Non-Territorial Autonomy

Non-territorial autonomy is a means to deal with national diversity and appease national conflict within states: It grants self-rule to an ethnically, linguistically or culturally defined nation as a corporate body within a state. It applies to all adherents of the national group irrespective of their place of residence within a given state.

The ERC Starting Grant project “Non-Territorial Autonomy as Minority Protection in Europe: An Intellectual and Political History of a Travelling Idea, 1850–2000“ explores the history of non-territorial autonomy as a political idea and as an applied policy. We are interested in how this idea circulated in Europe and translated to very different ideological currents.

The first focus is to trace back the history of this idea to its origins in the Habsburg Empire, where it developed in theory and in practice. Our hypothesis is that the theorists of this idea (mostly but not only Austro-Marxists) as well as politicians of the time were closely linked with each other and interacted in the realm of the inventive Habsburg political laboratory to achieve interethnic coexistence.

A second hypothesis claims that this concept was flexible enough to translate to new political circumstances and adapt to leftist, liberal, and rightist ideological currents. Minority activists of the 1920s and 1930s, be they Baltic German aristocrats, Bundists in Ukraine, Bolsheviks or Sudeten German nationalists, explicitly and implicitly referred to developments in the Habsburg Empire.

Finally, the project analyses the treatment of non-territorial autonomy in the international arena of minority protection institutions from the interwar period until the present day. While NGOs like the Congress of European Nationalities showed support, lawmaking institutions like the League of Nations or the Council of Europe have been far more skeptical.

For more information browse the project website: NTAutonomy