Ethnic minority

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Ethnic minorities are ethnic groups that live as a minority on the territory of a state . As part of a state people , the minority differs from the rest of the population in several characteristics such as language , culture or religion . In North America , one speaks of ethnic minorities even if they only come from the same part of the world and the population group represents a numerical minority, e.g. B. in the groups of African American or Latin American . The relatives remain in the ethnic minority, even if there are no linguistic, cultural or religious differences to the rest of the population.

In many regions of the world, ethnic minorities live scattered across several states. As a rule, they share a feeling of togetherness, but the possibility of cross-border contacts is often restricted by the states concerned. There are examples of this in Spain ( Basques , Catalans ), Romania ( Hungary ), the Middle East ( Kurds , Yazidis , Iraqi Turkmens , Assyrians , Mandaeans , Shabaks , Faili-Lurs (Lurs in Iraq) and Lurs in Iran) or in Vietnam (Annamite Mountain Peoples).

If an ethnic minority in Europe falls under the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities of the Council of Europe and is recognized under constitutional law, it is often referred to as a national minority under international law . In many cases, minority protection rights then apply .


An ethnic minority can differ from other ethnic groups by the following characteristics:

Often, however, not all of these characteristics are present at the same time - if, however, the common points from the minority definitions of the Council of Europe and the UN are taken as a basis, clear delimitations with regard to ethnic, religious or linguistic characteristics and numerical inferiority or non-dominance are necessary as objective characteristics , while subjective criteria such as B. Self-definition alone is not sufficient. In the case of a group, even in the case of only one objectively ascertainable characteristic difference such as B. language or religion is still an ethnic minority.

In many times these discernible differences were, in addition to fighting the enemy, also a potential target of enemy warfare. This was supposed to take away his intellectual and cultural identity from the subjugated opponent. Many wars or armed conflicts of the last decades can be classified as "war on identity". The destruction of cultural assets (e.g. language, customs or religion) is also part of psychological warfare , according to Karl von Habsburg , President of Blue Shield International . The target is the identity of the opponent, which is why symbolic cultural assets become a main target.

Ethnic minority types

According to the genesis can be distinguished:

  1. Minorities that originally belonged to a common ethnic group: These minorities sometimes form highly stable ethnic groups. Examples: Basques in Spain, Celts in Great Britain (both probably from pre-Christian times), Cimbri (around 11th / 12th centuries)
  2. Minorities without previous similarities: Typical for such minorities is the development of Creole languages . Classic example: Black populations of America

A special case is the Diaspora , in which a certain population their ancestral territory - for whatever reasons - leaves and subsequently scattered settles over the globe. The common culture and identity is consciously cultivated and preserved, so that culture and cultural cohesion are preserved despite the scatteredness. A typical characteristic is also a certain intention to return to “ home ” one day.

Examples are Jews , Armenians , Kurds and Chinese abroad .

Emergence of minorities

Minorities can arise in a number of ways. The genesis of a certain minority subsequently has an impact on its social identity and the potential for conflict that it emanates.

Depending on whether the individuals continue to have contact with members of their ethnic group or not, the cultural identity is more or less preserved. However, it can also happen that a new cultural identity develops abroad.

Invasion and immigration

An existing population on a certain territory can be displaced or decimated by military invasion or massive immigration of another people. The invaders install their political, cultural, economic and social structure and the formerly indigenous population lives on as a minority on their own territory.

Example: The Indian peoples on the American continent, the Aborigines in Australia, the Inuit Greenland, the Sorbs and Carinthian Slovenes

Forced migration

People or entire socio-cultural units are expelled from their ancestral territory and subsequently settle in another territory or are systematically relocated .

Example: Amish and Mennonites

Voluntary migration

Members of certain socio-cultural groups voluntarily leave their traditional area and migrate to a place where people with a common language, culture, religion etc. are already located. Under certain circumstances, a new cultural identity can arise that is fundamentally different from the original one.

Example: French Canadians

Territorial changes

Through military or diplomatic actions such as the formation of states or border shifts, parts of an ethnic group are politically, economically and culturally cut off from the rest of their culture by a state border without leaving their traditional settlement area. Linguistic and cultural borders are mostly different from state borders.

Example: Romania, Slovakia, Serbia ( Hungary ) or Lithuania and Belarus with the Polish minority in Lithuania

Disappearance of minorities


Examples: The Greeks of Hellenism , the Mughals of India

Merging into new ethnic groups

Classic example: the nation USA

Majority formation

Examples: The Anglosaxons of Australia , New Zealand , the inhabitants of the West Indies





  • Martina Boden: Nationalities, minorities and ethnic conflicts in Europe . Olzog Verlag , Munich 1993, ISBN 3-7892-8640-0 .
  • Andreas Heinemann-Grüder: Federalism as conflict settlement. India, Russia, Spain and Nigeria in comparison. Opladen 2012, ISBN 978-3-86649-420-6 .
  • Klemens Ludwig : Ethnic minorities in Europe. A lexicon , CH Beck'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, Munich 1995, ISBN 3-406-39215-6 .
  • Stephan Maninger: Ethnic conflicts along the development periphery . In: Ordo Inter Nationes. No. 6, June 1998, Institute for International Politics and International Law, Munich

Special cases:

  • Heiko Faust, Johannes Winter: Causes and Effects of Ethnic Conflicts in the Pacific. Social disintegration in Fiji. In: W. Kreisel, PH Marsden, M. Waibel (Hrsg.): Change, values ​​and economy in the Pacific region. (= Pacific Forum. 8). Duehrkohp & Radicke, Göttingen 2003, pp. 153–168. (PDF) ( Memento from July 20, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  • Csaba Földes : Ethnic, Cultural and Linguistic Diversity Problems in the Carpathian Basin. In: Sarolta Lipóczi, Ingelore Oomen-Welke (Ed.): Students East - West. Language, Society, Arts, Education. Fillibach, Freiburg i.Br. 1999, pp. 31-54.
  • Csaba Földes, Ewa Drewnowska-Vargáné: German as a nationality / minority language. A component in German studies abroad. In: Yearbook of German as a Foreign Language. 25/1999, pp. 417-426.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Foreign Office: Foreign Office - Iraq . In: Foreign Office DE . ( [accessed on October 10, 2018]).
  2. Foreign Office: Foreign Office - Armenia . In: Foreign Office DE . ( [accessed on October 10, 2018]).
  3. Bavarian Administrative Court Bayreuth: No group persecution of the Schabak in all of Iraq. March 7, 2017, accessed October 10, 2018 .
  4. Federal Agency for Civic Education: Religious Minorities in Iran | bpb mobil. Retrieved October 11, 2018 .
  5. Henner Fürtig : Great Power Iran: The God State Becomes a Global Player . BASTEI LÜBBE, 2016, ISBN 978-3-7325-2935-3 ( [accessed October 11, 2018]).
  6. Cf. Gerold Keusch: Cultural protection in the era of identity wars. In: Troop Service - Magazine of the Austrian Armed Forces , October 24, 2018.
  7. See also Karl von Habsburg on a mission in Lebanon. Retrieved July 19, 2019 .
  8. See Sabine von Schorlemer: Destruction of cultural assets. The eradication of cultural heritage in crisis countries as a challenge for the United Nations. Nomos, 2016.
  9. See also Jyot Hosagrahar: Culture: at the heart of SDGs. UNESCO courier, April-June 2017.