The concepts of nation and nationality have taken different forms in the development of society and in history. In common usage, the term state, nation and nationality are used interchangeably. However, they differ from each other in many ways.
The words like, nation, nationality and nationalism, etc. have its origin in the Latin word ‘natus’ meaning birth. However, like all words they have evolved and adapted more forms than the root itself. Generally these words are related to ethnicity.
Growth and Development of Nations and Nationalities
Originally the Latin concept of ‘natio’ was used to denote the ethnic peculiarities of different communities among tribal. With the growth of tribal communities into bigger communities, with distinct customs, traditions and languages, these groups became known as nationalities. These nationalities consisted of ‘peoples’ or communities, were settle in a particular geographical area. They started sharing a common ethnic origin, traditions and beliefs. Because of community living, these groups developed common socio-economic characteristics and could be distinguished from other groups of people or nationalities. It was these nationalities which during the 18th and 19th centuries developed into nations.
The characteristics of Nation and Nationality
Nations have characteristics which are similar in definition to that of nationality.
1. Territory: National and Nationalities are generally known to have geographical boundaries. Thus they have locations and size. They have to have certain number of people in their community to be recognized as nation or nationality.
2. Common history, customs, traditions and civilizations: A common historical background leads to common traditions or culture. This gives rise to ‘common descent’ and common religion.
3. Common language: Language can identify the history and development of a people, thus it can identify nations and nationalities. However, language is not an exclusive feature, for nations may have more than one language or different nationalities may have the same language.
4. Integration: If a people live together it is very certain that they have some kind of common economic life. They start depending on each other socially and economically, leading to some amount of integration.
5. Common ethnic origin: Ethnic origins lead to the formation and identification of nations and nationalities. Ethnic origins are often diverse as there is considerable inter-mixing of different ethnic groups over time. Nevertheless, nation and nationalities may have more or less common ethnic origins.
6. Awareness of a people as a nation: Generally this awareness is developed in the mind and is popularly known as ‘national consciousnesses. It helps to bridge the differences within a group for the formation of a nation or nationality. This gives rise to the feeling of nationalism when there is a need for saving a nation or nationality. National consciousness binds people together and a feeling of ‘we’ is created. This is the most important characteristics without which a people do not form a nationality.