolkerstaat is rooted through the amalgamation of two or more nations, but today with the exception of the European Union, they are mixtures of ethnic groups and have essentially evolved the term into reflecting the idea of a multi-cultural state. Today the concept is commonplace and has embedded itself in countries all of the world including the US, China, Canada and many more. With the rise of globalization, societies seemed to becoming more connected and organized, but as we progress and problems arise, this cultural variety is causing problems all over the world.
Catarina Kinnvall, in a Political Psychologist publication, explains how in these times of economic and political global progress, individuals and groups are becoming more and more ontologically insecure and uncertain. She goes on to explain how people’s subconscious response leads in the direction of “reaffirmation of one’s self identity by drawing closer to collective” in the effort to reduce insecurity and anxiety. Kinnvall concludes by pinning religion and nationalism as being particularly powerful responses, or “identity-signifiers” in times of rapid change and uncertainty.
Kinnvall is not far off. Currently in nations all around the globe, people are rallying around populist leaders demanding change and reform. Representatives like Donald Trump here in the US, or Viktor Orban of Hungary and Nigel Farage in the UK are motivating the public to rise up and exercise their right to an equal democracy. The evolution of the multi-ethnic ideology is being challenged by these fears, but is it necessarily a negative outcome?
Populist movements in the past has proven to be both constructive and catastrophic. The US showed how beneficial a populist protest can be through FDR’s three R’s; Relief, Recovery, and Reform of which rallied America to begin working, pulling the nation out of the Great Depression. On the opposite side of the coin, Adolf Hitler encouraged a populist movement through wide-spread multi-nationalism and nativism and the result of that was genocide. One thing that is certain is that there is a populistic mob on democracy’s doorstep, the question is how does the democracy consider the word of the people against frightening issues like immigration.
As of now, there are 13.5 million displaced refugees and the global consensus is preaching a closed border policy. When the Syrian war began some six-years ago, refugees were being harbored in accordance to with the Dublin Regulation, dating back to 1990, this regulation required refugees to lodge their asylum claims in first country of the EU that they had entered, enabling them to be returned there from elsewhere in the EU. This has put an enormous burden on primary receiving countries, i.e Italy and Greece, and from there migrants are traveling as they please to wealthier countries up north like Germany. Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, waived Germany’s right to send the thousands of migrants back to Southern Europe in 2015 and crumbled the Dublin Regulation System. The initial reaction was positive, but as the world witnessed during World War II, Germany has never been known for their commendable exercise of Vielvolkerstaat.
The implication of a multi-ethnic state in Germany as a result of the war is claimed to be impossible as a result xenophobia and the pure cultural indifference. As Germany accepted 1.1 million refugees in 2015, 44 members of Parliament pushed back against Merkel, claiming to represent the public through coalition in stating that “Our Country is Overwhelmed.” These opinions are bubbling over all around Europe and the US, fueled by a populistic gasoline over a blazing fire of nationalism resulting in the world turning away from their humanitarian duties.
Although the former Vielvolkerstaat posterchild has since split, Austria and Hungary are expressing their frustrations and noncompliance with the acceptance of refugees. For Austria, Sebastian Kurz, Minister of Foreign Affairs, has been advocating for a European Fortress and advising countries on how they should be handling the migration. Kurz was quoted saying; “I want us to to clearly tell Europe, especially Germany, the invitation policy must come to an end.” In the result of immigration defense, Kurz has been encouraging ‘Vielvolkerstaat’ social media campaigns to balance the external multi-cultural intolerance. Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, has been campaigning for a Referendum for the past year, a campaign The Guardian explained to be one of the largest in Hungary ever. The voting commenced October 2 of this year and showed overwhelming support for the referendum, but was unable to be validated due less than half of Hungary’s electorate casting a vote.
With the overwhelming rise in populace unhappiness and humanitarian intolerance, are multi-ethnic states possible, with or without a refugee population? As the EU develops their Refugee-Sharing Quota, they will begin to allocate the displaced migrants evenly throughout Europe. This quota will hopefully force countries to make compromises, or Europe will experience more referendums of which could be the end of the EU. Orban’s lack of support in Hungary shows that with cooperation of the quota, a multi-ethnic states could hold the European Union together. This optimism can be translated by positive progress in the US under President-Elect, Donald Trump. If the populist movement in the US proved to benefit the country overall then hopefully other countries in the EU will follow their model. But, the overarching question is, Can Trump Perform?
The ideology of a complete and true Vielvolkerstaat can be done, but everyone must work together. Like the failure of Franz Joseph in Austro-Hungary, if the focus leans more in the direction of a populist protest promoting nationalism and intolerance, then multi-ethnic states and cultures will die along with globalization.