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Articles in Ethnicity

El Salvador to Recognize Indigenous Peoples

By Martin W. Lewis | May 16, 2012 | 5 Comments

The government of El Salvador has moved to constitutionally recognize the existence of the country’s indigenous peoples, although the measure must first be ratified by the legislature. Ratification looks likely, despite opposition from the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA). The measure would not provide any direct benefits to indigenous peoples, but it could be used to help protect them against discrimination.

Introduction to Yakutia (Sakha)—and Russia’s Grandiose Plans for the Region

By Martin W. Lewis | May 3, 2012 | 25 Comments

Yakutia, officially the Sakha Republic of the Russian Federation, is a land of extremes. To begin with, it is by far the world’s largest “stateoid,” or political unit below the level of the sovereign state, covering 3,103,200 square kilometers (1,198,000 square miles), as opposed to second-place Western Australia’s 2,527,621 square kilometers (975,919 square miles). More than twice the size of …

Maps of Indigenous North America on First Nations Seeker

By Martin W. Lewis | April 25, 2012 | 6 Comments

A tremendously useful website, with a wealth of cartographic resources, on the indigenous peoples of North America is Bryan A. Strome’s First Nations Seeker. Strome’s comprehensive list of indigenous groups—called “First Nations” in Canada—is organized linguistically. Strome himself has constructed a detailed map showing all the various groups, and for each particular nation he links to a variety of additional …

Public Education and Ethnicity in Connecticut

By Chris Kremer | April 24, 2012 |
Connecticut race and ethnicities concentrations

Connecticut has stark contrasts in prosperity and social development, including educational quality. The map showing the percentage of students of color in Connecticut school districts demonstrates that a handful of urban areas have high concentrations of people of color, while many of the school districts in the state have mostly white students. Unfortunately, it was impossible to locate the source of …

Mapping Language and Politics in Latvia

By Martin W. Lewis | April 12, 2012 | 4 Comments

A comment from a GeoCurrents reader last week mentioned the linguistic situation in Latvia, where almost 40 percent of the population speaks Russian rather than Latvian as a first language. As it so happens, Latvia recently held a referendum on whether to elevate Russian to the status of a second official language. The election attracted a large turnout, more than …

The Ethnic Diversity of the Self-Declared State of Azawad

By Martin W. Lewis | April 7, 2012 | 7 Comments

On April 6, 2012, the Tuareg rebels declared the independence of the territory under their control in northern Mali, deeming the country “Azawad.” Within hours, the Wikipedia had posted an article on The Independent State of Azawad,

More Great Maps from M. Izady at Gulf 2000

By Martin W. Lewis | March 5, 2012 | 13 Comments
Middle East Cultural Historical Regions Map by M. Izady

The fantastic map trove at Columbia University’s Gulf 2000 Project, generated by cartographer M. Izady, continues to expand. Many detailed maps of language, religion, ethnicity, and cultural-historical regions in the greater Middle East are found on the site.
Today’s GeoNote highlights Izady’s map of “Primary Cultural and Historical Zones.” This map makes an invaluable companion for historical sources covering the region. …

The Indigenous Peoples of Mendocino County: From Genocide to Marijuana Cultivation

By Martin W. Lewis | February 20, 2012 |

Previous GeoCurrents posts on historical instances of genocide have elicited critical comments from several readers, including one who took us to task for not mentioning genocidal events perpetuated by the United States. There is no denying that the U.S. government has been guilty of numerous genocidal assaults on indigenous communities. The United States engaged in wholesale “Indian removal,” often disregarding …

Hazara Exodus from Quetta

By Martin W. Lewis | February 10, 2012 | 3 Comments

A recent UN report indicates that the Hazara people of Quetta Pakistan are living in such terror that the entire community may abandon the country.

The Many Armenian Diasporas, Then and Now

By Martin W. Lewis | February 6, 2012 | 2 Comments
Wikipedia map of the recent Armenian Diaspora

Armenians have long been scattered over many countries, whether as permanent migrants or temporary sojourners. Today, only about a third of their population lives in Armenia, with the rest spread over a wide area, as can be seen on the map posted here. This pattern largely reflects the movements caused by deadly mass expulsions of the early 20th century that …

The Circassian Mystique and Its Historical Roots

By Martin W. Lewis | January 30, 2012 | 17 Comments

Although little known today, the Circassians were once a famous people, celebrated for their military élan, physical mien, and resistance to Russian expansion. In the nineteenth century, “Circassophilia” spread from Europe to North America, where numerous writers expressed deep admiration for the mountaineers of the eastern Black Sea. Prominent physical anthropologists deemed Circassian bodies the apogee of the human form. …

The Politics of Genocide Claims and the Circassian Diaspora

By Martin W. Lewis | January 24, 2012 | 47 Comments
Map of the Caucasian Language Families

Allegations of genocide are often politically charged. On January 23, 2012, the French parliament voted to criminalize the denial of the Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Empire during World War I. In Turkey, by contrast, it is illegal to assert that the same acts were genocidal. The Turkish government remains adamant, threatening to impose unspecified sanctions on …

The Turkic-Speaking Greek Community of Georgia—and Its Demise

By Martin W. Lewis | January 19, 2012 | 27 Comments
Maps showing ethnic changes in Georgia

Readers who have carefully examined the maps of the Caucasus posted recently in GeoCurrents may have noted an area marked “Greek” in south-central Georgia. This Greek zone appears on most but not all ethno-linguistic maps of the region, sometimes as a single area, and sometimes as two. Depicting Greek communities here is historically accurate but increasingly anachronistic. Since 1991, the Greek …

From Sarmatia to Alania to Ossetia: The Land of the Iron People

By Martin W. Lewis | January 16, 2012 | 29 Comments
Map of the Sarmatian Tribes in Late Antiquity

The Caucasus is often noted as a place of cultural refuge, its steep slopes and hidden valleys preserving traditions and languages that were swept away in the less rugged landscapes to the north and south. Such a depiction generally seems fitting for the Ossetians, the apparent descendents of a nomadic group called the Sarmatians that dominated the grasslands of western …

From Sogdian to Persian to Sart to Tajik & Uzbek: The Reformulation of Linguistic and Political Identity in Central Asia

By Martin W. Lewis | November 28, 2011 | 5 Comments
Wikipedia Maps of Three Turkic Language Sunfamilies

(Many thanks to Asya Pereltsvaig for her assistance with this post)
The Turkic-Persian historical synthesis found in Iranian Azerbaijan (discussed in the previous post) extends well beyond Iran’s borders. Through much of Central Asia, the dominant cultural framework is perhaps best described as a hybrid formation. In a fascinating book, Robert Canfield and his colleagues go so far as to designate …

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