How does a multinational state differ from a nation-state?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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When answering this question, you have to remember the difference between a nation and a state in political science terminology.  A nation is not a country -- it is a group of people who identify with one another on ethnic grounds.  And a state is not a subset of a country (like Wisconsin or Washington).  It is, instead, an actual whole country.

So, using these definitions, a multinational state is a country that has citizens of many different ethnic groups.  These ethnic groups would see themselves as fundamentally different from other groups within their same country.  The Soviet Union was a great example of this because it encompassed many different nations (Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Ukrainians, Russians, etc).

A nation-state, by contrast, is one where the country has only one ethnic group.  Perhaps the clearest example of such a state today would be Japan since only ethnic Japanese are considered to truly be full citizens of that country.

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