Vielvolkerstaat- Shifting our World

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.

7 thoughts on “Vielvolkerstaat- Shifting our World

  1. Adam Gurman

    The multi-ethnic state of Austria Hungary makes me think of the current situation in China today. China annexed several nations during the later half of the twentieth century. Many of these nations, such as Tibet, are now living under the rule of a government intolerant to their way of life. Many Tibetans risk their lives to cross the Chinese border into India. Yet for some, even a life in exile, one away from their friends and family, is preferable to a life as a second class citizen. I personally believe that a Vielvolkerstaat where it’s denizens live in perfect harmony can exist, and hope that one will soon.

    1. Andrew Bettencourt Post author

      That’s a great point, unfortunately the refugees have no option, life as a second class citizen or death.
      As I said to Olivia, People have to change their outlook. Our world is changing to a point where religious indifference can’t really exist anymore and the more it does the worst things get. I believe a Vielvolkerstaat is possible too, but people need to wake up, someway or another.

      Thanks Adam.

  2. Olivia-Belle Phillip

    Part of your piece that resonated with me and made me make connections with both My Arab spring class as well as Jordan cultural mosaic, was this idea of what to do due to combat this fear of immigration. There is a large displacement of people with a large influx in of the rise refugees especially in the middle east due to the uprisings that have occurred and the ruins of land created by war. Knowing the issues that arose in Jordan due to the refuge population that is currently residing. I can understand why there is this negative connotation around refugees. With the idea that that refugees are effecting the economy and job market of that place and increasing unemployment. However I feel that refugees can help to boost the economy of a nation if they are included rather than being separated kept in their own camps.

    1. Andrew Bettencourt Post author

      I agree, I think in a case of cultural peacefulness they could boost an economy if utilized correctly. I feel that if governments correctly subsidize growth and support programs then our refugees will eventually mesh comfortably into our these various Christian societies. The biggest problem I am seeing throughout the world as far as welcoming refugees is the country’s citizens actually welcoming the refugees. As I mentioned in my paper, Denmark showed progress after accepting refugees between 2008 and 2011 (Palestinians,Somalians, Iraqi etc.), the refugees moved into labor intensive jobs forcing natives to educate themselves and get higher paid jobs. Where as in Germany, they accepted millions of refugees in 2015 but the up rise of the public caused Parliament to fight back on the open door policy implemented by Angela Merkel (Germany’s Chancellor) that is leading to a fortress Europe where everyone is closing their borders.
      The issue I was projecting in my paper was that of handling this populist movement, governments around the world are supporting the humanitarian approach to these issue and their citizens feel as though they don’t have a say in whats going on. This is causing animosity between natives and refugees, which then leads to refugees not being welcomed anywhere. Globally, there are not many people who can empathize for these Asylum seekers which then leads them to react defensively.

      Thanks for the response!

  3. Matthew Wolf

    What I really like is the idea of creating and establishing a working multi-ethnic state but I also wonder what comes next. With Jordanians, they are looking towards more of women’s rights and equality there. Can we say that with a multi-ethnic state there will be equality between men and women? Will this option be more or less likely to be achieved in a multi-ethnic state?

    1. Andrew Bettencourt Post author

      Matt, the umbrella of a Multi-ethnic State includes gender equality, the issue with the ideology of a Multi-ethnic state that I am trying to present begins with the seeming impossibility of living peacefully as a diverse society. In my opinion, Gender equality is a right at birth and these liberties are progressing in Middle-Eastern countries like Jordan, its only a matter of time till they can transcend the religious inequalities expressed by Islam. However this is an important point, if you compare countries like Jordan and Saudi Arabia, Jordan seems to be doing much better.
      Unfortunately, my opinion of gender equality means nothing to those suppressing it around the world, the issue lies in to the countries translations of their religion and whether or not they can progress. If you compare both Islam and Christianity, both have aspects of non-progressiveness. Whether it be gender equality or homosexuality, there are groups from both religions that fail to progress past closely held dictations from the Bible and the Qur’an.
      As for the strive for Multi-Ethnic States, people need to understand how to live together and focus on commonalities rather than their differences. France and the US are prime examples of Multi-ethnic Regression with some of their political leaders (Marine La Pen, Donald Trump) preaching nationalism and forcing others to conform to their countries growing nationalistic morals, which although somewhat justified at times, is not the answer to the problem at hand.
      The The lack of mutual respect for one another is man-kind’s biggest obstacle and until we can understand that, neither gender inequality or cultural indifference will cease to exist.


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