(from Italian irredento
"unredeemed") is any position advocating annexation
of territories administered by another
on the grounds of common
or prior historical possession,
actual or alleged. Some of these movements are also called pan-nationalist
movements. It is a feature
of identity politics
and political geography
. Because most
have been moved and redrawn over
time, a great many countries could theoretically present
irredentist claims to their neighbors. The Germany's Anschluss of Austria and
annexation of German-speaking Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia in 1938 are perhaps some of the
most widely known historical examples of this idea in
However, some states are the subject of potential irredentism from
their inception. Post-World War I Eastern
, the Balkans
, and the Near East
had borders carved out by the Allies
that left many of the new
states in that region unsatisfied due to minority populations and
conflicting historical claims. Many of Africa's borders were
artificially imposed by European colonial powers. The result split
ethnic groups between different countries, such as the Yoruba who are divided among Nigeria and Benin.
some cases, the irredentist arguing continued well past the Second
World War and on to the present day.
An area that may be subjected to a potential claim is therefore
sometimes called an irredenta
. Not all
irredentas are involved in actual irredentism.
was coined in Italy from the
phrase Italia irredenta
("unredeemed Italy"). This originally referred to Austro-Hungarian rule over mostly or partly
Italian-inhabited territories such as Trentino, Trieste, Istria and Dalmatia during the 19th and early 20th
A common way to express a claim to adjacent territories on the
grounds of historical or ethnic association is by using the epithet
"Greater" before the country name. This conveys the image of
national territory at its maximum conceivable extent with the
country "proper" at its core. It must be noted that the use of
"Greater" does not always convey an irredentistic meaning. For
instance, Greater Romania
common translation given to the Romanian term "Romania Mare", which
is the name given between the two World Wars to the Kingdom of Romania
. Romania claimed
irredenta over Transylvania
and Bessarabia after World War
During the unification of
, the term Großdeutschland
Germany) referred to a possible German nation consisting of the
states that later comprised the Second German Empire and
Austria; the term lesser
Germany, or small Germany, or
to a possible German state without Austria. These were also called
the "little German" solution and the "big German" solution to the
question of unification. The term was also used by Germans
referring to Greater Germany, a state consisting of pre World War I
Germany, actual Austria and the Sudetenland
Some states formalize their irredentist claims by including them in
their constitutional documents.
Afghan border with Pakistan, known as the Durand
Line, was "arbitrarily" drawn by colonial officials of the
British Empire in 1893 following the Second Afghan War, and "imposed" on the
then-weak Afghan royal family. Accordingly, the Pashtun tribes inhabiting the border areas were
arbitrarily divided; the tribes have never accepted the
still-porous border. The Durand Line was not intended as a
permanent border, and clashes broke out in the 1950s and 1960s
between Afghanistan and Pakistan over the issue. All Afghan
governments of the past century have declared, with varying
intensity, a long-term goal of re-uniting all Pashtun-dominated
areas under Afghan rule.
III, Section 1 of the Constitution of Argentina states
that "The Argentine Nation ratifies its legitimate and
non-prescribing sovereignty over the Malvinas (Falkland Islands), South Georgia and the South Sandwich
Islands and over the corresponding maritime and insular
zones, as they are an integral part of the national
territory. The recovery of said territories and the full
exercise of sovereignty, respectful of the way of life of their
inhabitants and according to the principles of international law,
are a permanent and unrelinquished goal of the Argentine
2009 constitution of Bolivia states that the country has
unrenounciable right over the territory that gives it access to the
Ocean and its maritime space. This is understood
as Chilean territory that Bolivia ceded in
Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1904 between Chile and
Bolivia after the War of the
Pacific which left Bolivia a landlocked country.
preamble to the Constitution of
the People's Republic of China states "Taiwan is part of
the sacred territory of the People's Republic of China. It
is the lofty duty of the entire Chinese
people, including our compatriots in Taiwan, to accomplish the
great task of reunifying the
motherland." The PRC claim to sovereignty over Taiwan is
generally based on the successor
state theory, whereby the PRC is the legally recognized
successor state to the Republic of China.
- Article 4 of the 'Constitution of the
Republic of China originally stated that: "The territory of the
Republic of China within its existing national boundaries shall not
be altered except by a resolution of the National
Assembly" although recent constitutional changes have moved
this power to that of a national referendum.
part of its current policy of 'status quo', the Republic of China
has not renounced claims to the areas currently controlled by the
People's Republic of China, Mongolia, and parts of Russia (Tuvan Republic), Burma and other
Central Asian states bordering China,
however it also does not actively pursue these claims.
claim it is actively seeking is the Diaoyu Islands which is also contested by Japan and People's
Republic of China.
- Article 1 of the Constitution of the Union
of the Comoros begins: "The Union of the Comoros is a republic,
composed of the autonomous islands of Mohéli, Mayotte, Anjouan, and Grande Comore." Mayotte, geographically a part of the
Comoro Islands, was the only island of the four to vote against
independence from France (a 63%-37% majority) in the referendum
held December 22, 1974. The total vote was 94%-5% in favor of
independence. Mayotte is currently a "departmental collectivity" of
the French Republic.
- From 1937 until 1999, Articles 2 and
3 of the Constitution of
Ireland provided that "[t]he national territory consists of the
whole island of Ireland". However, "[p]ending the re-integration of
the national territory", the powers of the state were restricted to
legislate only for the area that had ceded from the United Kingdom.
Arising from the Northern
Ireland peace process, the matter was mutually resolved in
Republic of Ireland's constitution was altered by referendum and its territorial claim to Northern
Ireland was dropped. The amended constitution
asserts that while it is the entitlement of "every person born in
the island of Ireland … to be part of the Irish Nation" and to hold
Irish citizenship, "a united Ireland shall be brought about only by
peaceful means with the consent of a majority of the people,
democratically expressed, in both jurisdictions in the island."
Certain joint policy and
executive bodies were created between Northern Ireland, the
part of the island that remained in the United Kingdom, and the
Republic of Ireland, and these were given executive authority. The
advisory and consultative role of the government of Ireland in the
government of Northern Ireland granted by the United Kingdom, that
had begun with the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement, was maintained.
The two states also settled the long-running dispute concerning their respective
names: Ireland and the United Kingdom of Great
Britain and Northern Ireland with both governments agreeing to
use those names.
1956 onwards Pakistan has claimed Indian state of Jammu and
Kashmir, as part of their state's "national
territory." Pakistan also has a desire to unite it with
and Kashmir, also known as Pakistan occupied Kashmir (POK).
- Article 3 of the Basic Law of the State of
Palestine, which was ratified in 2002 by the Palestinian National
Authority and serves as an interim constitution, states that
"Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine."
Section VI of the Constitution of Australia
to Australia's states as being "…such of the colonies of New South
Wales, New Zealand, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria, Western
Australia, and South Australia, including the northern territory of
South Australia, as for the time being are parts of the
Commonwealth, and such colonies or territories as may be admitted
into or established by the Commonwealth as States". This is not normally
seen as an irredentist claim on New Zealand; instead it reflects the fact that New Zealand was
invited to take part in the process of federation, but withdrew
from the process at an early stage.
Similarly, in the
incipient United States, Article XI of the Articles of Confederation
Canada to join the United States.
to claim the British
overseas territory of Gibraltar, ceded to Britain in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht, and argues its case at
the United Nations claiming its
territorial integrity is affected.
Map showing some irredentist claims on
the territory of Serbia.
During World War II, the
Spanish Falangist media agitated for irredentism claiming for Spain
the French Navarre, French Basque Country and Roussillon (French
Catalonia) as well. Morocco makes similar claims against Spain over the
North African enclaves of Ceuta and
Portugal does not recognize as Spanish the territory of
Olivenza conquered by Spain during the Napoleonic Wars.
Some of the most violent irredentist conflicts of recent times in
flared up as a consequence of the
break-up of the former Yugoslavia
early 1990s. The wars in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina were largely about creating a new political
framework of states, each of which would be ethnically and
politically homogeneous. The conflict erupted further south with the
ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo seeking to
switch allegiance to the adjoining state of Albania. (See Chazan, 1991, Irredentism and
international politics.) Greece claims that
the use of the name Republic of Macedonia by its northern neighbor signifies an irredentist
claim on the northern province of Macedonia in Greece.
Other pacifist movements claims a
pacific reunification of Yugoslavia
Southeast Asia too is another region in which
armed irredentist movements have been active for almost a century,
due to the Balkanization of North-East India, Burma and Bangladesh under British
colonialism. Most prominent amongst them are the Naga fight for Greater Nagaland, the Chin struggle for a unified Chinland and other self-determinist movements by
the ethnic indigenous peoples of the erstwhile
Assam both under the British and post-British Assam under
Some have alleged irredentism by Armenia in its support of the
predominantly Armenian-populated region of Nagorno-Karabakh
to gain independence from
Azerbaijan. However, Armenia denies direct involvement in the Nagorno-Karabakh War.
view of Nadia Milanova, Nagorno-Karabakh represents a combination
of separatism and irredentism.
Nationalist Party, which operates in Lebanon and Syria, works for
the unification of most modern states of the Levant and beyond in a single state referred to as
Greater Syria. The proposed pan-Arab
"Syrian" country includes Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait; and
southern Turkey, northern
Egypt, and southwestern Iran.
claims the South
Korean-administered Liancourt Rocks and the Russian-administered Kuril Islands, the four southernmost isles of the island chain
north of Hokkaido, annexed by the Soviet Union following World War II.
claims to be the legitimate ruler of Taiwan, separated from the
Empire in 1895 and
briefly united with China from 1945 to 1949.
influence in international organizations prevents Taiwan from
participating in many such organizations. In some organizations
Taiwan is able to participate as Chinese
. China has an extensive missile build up near Taiwan and
passed an Anti-Secession Law
2005 threatening to use force.
India, the goal of the Khalistan movement is to create a
Sikh homeland, often called Khālistān (Punjabi: ਖ਼ਾਲਿਸਤਾਨ "The Land
of the Pure"), in the Punjab region.
Harking back to the
18th century Sikh Empire, the envisioned Sikh state would include
all Punjabi-speaking areas, viz. Indian Punjab, Haryana, Himachal
Pradesh and some other Punjabi speaking parts of states like
Gujarat and Rajasthan. People have also claimed that Khalistan will
include parts of the Pakistan Punjab as well because it is home to
many holy Sikh shrines.
Irredentism is commonplace in Africa
the artificially declared political boundaries of former European
colonial nation-states passing through tribal boundaries.
Ethiopian Great Imperium of Eastern
Africa in some Ethiopian nationalist circles: To extend the
ancient Ethiopian empire into the former Ethiopian province of
Eritrea, the Sudan including
Sudan, Fachoda and the Darfur region,
neighboring Djibouti, Somalia, parts of Egypt, Uganda,
Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and even into Yemen.
Irredentism is also found in the United States by some Chicano nationalists
and Mexican-American activists in
the controversial Aztlan movement.
for the return of formerly Mexican-dominated lands in the Southwestern United States back to
Mexico after the
US annexed lands in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to
become the present-day states of California, Texas, Arizona, New
Mexico; and parts of Colorado, Nevada and
Venezuela keeps its claim over the Guayana Esequiba territory in nearby