Defining Nations, Nation-States, and Multinational States

In the article ``Many Nation-States Face Fragmentation in the `New Order','' May 6, the author tries to identify the larger pattern behind the fragmentation and consolidation of states in today's world. This is welcome, but he uses the term ``nation-state'' incorrectly. Not every state is a nation-state. A nation is a population bound by a sense of common identity. This usually involves a common language and a common historical and cultural tradition. A nation-state is a state which, essentially, embraces the territory of a single nation.

Thus Poland and Denmark are nation-states; Czechoslovakia is a binational state. Yugoslavia is a fragile multinational state. The Soviet Union is not a nation-state but an imperial state, heir to the Russian Empire. Soviet leaders attempted to create a conglomerate Soviet nation: for the Russians, this meant a deformation of their spiritual heritage; for the non-Russian nations, it meant linguistic assimilation and a Russotropic rewriting of their history. This effort has failed.

Contrary to the author's analysis, nation-states do not face fragmentation. Rather, nation-states are struggling to be born (or reborn) out of imperial or multinational states. There is no contradiction between the fragmentation of remaining empires and the integration of free nations. Rather, national sovereignty and equality may be seen as prerequisites to the voluntary integration now taking place.

Joseph McCadden, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Culture that endangers The common thread between the articles ``An Endangered Human Species,'' May 6, and ``Japan and US at Loggerheads Over Endangered Sea Turtles,'' May 10, is both alarming and sad.

The author of the first article says that ``environmentalists'' are destroying communities and microcosms of culture in the Pacific Northwest by demanding that the last remaining stands of old growth forest be preserved and that methods known as ``clear cutting'' be banned. In the second article, the Japanese government and local industry officials complain bitterly that restrictions on trade of endangered species, namely sea turtles, will have an adverse effect on the bekko craft, which ``p roduces amber-colored hair ornaments, jewelry, eyeglass frames, and elaborately sculpted pieces'' from the shells of these animals.

In short, these people would rather wipe out irreplaceable species so that certain communities or industries can support themselves economically, despite the fact that these industries and crafts will die along with the resources they ultimately consume.

Michael T. Danis, Glendale, Calif.

Proposition 13: California's tax revolt In the opinion-page article ``California's Self-Inflicted Crisis,'' May 9, the author does not mention that before Proposition 13 was passed, property taxes were annually increasing at such a rate that hundreds of longtime homeowners lost their homes. Obviously, a drastic measure was called for. The same situation is now developing, to a somewhat lesser degree, in and around the city of Seattle, and a tax revolt is in the making.

Beverly C. Meyer, Walnut Creek, Calif.

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