Nations which have split due to religious, ethnic, cultural or racial divisions

With the fighting in the Ukraine, I wonder if the country will ever split into a pro-Russian eastern half and a pro-EU western half. Which made me think what other nations or states have done this in the past, split in half because they had divisions that the people couldn’t find resolution on and realized it would be better to break the country apart.

The one that comes to mind for me is India and Pakistan, where the Muslims moved to Pakistan and the Hindus stayed in India.

Part of me assumes there are tons of situations like this in the world, but thats about the only one I can think of offhand. South Sudan is probably a similar situation, but I don’t know what divisions led to that split. Ireland is another example.

I don’t know if I’d consider North vs South Korea an example of this since those nations were split by outside influences (Russia, China & the US) and not as much split by domestic fighting over domestic ideology.

I know this is a big issue in the middle east and Africa, but I don’t know what divisions have happened because of it.

In 1992-93, the two parts of Czechoslovakia agreed to each go their own way. Thus were born the Czech Republic and Slovakia after what’s been named the “Velvet Divorce”.

About the same time, another kind of separation occurred, of course, in Yugoslavia. This one led to a bloodshed.


Ethiopia (Eritrea)

Sudan (South Sudan)

I supposed the breakup of the USSR should count, too.

Indonesia (East Timor split off in 2002)
Malaysia (Singapore split off on 1965)
The United Kingdom (Ireland split off in 1921)

In 1905, Norway and Sweden peacefully split ways. I got the car. She got the kids.

ETA: Oh, and in 1944, Iceland split from Denmark with remarkable ease.

Singapore split from Malaysia in 1965 for a variety of reasons, including religious (Malaysia is majority Muslim, Singapore isn’t), ethnic/racial (Singapore has a very large majority Chinese population) and concerns over the Malaysian Bumiputra policy, which was (and is) basically a form of “Affirmative Action” for Muslim Malaysians - who make up the majority population in in Peninsular Malaysia.

In 1776, the USA split from the UK.

The secession of Ireland from the UK and (possibly in the future) the secession of Scotland.

Separation of Norway and Denmark in 1905. Separation of Denmark and Iceland in 1944. Separation of Belgium from the Netherlands in 1830.

But we need to be a bit careful about terminology here. Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales have been separate nations for a long time; they have never been a single nation. They were in a single (necessarily multinational) state which was partly broken up in 1922, and may break up further. And you could debate whether scandinavian countries were ever a single nation, even when under centralised rule.

The way a nation would split would be by linguistic, cultural, etc divergence leading in time to culturally-defined communities that are sufficiently distinct from one another to be classed as different nations. This is necessarily a process, not an event, and it’s a long one.

But that wasn’t due to religious, ethnic, cultural or racial divisions as OP is asking about. Perhaps tangentially so (religious freedom and all that), but the Colonists’ complaint against Mother England was primarily economic. Of course they compiled a litany of complaints against Old George, which they published in a well-noted document. But it was mainly economic exploitation and taxes, which seem to be the most common and most serious complaint of colonies against their colonizers.

Ethnic/religious at the most basic level, but economic etc. as well. Sudanese are mostly Muslim Arabs, South Sudanese are mostly black Christians, but with large Animist and Muslim groups.

Namibia split from South Africa, but not really for the reasons the OP stipulates.

Biafra split from Nigeria, then got forcibly returned. Ethnic - it was mostly Igbo, and religious (mainly the cultural trappings) - more solidly Christian.

Yugoslavia (Y) went (by declared date):
Y → Croatia and Slovenia
Y → Bosnia & Herzegovinia (with Srpska unhappy)
Y → Macedonia (the Greeks made them say "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Now federal Republic of Yugoslavia = Serbia + Montenegro + Kosovo
FRY → Montenegro
Now Serbia
(Kosovo) doesn’t have complete recognition
All this had ethnic, nationalist, and religious aspects. But when I say “religion,” it means the cultural trappings. Nobody is going to war over doctrine or the right to go to church with wet hair.

Many declared states may have divisions, but aren’t recognized.

Well yeah, it’s pretty easy when Denmark is full of Nazis, and Iceland is full of Allies.

That was not the case, approximately 6 million Hindus and Sikhs moved from Pakistan to India and approximately an equal number of Muslims moved from India to Pakistan.
Around 1.5 Million Hindus remained in Pakistan (more appropriately East Pakistan) while around 35 Million Muslims remained in India. (1951 figures)

So only a small fraction of Muslims from India actually moved to Pakistan.

I disagree that by the 1770s, English and American cultures were the same. They had been growing apart for some time, as groups will do when more-or-less isolated from each other. “We have an incrementally but increasingly different culture!” is hardly going to be a rallying cry for revolutionaries, but it was certainly a factor, and I would say an important one.

Also, it is clear that the Americans and the British are not ethnically the same. It is equally clear that the initial British colonists were British (mostly). Are you saying the divergence began only post-independence? I think that it, too, was gradual, and had been growing for a century or more. Again, not something that could have been expressed at the time, but nevertheless true.

It doesn’t happen very often. Nations are pretty durable.

Somalia. I’m not sure if it counts as ethnic or cultural differences though. When the national government fell apart, Somaliland declared independence and has maintained that independence ever since. They haven’t gotten international recognition, although they really should get it.

Didn’t Texas split off from America a long, long time ago?

Not sure if this is a whoosh. The area now known as Texas was once part of Mexico. The Mexican government allowed American settlers to move in. The settlers eventually declared independence and founded Texas as an independent nation. They then joined the United States, seceded and joined the Confederate States, and then rejoined the United States after the Confederacy lost the American Civil War.

Not exactly. British India was about one-third Muslim, modern India about one-seventh, so a very large minority of India’s Muslims (probably upwards of 40%) stayed in the Hindu-dominated portion.

Quite a few Hindus stayed in East Pakistan too (modern day Bangladesh), I believe their population today is something aroung 12% Hindu.

There were a ton of realignment of national boundaries around ethnicity in the wake of the First World War, and again in the wake of the Second. More recently there are fewer examples.

East Timor had only been “part of” Indonesia for 27 years at that point, and that due to conquest. So I don’t think that really counts as a nation splitting.

The Central American Republic (1821-1841) split into Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica in part due to cultural differences (though politics played a large part). Likewise Gran Colombia, which split into Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador (and much later Panama split from Colombia, but that was mainly political and economic).

It was a whoosh, apropos of their always marching to a very different drummer than the rest of the US.

But that is a good point about them splitting from Mexico.