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Articles in Autonomous Zones

The Rural/Urban Divide in Catalonia’s 2015 Election

By Martin W. Lewis | October 7, 2015 | 16 Comments

According to most media sources, the Catalan independence movement scored a major victory in the September 28 regional election, taking 72 out of 135 seats in Catalonia’s parliament (Parlament de Catalunya). More careful reporting, however, noted that the results were actually mixed. In terms of the popular vote, candidates advocating independence gained the support of less than half of the …

Troubled Socotra – the “World’s Most Alien Place” – Seeks Autonomy

By Martin W. Lewis | July 12, 2015 |

Yemen’s Socotra Archipelago, dominated by the main island of the same name, is best known for its unique flora, with almost 700 species found nowhere else. Some of its plants have gained fame for their unusual forms, such as the dragon blood tree and the cucumber tree. Socotra’s millions of years of isolation, its complex geology, and its harsh climate …

Yemen’s Beleaguered Al Mahrah Seeks Autonomy

By Martin W. Lewis | July 8, 2015 |

Yemen’s Al Mahrah Governorate has much in common with Oman’s adjacent Dhofar Governorate. The two areas share the seasonally humid landscape of the south-central Arabian coastal uplands, and both have large non-Arabic-speaking communities, which instead speak languages in the Modern South Arabian group. Both Al Mahrah and Dhofar also maintain a strong sense of distinctiveness from the rest of Yemen …

Catalan Secession Looming?

By Martin W. Lewis | September 25, 2012 | Comments Off on Catalan Secession Looming?

Fear are mounting that Spain will face a new secession crisis after the government of Catalonia called for a snap election on November 25, which is widely seen as a referendum on enhanced autonomy if not outright independence. The move came shortly after the Madrid government rejected Catalonia’s demand for greater autonomy on taxation issues. Desire for political separation is growing in the region, as evidenced by massive (600,000+) pro-independence demonstrations in Barcelona earlier this month.

The Crown Dependencies: What Exactly Are They?, By Seth Jackson

By Martin W. Lewis | September 19, 2012 | 7 Comments

Dear Readers,
Although GeoCurrents does not normally accept guest posts, I was so taken by this piece by Seth Jackson that I decided to make an exception. One of the main themes of this website is geopolitical complexity, and here we have it in spades!
Martin W. Lewis
The Crown Dependencies: What Exactly Are They?
By Seth Jackson
We often hear that the Isle of …

Self-Rule and Environmental Crisis in Ogoniland

By Nicholas Baldo | September 18, 2012 | 2 Comments

In recent months, relations between the Ogoni people of Rivers State in southeastern Nigeria and the government have come under intense pressure. On August 2nd, a group of Ogoni led by Goodluck Diigbo of the pro-autonomy Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) declared their sovereignty in internal affairs while stopping short of secession.

Puntland’s Security Offensives and the Growing City of Galka’yo

By Martin W. Lewis | August 23, 2012 | Comments Off on Puntland’s Security Offensives and the Growing City of Galka’yo

The most recent version of the ever-changing and always excellent Wikipedia map of the political situation in Somalia shows the internationally recognized Federal Republic of Somalia controlling roughly half of the country, with most of the rest falling under the power of the Islamic Emirate of Somalia, closely aligned with the Al-Shabaab radical Islamist Group (in the southeast) and the self-declared independent state of Somaliland (in the northwest). What the map fails to adequately convey is the fact that several of the regions that acknowledge the Federal Republic are actually fully autonomous political entities

Rioting Threatens Zanzibar’s Tourist Economy

By Martin W. Lewis | June 2, 2012 | 3 Comments

Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous island in the country of Tanzania, is still reeling from widespread rioting in late May. At that time, members of an Islamist separatist movement allegedly set fire two churches and clashed with the police. The Zanzibar government accuses the leadership of Uamsho, or the Islamic Revival Forum, of ordering its followers into the streets to cause havoc.

Scotland Vs. the Shetland and Orkney Islands

By Martin W. Lewis | February 9, 2012 | 8 Comments

The Scottish National Party (SNP) has gained enough power to have arranged for a vote on Scottish independence in 2014. But although the party has made major gains in recent years…

Dreams of a Circassian Homeland and the Sochi Olympics of 2014

By Martin W. Lewis | January 27, 2012 | 6 Comments
Map of the Circassian Republics in Russia

The resurgence of Circassian identity in recent years faces daunting obstacles. Many Circassians believe that the long-term sustainability of their community requires a return to the northwestern Caucasus, but both the Russian state and the other peoples of the region resist such designs. Circassians are thus focusing much of their efforts on global public opinion, building a protest movement in …

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 …

Keystone of the Caucasus: Ignored Ossetia and Its Snow Revolution

By Martin W. Lewis | January 13, 2012 | 27 Comments
Map of the Caucasus, Showing North Ossetia-Alania and South Ossetia

If the arch of the Great Caucasus can be said to have a keystone, it would have to be Ossetia. This east-west range presents a formidable barrier to traffic between southern Russia and the Middle East, as it is pierced by few negotiable passes. By far the most important route across the mountains extends along the Darial Gorge through …

The Nation, Nationalities, and Autonomous Regions in Spain

By Martin W. Lewis | September 1, 2010 | Comments Off on The Nation, Nationalities, and Autonomous Regions in Spain

In everyday speech, “nation” and “nationality” are largely synonymous terms. “Nationality,” my desktop dictionary informs me, is “the status of belonging to a particular nation.” In Spain, however, the Spanish equivalents of the two terms have come to convey distinct meanings through political fiat. The official differentiation of the Spanish nation from several distinct Spanish

Whither Acehnese Autonomy?

By Martin W. Lewis | April 5, 2010 | Comments Off on Whither Acehnese Autonomy?

Despite the attention that sensational natural disasters receive in the media, their long-term significance sometimes seems questionable. But when nature’s calamities do change societies, the consequences can be profound. The All Soul’s Day Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, for example, purportedly led many European thinkers to question whether natural calamities reflect the will of God, boosting

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