National Identity and Geopolitical Visions: Maps of Pride and Pain

National Identity and Geopolitical Visions: Maps of Pride and Pain

National Identity and Geopolitical Visions: Maps of Pride and Pain

National Identity and Geopolitical Visions: Maps of Pride and Pain


Nationalism and national identity have shaped the map of the world. This book locates myths of national identity, both popular and elite, and analyses their value in creating pride, deflecting fear and legitimising aggression.


Sometimes generations take long steps in time. the joyous celebrations of the end of the German occupation in the Netherlands were the occasion of the very beginnings of my own life. My father was born at the turn of the century, and the life of his father carries us back well into the nineteenth century. I am not sure whether this explained the long time-span of some narratives in my family. Maybe it was just the slow tick of the clock in the countryside, where few memorable events occur. About a certain valued possession, my parents would say, almost as first-hand knowledge, that it had been hidden in the cornfields, ‘against the Cossacks’. I later found out that this must have happened in Napoleon’s time. Instead of revealing the depth of time, such stories made me feel exposed to the endless plains and their horsemen.

These stories contributed to my earliest ‘geopolitical vision’, a cognitive achievement that does not necessarily require formal schooling or political awareness, as the real fathoming of history does. My vision certainly did not reflect post war geopolitical reality but probably contained more nineteenth-century reality than one might expect. a small town in the land of my family’s tales was well-known for its regular (nineteenth-century) trade with Russia. This reminds us of the fact that feelings of ‘nearness’ are not a simple function of technical progress in transport and telecommunications. Russia in the nineteenth century may well have been closer to the world of country people in the eastern part of the Netherlands than later (Cold War) conditions would allow.

Stories about the world may differ between individuals, families, regions and nations. a survey of such differences at the micro-level would provide exciting material. in this book, however, more of a broad-brush approach is followed. This is not merely because the lack of survey data on the individual level necessitates such an approach. in spite of all the diverging personal experiences and family (hi)stories, certain events and pieces of information affect large groups of people in more or less similar ways. the nation state acts as an information system linking traumatic or joyous events in history to a particular territory. Identifying with a territory simply elicits certain views on the world, albeit in a contingent way, given certain national challenges, historical facts and ideals.

This book is an attempt to establish the occurrence of such views and to

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