National personal autonomy

The Austromarxist principle of national personal autonomy ("personal principle"), developed by Otto Bauer in his 1907 book Die Nationalitätenfrage und die Sozialdemokratie (The Nationalities Question and Social Democracy) was seen by him a way of gathering the geographically divided members of the same nation to "organize nations not in territorial bodies but in simple association of persons", thus radically disjoining the nation from the territory and making of the nation a non-territorial association.[1] The other ideological founders of the concept were another Austromarxist, Karl Renner, in his 1899 essay Staat und Nation (State and Nation),[2] and the Jewish Labour Bundist Vladimir Medem, in his 1904 essay Di sotsial-demokratie un di natsionale frage (Social Democracy and the National Question).[3][4]


In his 1904 text, Medem exposed his version of the concept:

Let us consider the case of a country composed of several national groups, e.g. Poles, Lithuanians and Jews. Each national group would create a separate movement. All citizens belonging to a given national group would join a special organisation that would hold cultural assemblies in each region and a general cultural assembly for the whole country. The assemblies would be given financial powers of their own: either each national group would be entitled to raise taxes on its members, or the state would allocate a proportion of its overall budget to each of them. Every citizen of the state would belong to one of the national groups, but the question of which national movement to join would be a matter of personal choice and no authority would have any control over his decision. The national movements would be subject to the general legislation of the state, but in their own areas of responsibility they would be autonomous and none of them would have the right to interfere in the affairs of the others.[5]


This principle was later adopted by various parties, among them the Jewish Socialist Workers Party from its foundation in 1906, the Jewish Labour Bund at its August 1912 Conference (when the motion "On National Cultural Autonomy" became part of the Bund's program), the Armenian social democrats, the Russian Constitutional Democratic Party (Kadets) at its June 1917's Ninth Congress,[6] the first Ottoman then Greek Socialist Workers' Federation of Thessaloniki, the left-wing Zionists (Hashomer Hatzair) in favour of a binational solution in Palestine, the Jewish Folkspartei (inspired by Simon Dubnov, who had developed a concept of Jewish autonomy close to Bauer's), and the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (DAHR) after 1989.


The whole concept was strongly opposed by the Bolsheviks. Stalin's pamphlet Marxism and the National Question (1913) was their ideological reference on the matter, along with Lenin's Critical Remarks on the National Question (December 1913), in particular in the chapter "Cultural-National Autonomy".[6][7][8] (Stalin was later People's Commissar of Nationalities from 1917 - 1923.) Lenin's and Stalin's critiques of the national personal autonomy concept were later joined by the Catalan Andreu Nin in his article The Austrian School, National Emancipation Movements (1935).[9]


It was adopted as an official policy in the short-lived Ukrainian People's Republic (1917–1920) and in the interwar Estonian Republic (1925 Law on Personal Autonomy), and it was included in the Declaration Concerning the Protection of Minorities in Lithuania by the League of Nations in 1925.[6][10][11]

The autonomous representative structure of the Palestinian Jews between 1920 and 1949, the Asefat ha-Nivharim, can also be considered as an implementation of the national personal autonomy principle.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union and its satellites regimes, national personal autonomy has been the principle on which legislation applying to ethnic minorities has been enacted[citation needed] such as Estonia's (1993 National Minorities Cultural Autonomy Act),[12] Hungary's Act LXXVII of 1993 on the Rights of National and Ethnic Minorities,[13] Latvia's 1991 Law on Unrestricted Development and Right to Cultural Autonomy of Latvia's Nationalities and Ethnic Groups,[14] Lithuania's 1989 Law on Ethnic Minorities,[15] Russia's 1996 Law on National-Cultural Autonomies,[16] and Ukraine's 1992 Law on National Minorities.[17]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Bauer, Otto (2000). Ephraim J. Nimni (ed.). The Question of Nationalities and Social Democracy. Joseph O'Donnell (Translator). University of Minnesota Press. p. 696. ISBN 978-0-8166-3265-7.
  2. ^ All of Renner's essay is reproduced in an English translation in Ephraim Nimni, ed. (2005). National Cultural Autonomy and its Contemporary Critics. Routledge. p. 260. ISBN 978-0-415-24964-5.
  3. ^ Yiddish: Medem, V. 1943. “Di sotsial-demokratie un di natsionale frage” (1904). Vladimir Medem: Tsum tsvantsikstn yortsayt. New York: New York: Der Amerikaner Reprezentants fun Algemeynem Yidishn Arbeter-Bund (‘Bund’) in Poyln, pp. 173-219.
  4. ^ Gechtman, Roni (December 2008). "National-Cultural Autonomy and 'Neutralism': Vladimir Medem's Marxist Analysis of the National Question, 1903-1920". Socialist Studies. III (1). ISSN 1918-2821. Archived from the original on 2012-02-27. Retrieved 2009-12-02.
  5. ^ Plassereaud, Yves (May 2000). "Choose Your Own Nationality or The Forgotten History of Cultural Autonomy". Le Monde diplomatique.
  6. ^ a b c Bill Bowring, "Burial and resurrection, Karl Renner's controversial influence on the "national question" in Russia", inEphraim Nimni, ed. (2005). National cultural autonomy and its contemporary critics. Routledge. p. 260. ISBN 978-0-415-24964-5.
  7. ^ Stalin, Joseph (March–May 1913). Marxism and the National Question. Prosveshcheniye: Marxists Internet Archive. Retrieved 2009-11-12.
  8. ^ Lenin, Vladimir (October–December 1913). Critical Remarks on the National Question. Prosveshcheniye: Marxists Internet Archive. Retrieved 2009-11-12.
  9. ^ Nin, Andrés (1935). "Austro-Marxism and the National Question (chapter in National Emancipation Movements)". Marxists Internet Archive. Retrieved 2009-11-12.
  10. ^ "Law on Cultural Autonomy for National Minorities". The Estonian Institute. 1925. Archived from the original on 2010-02-12. Retrieved 2009-12-02.
  11. ^ "Declaration concerning the protection of minorities in Lithuania" (PDF). League of Nations. 1922. Retrieved 2016-06-06.
  12. ^ "National Minorities Cultural Autonomy Act". The Estonian Ministry of Justice. 1993. Archived from the original on 2009-11-19. Retrieved 2009-12-02.
  13. ^ "Act LXXVII of 1993 on the Rights of National and Ethnic Minorities". Minority Electronic Resources. 1993. Retrieved 2009-12-02.
  14. ^ "Law on Unrestricted Development and Right to Cultural Autonomy of Latvia's Nationalities and Ethnic Groups (last amended 1994)". UNHCR. 1991. Retrieved 2009-12-02.
  15. ^ "Law on ethnic minorities". Minority Electronic Resources. 1989. Retrieved 2009-12-02.
  16. ^ Järve, Priit (July 2002). "National-Cultural Autonomies and Inter-Ethnic Relations in the Kaliningrad Oblast" (PDF). European Centre for Minority Issues. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-06-02. Retrieved 2009-12-02.
  17. ^ "Law on National Minorities". Minority Electronic Resources. 1992. Retrieved 2009-12-02.