Variations in Resistance: Responses of Oppressed Ethnic Minorities to Ethnonational Issues
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South Azerbaijanis have faced systemic discrimination in Iran since 1848, to the extent that they are not allowed to give their children “Azerbaijani” names. However, their aspirations for self-government or separation are not as strong as some of the other minority groups with greater minority rights. For example, Hungarians in Romania have persisted in their demands for self-government, despite enhanced rights and a guarantee of the preservation of their national identity. The Republicans in Northern Ireland have also persisted in their demands for the unification of Ireland, even though, since the 1990s, systemic religious discrimination has ceased to be the main issue. Why is it that the most oppressed group (i.e. South Azerbaijan) resists the least out of the three cases? In three other cases, the minority has also been systemically discriminated against in the past; however, the minority groups in these cases do not have any demands for autonomy. With a recognized political party and National Council, there is no strong popular resistance to Croatia by the Serbian minority there. Turks in Bulgaria have had an improvement in their minority rights, and lack a popular resistance movement. Likewise, Armenians in Turkey also lack a strong resistance movement, as they have their own schools, churches, and newspapers there. What accounts for such a low level of resistance in these cases? Why do Hungarians in Romania and Republicans in Northern Ireland, also with improved rights, still resist? This study seeks to understand the factors that appease minority claims for autonomy and the factors that aggravate them. Why is it that certain groups, having attained enhanced rights, still persist in their claims for autonomy, while others, who suffer ongoing systemic oppression, remain relatively passive? In answering this question, this study employs a combination of the sociological method and the cyclical explanation to observe the behavior of the dominant group through an examination of the variables of oppression. It also uses the anthropological approach to explain the minority group’s behavior through the variables of resistance. In doing so, the study provides both qualitative and quantitative analysis. The findings of this study indicate that the level of resistance cannot be predicted based on the level of oppression. They show the importance of linguistic and ethnic fractionalization, as well as the standardization of language for observing the level of oppression. Likewise, the findings demonstrate the importance of political organizations and popular support in observing levels of resistance. The intervening variables of the role of the kin-state, the role of international organizations, and the role of diaspora also appear important in predicting the level of oppression. Thus the study shows the need to observe the interaction between all variables to understand a resistance movement.