Despite the popular claims that ethnicity and nationality are losing their relevance in the global pro-democratic discourse, it is clear that many countries have these concepts codified into law. Looking at how the world approaches diversity and multiple nationality, it is possible to conclude that law treats the concepts of nationality and ethnicity in two different ways. On the one hand, many states run explicit policies regarding the nationality and ethnicity of their citizens. According to Akturk (2011), many states consciously differentiate among the nationality and ethnic origins of their citizens and non-citizens. For example, Soviet passports included information about the nationality of its citizens (Akturk, 2011). Likewise, for decades, the Turkish state denied the very existence of Kurds (Akturk, 2011). In both cases, nationality served as a legal instrument of discrimination, reinforcing the difference between “desirable” and “undesirable” nations and limiting the access of “undesirable” nationalities to advanced state opportunities such as citizenship.
On the other hand, countries implement complex legal frameworks in an attempt to create visible fair and just conditions for the evolution of all ethnicities and nationalities within their boundaries. In this case, nationality and ethnicity are present not as the instruments of differentiation but as the objects of legal protection. Kosovo and Macedonia are the two examples of highly complex multicultural and ethnically diverse countries that could potentially benefit from using such legal frameworks in practice (Yorulmaz, 2016).

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In either case, legal scholars and policymakers lack a single, universal and cohesive definition of nationality and ethnicity. Moreover, the legal and political community finds it particularly problematic to differentiate between the two (Yorulmaz, 2016). What is clear is that ethnicity and nationality are integral to many legal systems, as they seek to divide citizens by categories or neutralize the effects of these categories on modern society.

  • Akturk, S. 2011. “Regimes of Ethnicity: Comparative Analysis of Germany, the Soviet
    Union/Post-Soviet Russia, and Turkey.” World Politics 63, no. 1, pp. 115-164.
  • Yorulmaz, Murat. 2016. “The Relation between Identity and Security: A Comparative Study on Kosovo and Macedonia.” Insight Turkey 18, no. 1, pp. 165-189.