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9.5 Postwar Nationalism, Ethnic Conflict, and Atrocities

2 min readfebruary 12, 2023

Jillian Holbrook

Jillian Holbrook

Sharii Liang

Sharii Liang


AP European History 🇪🇺

335 resources
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While the creation of the United Nations was a clear example of a push toward peace by the entire world, nationalist and separatist movements rose from the ashes, some of which resulted in atrocities. It was the beginning of the end of colonial empires.

Nationalism & Separatism

The end of WWII saw a push from native populations for independence. The European countries were much too focused on rebuilding themselves to deal with their colonies, and this caused an increasing sense of nationalism from conquered peoples. Nationalistic violence is still evident today in Ireland and Chechnya.
Chechnya is a federal subject of Russia located in the North Caucasus region. It has a complex history, marked by a long-standing struggle for independence from Russia and two devastating wars in the 1990s and early 2000s. The conflict has been characterized by widespread human rights abuses and atrocities, including allegations of war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and torture.
Other groups after WWII wanted greater autonomy and even sovereignty. These became known as separatist movements, such as in India and Indochina. Additionally, the Flemish separatist movement in Flanders, a region in the north of Belgium, sought greater autonomy from the rest of Belgium due to cultural patriotism. The movement was largely driven by cultural and linguistic differences between Flanders, where Dutch is spoken, and Wallonia, where French is spoken. The Flemish movement advocated for greater self-determination, including control over taxation, education, and social policies.

Ethnic Problems

The rise of a stronger national identity also gave rise to racism and prejudice during this time through ethnic cleansing.
Ethnic cleansing is the forced removal or killing of members of an ethnic or religious group from a particular geographic area, often with the aim of creating a more homogeneous population in that area. This can involve a range of tactics, including violence, intimidation, forced displacement, and other forms of persecution. Ethnic cleansing is a violation of international law and is considered a crime against humanity. It often results in mass human rights abuses, including the loss of life, property, and cultural heritage.
Notable examples:
  • the Holocaust during WWII
  • the massacre of Armenians by Turks after WWI
  • the expulsion of ethnic Germans from parts of Eastern Europe after WWII
  • the genocide of Bosnian Muslims and Albanian Muslims in Kosovo by Bosnian Serbs after WWII
Ultimately, nationalist and separatist movements, along with ethnic conflict and ethnic cleansing, periodically disrupted the post-World War II peace.
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