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Nation state facts for kids

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Bjs48 02 Ainu
Ainu, an ethnic minority people from Japan (between 1863 and early 1870s).

The nation state is a certain form of state that has a territory where mainly one nation lives. The state is a political entity (the government, etc.); the nation is a cultural and/or ethnic entity. The term "nation state" means that the two are on the same territory, and this distinguishes the nation state from the other types of state, which existed before.


Clear examples of nation states include:

  • Iceland: although the inhabitants are ethnically related to other Scandinavian groups, the national culture and language are found only in Iceland. There are no cross-border minorities— the nearest land is too far away.
  • Japan: Japan is also traditionally seen as a good example of a nation-state, although Japan includes minorities of ethnically distinct Ryūkyū peoples, Koreans, Chinese, and on the northern island of Hokkaidō, the indigenous Ainu minority; see also Japanese Demographics .
  • Portugal: although surrounded by other lands and people, the Portuguese nation has occupied the same territory for almost 900 years. A long time ago, Portugal was formed from groups of people that used to be separate. They all passed through and settled in the area that later became Portugal. They include: native Iberian peoples, Celts, ancient Mediterraneans (Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans), Germanic peoples like the Suebi and the Visigoths, invading Berbers and Arabs, and Jews.

What states existed before nation-states?

Österreich-Ungarns Ende
Division of the Austro-Hungarian Empire into nation states in 1918 gray solid line: Border of Austria-Hungary in 1914; black solid line: Borders in 1914; red solid : Borders in 1920;      Empire of Austria in 1914      Kingdom of Hungary in 1914      Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1914

In Europe, in the eighteenth century, the classic non-national states were the multi-ethnic empires, (the Austro-Hunogarian Empire, the Russian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the French Empire, the British Empire).

Characteristics of the nation-state

  • They have a different attitude to their territory, compared to the dynastic monarchies. No nation would swap territory with other states simply, for example, because the king's daughter got married.
  • They have a different type of border, mostly defined by where the cultural/ethnic (nation) group settles, but many nation states have also had borders based on geography like rivers and mountain ranges.
  • The most noticeable characteristic is how much nation-states use the state as an instrument of national unity in economic, social and cultural life.

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See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Estado nación para niños

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