March 21, 2014

Secession referendums that win, win big

Looking at the Wikipedia page on "Independence Referendums," I note that successful secession votes tend to be extremely lopsided. For example, Norway's secession from Sweden in 1905 received 368,208 votes For versus 184 votes Against independence.

I'm not sure why this pattern is so common: Cheating? Bandwagoning? Boycotting by sure to lose sides? Fear of reprisals by winners? They don't hold secession votes unless they are likely to win big?

(An exception was the 2006 referendum in Montenegro that gave it independence from Serbia, which passed with only 55.5% of the vote. This seems to reflect the general principle that Everybody Hates Serbia -- if you don't believe me, just ask a Serb. Of course, the events subsequent to June 28, 1914 did generate a little ill will toward Serbia.)

Here are the percentage Yes votes for secession in the Ukraine on December 1, 1991. You can see that Crimea (54% yes) and Sevastopol (57% yes) are definite outliers, while no other oblasts were under 83% yes. So, Crimea seems like a special case:

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

In the long run Ukraine will benefit from Crimean secession. The choice of the EU over Russia is now a certainty and the minority Russian population within its borders is drastically reduced. You could just as easily have put up a red/blue map of the US to illustrate the foreigner/native split that applies to almost any vote, for secession or otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Secession succeeds when the vote is by a homogeneous population that is ethnically distinct from the population of the state it is seeking to leave. Otherwise, you end up with a 50/50 split like you have in Quebec or 1991 Crimea. The only exception I can think of is Scotland, although its non-Scottish population is high enough for one to argue that it is not homogeneous.

georgesdelatour said...

It's better to start on the adventure of new nationhood with massive wholehearted support rather than a bare 51-49 type majority. That's what's sad about this year's Scottish Referendum. If the Scot Nats win (present polls suggest they'll lose) they'll almost certainly do it by a very small margin.

Anonymous said...

The turnout for the 1991 referendum was very low in Crimea as well. Apparently most Crimean Russians thought the whole thing was a farce. The actual percent of the total electorate voting for an independent Ukraine was 37% in Crimea (and around 65% in Donetsk, Lukhansk, Odessa, and Kharkov). Sevastopol was not even given a choice, it was simply handed over to the Ukraine.

This time around with an 81% turnout, 97% voted yes, meaning 79% were in favor. That's only a change of mind by around 16% of the people (63% to 79%).

One has to also consider the times. In 1991, Soviet Union was imploding and Russia looked sure to fall apart also. Today, its the Ukraine that looks ready to implode, while Russia could not be stronger. Everyone loves to vote for a winner.

Anonymous said...

The choice of the EU over Russia is now a certainty and the minority Russian population within its borders is drastically reduced.

The Russian population in Ukraine is basically whatever percent of people decide to think of themselves as Russians since there is no way of distinguishing Ukrainian and Russian ethnicity by any objective measure. Ethnonymic identity within the Ukraine should really be thought of as nationality or statehood - i.e. the percent of people identifying with an independent Ukraine vs. those identifying with a united Russia.

If you went by language used everyday, most Ukrainians would be classified as Russian, since they speak either Russian or Surzhyk.

The most interesting maps on this topic can be found here:

Percent for Native Language:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ukraine_cencus_2001_Ukrainian.svg

Relative Fluency:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Map12_b.png

Surzhyk Use:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:SurzhykUseRu.PNG

Most telling is that just 18% of the population of the capital Kiev claims use of Ukrainian mostly or only in everyday life, even as 75% claim it as their mother tongue, while 52% use mostly Russian.

If southern, central, and eastern Ukraine were a formal part of Russia for a while, its very likely that most of the people would start to identify as "ethnic" Russians.

Anonymous said...

So when you really think about Russia should just turn itself over to turkey since Church Slavonic or something. What's the Church Slavonic word for hasbara?

Anonymous said...

Someone should tell the hundred of thousands of Russian Mail order brides that Russia couldn't be stronger right now.

jody said...

secession referendums in the US would win today but they would be more like presidential elections. 65% to secede, 35% to stay in. some states would end up seceding by only 10% or even 5%.

Anonymous said...

Two reasons why pro-Ukrainian sentiment went down in the Crimea from 54% in 1991 to less than 4% in 2014:

1). When West Ukrainians seized power in Kiev they pushed Ukrainian-only education and their own view of local history on the entire country. As time went on, Russian speakers got increasingly offended by that.

2). Since the Ukraine is more divided than Russia (roughly 50/50 vs. 80/20), oligarchs and neocons found it easier to play their usual divide and rule games in the Ukraine. That produced more long-term looting than in Russia. That made the Ukraine much poorer. During the week leading up to this referendum the new Crimean authorities put up billboards comparing salaries, gas prices and old age pensions in Russia and the Ukraine. That tactic wouldn't have worked if it wasn't supported by reality. Life is objectively better in Russia and the Crimeans know it. That wasn't true in 1991.

anony-mouse said...

It's nice to see the skeptical part of Steve's brain take a well-earned vacation.

I would hate to think that the relatively low pro-Russian vote in on the Black Sea had anything to do with the fact that that is exactly where the maximum amount of uninvited foreigners would be.

I also liked the perfectly transparent ballot boxes they used (and no envelopes, tabs, or other way to hide the 'x'). Why you could actually see what people voted for! (Yes I know partially transparent ballot boxes are a good idea since they discourage ballot stuffing, but perfectly transparent ones aren't.

Anonymous said...

"The Russian population in Ukraine is basically whatever percent of people decide to think of themselves as Russians since there is no way of distinguishing Ukrainian and Russian ethnicity by any objective measure."

I'll bring up an example of this. Just like there are millions of people in England with typically Irish or Scottish surnames, there are millions of people in Russia with typically Ukrainian surnames, ones ending in -ko or -chuk. However a Moscow-born man named Senchenko is many times less likely to feel an attachment to Ukraine than a London-born man named O'Brian to Ireland. Within Russia opposition to Putin's policy on the Crimea, like opposition to all his other policies, contains a disproportionate number of Jews, but not of Russian-born people with Ukrainian surnames. Russians with roots in what's now called the Ukraine are neither a community nor an interest group of any sort in Russian politics. On arrival they've always simply dissolved into the ethnic Russian population.

Greco-Catholic Galicians are passionate about their Ukrainianness. And they really, really want to infect the rest of the Ukraine with that passion, by force if necessary. But they still have a long way to go in this.

rec1man said...

Someone should tell the hundred of thousands of Russian Mail order brides that Russia couldn't be stronger right now.
--

These days most Russian mail order brides come from Ukraine

Greg Pandatshang said...

I suspect that, in highly functional societies, like Norway's, very few people will vote against majority opinion not because they feel intimidated, but because they don't see the point of voting against the majority. I could imagine that 10~15% of the public might have preferred not to become independent, all else equal, but they were aware that their neighbors wanted it and they didn't oppose it so ferociously that they wanted to try to get in the way.

Anonymous said...

I would hate to think that the relatively low pro-Russian vote in on the Black Sea had anything to do with the fact that that is exactly where the maximum amount of uninvited foreigners would be.

Huh? The numbers on the map which Steve included in this post show pro-Ukrainian vote, not pro-Russian vote. So it was pro-Ukrainian vote that was low on the Black Sea coast. And no, there were no illegal immigrants in the Ukraine in 1991.

Anonymous said...

The 1991 vote in the south and east was when Russia was imploding and before the oligarchs took over in Ukraine and started looting it. I don't think it would be as clear cut now.

We should see quite soon if there's a stage 2 planned.

reiner Tor said...

Was there any research on how fair the following referendums or elections were:

1) independence referendum in Estonia and Latvia (where apparently the ethnic Russian population also supported independence, even though they were later not given citizenship)

2) independence vote in the Ukrainian SSR in 1991

3) Yeltsin's April 1993 referendum

4) Yeltsin's December 1993 referendum

5) Yeltsin's re-election in 1996

The Crimea vote seems to be a farce, and obviously there's little data and even less independent research to go by, but otherwise I would add it to the list as well.

Anonymous said...

Poll shows backing for Scottish independence rising to 40 percent

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/03/20/uk-scotlandindependence-poll-idUKBREA2J1LX20140320

Anonymous said...

1) independence referendum in Estonia and Latvia (where apparently the ethnic Russian population also supported independence, even though they were later not given citizenship)

Something like 5-10% of the population fo these countries is still stateless since they were refused Estonian and Lativan citizenship and don't want Russian citizenship.

Honestly, that is an atrocity of human rights.

Estonia could have greatly reduced the "need" for this behavior on their part by sawing off the Narva region upon independence and halving their Russian population in one stroke while giving up a tiny fraction of land.

Anonymous said...

Greco-Catholic Galicians are passionate about their Ukrainianness. And they really, really want to infect the rest of the Ukraine with that passion, by force if necessary.

Ukrainian identity and language was invented in Galicia under the influence of a Polish bougeois, German rulers, and the Greek Catholic Church. Galicia was never part of the Muscovite Russian state until 1945 in the Soviet period. This goes a long way to explaining why the people of L'viv really don't like Muscovite Russians or feel "Russian". Galicia was part of either Kievan Rus, Poland, Austria, or Germany.

The gradient of Ukrainian eastward towards Russia is most simply explained by a lessening of the Polish lingusitic influence by distance, as Ukrainian is basically a heavily Polish influenced version of East Slavic. The longer an area was with Poland or Austrian Galicia, the more "Ukrainian" it tends to be.

Galicia - 1018 to 1031, 1349 to 1939 (603 yrs)
Volhynia - 1352 to 1795 (443 yrs)
Podolia - 1350 to 1793 (443 yrs)
Kiev - 1370 to 1667 (297 yrs)
Poltava - 1399 to 1667 (268 yrs)
Odessa - never Polish
Kharkov - never Polish
Donetsk - never Polish
Crimea - never Polish

Prof. Woland said...

If the Ukrainians really want to drop an F-bomb, they should change their alphabet from Cyrillic to Roman. This would simultaneously connect them to the rest of Europe while isolating the remaining Russians who will cling to the Russian tongue.

Anonymous said...

The Australian state of Western Australia voted 68% by referendum to secede from the Australian federation in 1933 and Australia in 1933 was a very homogeneous place

For better or worse the Australian and UK Governments basically stonewalled and ignored the referendum and the secession movement fizzled out to become a rather smaller cause

Anonymous said...

You musn't forget that that vote was taken at the tail-end of the Gorbachev apocalypse, in which basically the former USSR was visited by the three horsemen - and a horse's ass as leader - therefore trying to escape the Gorbachev Created Hell, (GCH), seemed like a rational notion at the time.

reiner Tor said...

Something like 5-10% of the population fo these countries is still stateless since they were refused Estonian and Lativan citizenship and don't want Russian citizenship.

Honestly, that is an atrocity of human rights.


I thought so when I was still a liberal, but since I came over to the Dark Side, I'm not so sure anymore. These people are the descendants of colonists or are themselves colonists who came on the back of the Red Army, and took advantage of Soviet policies encouraging Russian immigration (like better access to housing etc.), and it's Estonia's and Latvia's basic national interest not to let them vote, and to encourage them leave.

As to Narva, well, most Narva residents did receive Estonian citizenship, because it had been majority Russian before the war. But why should colonists be allowed to stay?

Anonymous said...

"If the Scot Nats win (present polls suggest they'll lose) they'll almost certainly do it by a very small margin."

At the moment (and for the past few months) in the UK there's a constant drumbeat/dripfeed of "company X comes out against independence" or "company Y will move HQ from Scotland". Almost every day except Big News Days - it does seem co-ordinated. The UK government have put the screws on by saying they can't use sterling as their currency.

It's basically a small-scale rehearsal for the massive campaign which would be waged if Britain had a referendum on leaving the EU.

Rainer said...

Norway did in fact secede from Denmark, not from Sweden.
After 1945, secessions were nearly unthinkable in Europe. So it was a big act, when within Switzerland, the French-speaking minority of the "Kanton" Berne seceded and formed its own "Kanton" Jura (some bombing in the beginning, but peaceful in the end). Then came the secessions in East Middle Europe (Slovenia,without open war; Slovakia really peaceful).

reiner Tor said...

Norway was given to Sweden around Vienna Congress, if I recall correctly. This was punishment for Denmark having been allied to Napoleon, and a reward to the Swedish king, Bernadotte, former Maréchal of Napoleon, for joining the anti-French coalition.

Ă…sille Olava said...

As for the Norwegian 1905 secession from Sweden, this was declared by a unanimous Norwegian Parliament in June 195 and the follow-up referendum in August 1905 was solely to "confirm" the dissolution. So the political battle on whether to secede or not had already ended when the referendum took place and nobody was campaigning for a "no" vote. (it had been a major political issue in Norway for several years until then).

There are some reports of smaller municipalities that couldn't be bothered to provide "No" ballots, but mostly the near unanimously "yes" vote was secured through social means and pressure. A look at a polling station gives some hints of the atmosphere: The wall is covered with Norwegian flags, garlands and an inscription reading "Norway for Norwegians". You weren't supposed to spoil the party by voting to go back to the Swedes.

The union between Norway and Sweden was always very loose with the countries having their own constitutions, laws, parliaments, budgets etc. The main feature was having a common king (Swedish) and being a common entity in foreign affairs (which meant led by Sweden). The King's political influence over Norway had vaned much from 1814 to 1905, to a large degree due to the general democratic tendencies in Europe at that time.

An interesting political feauture is that it always was the left side/Liberals who fought most for Norwegian independence, with the Conservatives being more loyal to the Swedish king. Meaning that the Liberals in Norway historically had a stronger claim on nationalism than the conservatives; which set Norway somewhat apart from the general trend in Europe/US. In 1972 and 1994 referendums on the EU, Center-Left coalitions in Norway (allthough far from all the Left) ensured that Norway did not join the Union; in other European countries, anti-European sentiments and voting patterns have been more linked to the right.

Only 5 years old said...

Steve, you have a lot of evil commenters here. Hope no-one throws you in the gulag, you evil racist. (I know you're plotting to annihilate all the black people and, ahm, enslave the brown people, because there's no diversity in your profile picture.)

reiner Tor said...

@Prof. Woland:

If the Ukrainians really want to drop an F-bomb, they should change their alphabet from Cyrillic to Roman. This would simultaneously connect them to the rest of Europe while isolating the remaining Russians who will cling to the Russian tongue.

Yeah, but that would also isolate Ukrainians from their own history, their own greatest poet, their own culture, their own identity. They are a Cyrillic-writing mostly Eastern Orthodox (and minority Greek Catholic) people, that is who they are, they cannot simply change the alphabet.

It needed a near totalitarian dictatorship for the Turks as well, and wasn't easy nor particularly successful for them either, but in Turkey in the 1920s literacy was still less than maybe 5%, so it was still relatively easy to switch the alphabets. It wouldn't be so easy for Ukraine, where literacy is already quite close to 100%. All these people would have to be coerced to accept this break with their own culture and identity...

ATBOTL said...

The diverging fortunes of Russia and Ukraine since then have no doubt changed some minds.

"The Russian population in Ukraine is basically whatever percent of people decide to think of themselves as Russians since there is no way of distinguishing Ukrainian and Russian ethnicity by any objective measure."

Yes. It's a regional subculture, like the South in the US. If Ukraine became stronger than Russia somehow, Ukrainians would all decide they were the real Russians and that Moscow should be annexed to Kiev(pronounced "keev").

"Someone should tell the hundred of thousands of Russian Mail order brides that Russia couldn't be stronger right now."

You mean female hookers and con artists? They are maximizing their profits by finding marks outside of Russia. Back home, they are average. Abroad, they are the stuff men dream about.

Ask a Ukrainian women to explain to you the intense pressure women there feel because of the extreme attractiveness of their competition. The slightest flaw on a beautiful women will provoke cruel insults from men.

Slats Grobnik said...

The 54% and 57% outlier regions were the best real estate in the peninsula. A lot of wealthy and powerful non-Russian speakers were able to relocate there, and they did, and in 2014 they voted against secession.