Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In East Asia, Many Peoples Seek Statehood

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In East Asia, Many Peoples Seek Statehood

Article excerpt

EAST Asia, like East Europe and the Balkans, is home to many stateless nations - peoples who have lost sovereignty and are part of larger political entities. Concern that a "new world order" may cast present political boundaries in cement is prompting struggles by these little-known groups for autonomy or complete independence.

The crumbling USSR is confronted by strong national awareness movements throughout the northeast. The most prominent is the Kurile Islands, a part of Japan annexed by Stalin in 1945. A similar problem is Sakhalin Island, where autonomy is sought by many nations. One, the 4,000-strong Nivkhi, played a major role in organizing the "Numerically Smaller Nations of the USSR."

In 1990 these nations created the Association of Far North Peoples to defend against Russification and environmental destruction. The Yakut claim to ownership of all natural resources on their land is an example of newfound political strength among the northern nations. Meanwhile, autonomy is the goal of both the Chukchis, living on the extreme east edge of Asia, and of the Koryats on Kamchatka Peninsula.

The Association of Far North Peoples is pressing the Kremlin and Russia to ratify the 1957 Convention on Protection and Integration of Native Populations in Independent Countries and the 1989 UN Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries. The treaties give rights to ownership of "native lands" to stateless nations.

China is also a mosaic of nationalities. Along with intra-Sino ethnic feuds (Hunan, Fukien, Shantung, etc.), conflicts between the central government and non-Sino peoples have mushroomed in recent years.

Manchuria, in northeastern China, is a wealthy area that has not forgotten it was sovereign, most recently from 1932 to 1945. Tension in Harbin is fueled when the central government uses this wealth to finance backward regions of sprawling China. Meanwhile, China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, a Mongol- populated territory, would like to reunite with Mongolia (formerly Outer Mongolia), a nation that recently emerged from the clutches of communism. …

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