Quick explanation for each new country. It is not meant to be journalistically scientifically precise, accurate and exhaustive, so read at your own risks. I’m on holidays and like every girl of my age on holiday, I am terribly lazy.
- Azawad is a large part of Sahara that is home to the Tuaregs (among others) and that lies on one of Africa’s richest mineral deposits. Tuaregs have been regularly rising up against the countries they live in. If Azawad were independent, it would be the largest African country (possibly behind the Democratic Republic of Congo).
- Euskadi (Basque country) runs across the Spanish-French border. Its independance was long supported by the ETA organisation.
- Catalonia is a more-or-less autonomous region of Spain where people speak a Spanish dialect.
- Corsica is a French island on which is spoken a dialect of Italian. For the average Parisian, it is a place of violent mafia groups, wild pigs and terrifying cheese that moves on its own.
- Scotland will soon be holding a referundum to decide if it breaks away from the United Kingdom or not.
- The Flamish-speaking Flanders and the French-speaking slightly more impoverished Wallonia may decide to become independent, effectively cutting what is nowadays Belgium in two. I wonder what would become of Bruxelles in such a situation.
- Bavaria calls itself « the Free State of Bavaria », which should tell you something.
- Transnistria is a semi-autonomous part of Moldova which is nostalgic of the communist era. It is pro-Russian (see East Ukraine).
- Gagauzia is a Turkish-speaking part of Moldova.
- East Ukraine is a Russian-speaking pro-Russian region of the mostly Ukrainian-speaking Ukraine. (If it wasn’t for political reasons, Ukrainian and Russian may have been considered as dialects rather than separate languages). For more details about the situation there, I refer you to your favorite newspaper / radio station / news TV channel / news website.
- Ingushetia, Chechnya and Daguestan are Caucasian-language provinces of Russia. They are home to separatist groups and jihadi networks.
- Ossetia is an Iranian-language region across the Russian-Georgian border.
- Abkhazia is an autonomous region of Georgia.
- Nagorno-Karabakh is an Armenian-populated part of Azerbaijan that is not controlled by the Azeri government. Armenia and Azerbaijan fought over Nagorno-Karabakh in the late 80’s and are still technically at war.
- I could have added the Azeri parts of Iran to Azerbaijan.
- Kurdistan stretches across Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria. The Kurds are an Iranian-language people who live on a resource-rich land. The present Iraq war is boosting their influence in the region.
- All of Saudi Arabia’s oil (and wealth) comes from the Eastern province of Sharqiya (which means « the Eastern one » in Arabic). This province also happens to be home to the kingdom’s oppressed Shia minority. Those Shias are supported by Iran (the Saudis’ big nemesis), Qatar (the Saudis’ other big nemesis), and protesters in the nearby island of Bahrain (whom the Saudis hate). Add to that that the Saudi state may face unpleasent times if king Abdullah dies (he’s 90), and you’ve got some explosive mix.
- Yemen is currently very unstable. The Sanaa government is challenged in the north by the Houthi rebels, Shia insurgents who want more autonomy. Before reunification, the south (capital Aden) used to be a country on its own, and it might secede if Houthis manage to break away.
- I probably didn’t list all of the regions into which Ethiopia could fragment. The situation there is quite unclear. I listed Tigray and Afaria, but I could (should?) have added Oromiya, a large strip of territory that would have cut Ethiopia into two.
- In Ethiopia, the Somali-populated Ogaden region may secede.
- Present-day Somalia is already split into three autonomous regions: Somalia proper (indicated as East Somalia, capital Mogadishu), Puntland and Somaliland.
- Somalis in Kenya face discrimination as they are portrayed as Al Qaeda terrorists by other Kenyans. This could prompt some groups to campaign for the independance of the Somali-majority region of Kenya (indicated as West Somalia).
Central and south Asia; China
- Karakalpakstan is an autonomous region of Uzbekistan. The Karakalpak dialect is very close to the Kazakh and Kyrghyz variants of Turkic, while the Uzbek dialect is tightly related to Uyghur.
- Xinjiang is a Turkic province of China; its autochtonous people, the Uyghurs, call this region Uyghurstan (or East Turkestan). Uyghurs face huge discrimination and cannot freely practise their religion. Separatist Uyghur groups have conducted spectacular attacks in whole China, including mass stabbing a hundred of train passengers in the country’s southeast.
- South Mongolia (Inner Mongolia) is a part of China mostly inhabited by ethnic Mongols, a people which is culturally and historically much closer to the Turks than it is to the Han Chinese.
- Afghanistan-Pashtunistan: the emblematic people of Afghanistan are the Pashtuns, an Iranian-langue ethny. The border drawn by Europe between Afghanistan and Pakistan happens to run through the Pashtun homeland, their summer capital Kabul being Afghan and their winter capital Peshawar being Pakistani. The fact that Pakistani Pashtuns may want to reunite with Afghanistan is a thorny issue for Islamabad.
- The Iranian-language Baluchistan stretches across the Iranian-Pakistan border and includes a small part of southern Afghanistan. It is resource-rich but is also the poorest province of Pakistan.
- The region of Tibet was invaded by the Chinese army and is subject to what some call an ethnic cleansing. The Tibetan Dalai-Lama lives in exile in Nepal.
- Although the whole of India is subject to ethnic tensions, this is especially true to the part of the country that is east of Bangladesh. Bodoland is one of the possible breakaway territories, but there are many more, too small to be depicted on the map.
- Most of Myanmar’s many separatist armies have signed deals with the government. Still, the Kachin people still continue to fight for the independance of their gold-rich region, Kachinland.
- Several small provinces in the deep south of Thailand are populated by Malays are are rocked with occasional bomb attacks. Those regions may secede to join Malaysia.
- Muslim inhabitants of southern Philippines claim land (Bangsamoro) including several Filipino islands and a part of Malaysian Borneo. A separatist group managed to take control of the Filipino city of Zamboanga in 2013.
- West Papua has been struggling for 50 years against Indonesian presence, ever since Jakarta claimed this former Dutch colony as its own. Although Papuan actions are mostly peaceful, the Indonesian army killed 500,000 Papuans during that period.