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National Minorities

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Author elsslots
#1 | Posted: 7 Jul 2008 13:25 | Edited by: elsslots 
A connection regarding current national minorities was suggested.

Although I can see the value of such connections in general, it´s a bit hard to:
- link the WHS to the minority (I wouldn´t say the Woudagemaal is used as a symbol for Frisians)
- where to put the boundaries, what are the exact criteria

Some examples:
Catalunian sites as well as Ibiza - Catalans
Acre, Jerusalem - Israeli Arabs
Komi Forests - Komi
Taos Pueblo - Pueblos
Welsh and Scottish sites - Welsh and Scots
Lappi, Laponian Area - Saami
Gusuku - Ryukyuans
Lake Baikal - Buryats
Uvs Nuur - Tuvans
Kamchatka - Koryaks
Carpathian forests - Ruthenians
Santiago - Galicians

Author Solivagant
#2 | Posted: 7 Jul 2008 14:32 | Edited by: Solivagant 
What a can of worms that would open!! In fact there might not be that many sites NOT assignable to a "minority"!

Just think of all the minority tribes in Africa alone
Buganda, Battamariba, Shona, Zulus and what about the Afrikaaners (they are a minority -perhaps Robben Island would be suitable!) etc etc

And the Cornish in UK had better have the Mining Landscape.
And the Tartars would have Kazan
And the Karelians would have Kizhi
And the Totenac would have El Tajin
And the Zapotecs would have Monte Alban
And the Oromo (or even further down the chain the Dassenechs or the Mursi - they are still fighting!) would have the Omo valley
And the Hararis would have Harer
And, assuming KUK is inscribed today, the Kawelka would have that
Have a look at to find a few more.
We are ALL minorities now!!

Author Assif
#3 | Posted: 7 Jul 2008 17:57 
It's surely a problematic connection but I still find it important despite the required work it involves. I don't think there should be more sites assignable to current national minorities than there are cathedrals for example.
We should restrict the application of this connection only to minorities which either live in the area of the WHS or are connected to its history.
I wouldn't write Kishi as 'connected' to the Karelian minority for example. It's true it lies within the bounderies of Karelia, but barely any Karelians live in Kizhi's area and Kizhi was built by the Russians not by the Karelians. The same might be true for the Cornish Mining Landscape (it's certainly English - and I don't know how many Corns live in that area).
Anyway, I think this connection will add much insight into our knowledge of these WHSs hence justifying its inclusion.

Author elsslots
#4 | Posted: 8 Jul 2008 00:52 
Let's try to find some then that will surely qualify. I think the minority has to be clearly named as connected to the site in the nomination/evaluation document.
- Laponian Area (Saami)
- Cliff of Bandiagara (Dogon)
- the new Armenian Churches in Iran (Armenian)
- Taos Pueblo (Pueblo Indians)

Author Solivagant
#5 | Posted: 8 Jul 2008 02:16 | Edited by: Solivagant 
In fact the nomination/evaluation document is quite "heavy" on the "Karelian" nature of Kizhi - but it was written in Soviet times!

This is certainly an interesting Forum subject whose exploration would undoubtedly extend our (or at least my own) knowledge and understanding both of inscribed sites and of "Nationalities".

I still wonder however if it is suitable for a "Connection" - which has to reach black and white conclusions. I see definitional problems at every turn
a. What is a "Nation"
b. What is a "minority"
c. What does the nature of the "Connection" need to be?

Even if we "use" the nomination document the above problems are not really covered. Almost every example I think of leads me into "debates".
e.g. The Walloons are a minority in Belgium. Are they a "Nationality"? If so should Tournai Cathedral be linked to them? The only mention of "Wallonia" in the inscription document relates to the government of the province. But surely the Walloons would regard it as a significant cultural representative of their "nation" - if IT isn't then what is?

eg The Scots - certainly a Nationality? They are a minority in UK but not a minority within Scotland which has its own Parliament - are they a minority? If so there is presumably no argument that Edinburgh as the capital should be linked to it? But what of other sites in Scotland eg New Lanark - it is certainly "in" Scotland but is it particularly connected to the Scottish "minority" in UK? Robert Owen was a Welshman. And what of Neolithic Orkney -who knows what the genetic make up of those people was - they certainly wouldn't have seen themselves as "Scots"! But I assume that "Scottish nationalists" are proud that this site is within their Boundaries. However there are those who consider that the "Northern Isles" should be independent of Scotland - their history pre the late 15th century was very different from that of Scotland - are they a "minority"? I quote below - it may be biased but it does represent the views of a significant number of those on Orkney ".... when a resident of Orkney is asked their nationality, they will automatically reply "Orcadian". In fact, "Scottish" is rarely mentioned - Orkney is strangely detached from its home country, and "British" is more likely to be mentioned."

If we rely on "de jure" definitions of nationality then very few non-sovereign "nations" will emerge but once we move to perceptions and beliefs we will find firm definitions very difficult.
Once we get down to Tribal level it becomes more so. Els suggests that the "nation" for Taos Pueblo is the "Pueblo Indians" - but is there such a "nation"? There are 6 tribes who live in the same way in "Pueblos" so they share a culture (but not a single language). Even the "politically correct" term for what used to be called "American Indians" is "First Nations" (at least in Canada) which seems to imply that they are separate from each other (and if "English" and "Scots" can be separate then surely individual groups of "Indians" can!)
What about Uluru? Which minority is approriate for that? Should they all be lumped together as "Aboriginal"? Is there such a "Nation"? Or would it need to be the 2 tribes who live there - the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara??

I will stop there (for now!!)

Author Assif
#6 | Posted: 8 Jul 2008 03:57 
I don't think we should shy away from issues that are difficult to define. Many cultural terms are and that's indeed related to the fact they reflect human non-definable nature. I think these discussions on what merits an inclusion in this connection or not can be fruitful and insightful, just like Solivagant says himself.
Connections are a collection of relevant features that enrich our knowledge of the sites. As such I think this suggestion should definitely qualify as a proper one.
I disagree with Els that the minority needs to be specifically mentioned in the title. Many aren't mentioned for either political or other irrelevant reasons, which doesn't make the sites less connected to the corresponding minority by any way.
I think we should simply accept the vague idea that a nation is what people define themselves. National minority is a minority within a state in which this nation consists a minority. Therefore, both Scots and Wallons certainly qualify.
If I'm wrong about the Karelian nature of Kizhi I would be happy to be corrected (and actually I am curious as to what connects the Karelians to Kizhi - I would be happy if you could give me a link, Solivagant. It would interest me).
If the residents of Orkney don't conceive of themselves as being Scots then for this purpose they are none.

Author elsslots
#7 | Posted: 8 Jul 2008 14:00 | Edited by: elsslots 
I won't give it up for now, let's try to find an angle from where it works. The connection doesn't have to be named "National Minorities", if we find a more appropriate title we'll use that.

We're on somewhat different tracks now - I was thinking more of ethnic minorities than of national minorities as Assif calls them. National minorities in my ears are linked to possible secession (striving somehow for independence) or disputed territories.
The presence of ethnic minorities is too small or too scattered to pose that threat: a group that sees itself as a different entity from the country's mainstream (for its religion or language or history or geographical location or ...), but living among or close to the mainstream members.
I don't think the Walloons are a minority, the Belgian mainstream is just bi (or dual)-lingual (like the Canadian). As minorities in Belgium I would qualify (amongst others) the German-speaking community, the Hasidic jewish community, the Turkish community. French speakers living in Flanders (and vice versa) could also qualify (as they seem to do officially ).

P.S. And, very appropriate, I just read that the Bahá'i sites are on the List now.....

Author Assif
#8 | Posted: 8 Jul 2008 15:51 
I agree ethnic minority is a better term. Solivagant raised the problem of such countries like Papua, India and many African countries where no national majority seems to exist. I would still refer to the ethnos living there as minorities. And even in those countries sometimes a certain groupe is more dominant than the rest. Perhaps it would be easier to judge each case seperately.
I don't see a problem, by the way, relating a site to more than one ethnic minority if necessary. The most important criterion for me is how people see themselves.

Author Solivagant
#9 | Posted: 9 Jul 2008 04:19 | Edited by: Solivagant 
The above discussion seems to have got rid of the concept of "National" - we are talking of something more "community" related - I am not really happy with "Ethnic" to describe this but we can return to that later.

We also seem to be working towards a better definition of "Minority" (it is just a pity we can't find a better word for it). I am comfortable with the concept that it is only applied to small(ish) groups rather than to those for whom the word merely implies a slight arithmetic inferiority c.f. other groups but who are still playing a full role in the country! So if Walloons are not a "minority" in our terms then neither are Scots, French Canadians, French Swiss etc. I can't yet find a form of words to define this - perhaps it needs a paper as long as that cited by Els above to do so! As always there will be "hard cases" - eg Maoris. Tongariro is inscribed partially on cultural criteria as place of cultural significance to the Maoris. Should we connect it to "minority" (or whatever we eventually call it). Maoris consitute (Wiki) 14.6% of the population - thier position in the nation has been significantly improved in recent years. Have they reached "Walloon status" yet? My feeling is probably not.

There is also still a problem I feel with large multinational countries such as eg India and Russia - are Maharastrans, Bengalis, Tartars and (yes!) Karelians "minorities" in the sense we are using it? Given that we are using "Minority" to include religious and cultural as well as National/linguistic groups the issue also arises eg in India re Muslims, Buddhists. As the paper provided by Els re Belgium points out, whether a group is in a minority can also depend on which part of a country they are in so a group can be a "majority" in one part of a state and a "minority" in another. Many of these issues will not arise because there won't be relevant WHS to raise the issue (and I would suggest that their numbers will be impacted by how we resolve the following discussion) so let's park it for the moment!

Which takes us to a point where I don't feel we have reached a common view yet - What is necessary for a "connection" to be achieved between a WHS and a "minority" which meets our required definition?
Els has suggested that the connection should depend on it being identified in the Nomination/Evaluation - Assif seems to be more relaxed. On reflection I tend more towards the former view. What are we trying to identify by this connection? I would suggest something along the lines of
"Which WHS worldwide are culturally significant for a minority group (and which "Group")?" Given the efforts invovled in getting sites inscribed and the number of "Brownie points" available to nominations from linking themselves to ethnic and other minorities, this is not a trick which is going to be missed by many in their nomination documentation! Maybe some of the, very thin, early documents will not have made enough of the opportunity but I believe that, at the moment, we should limit this "connection" to those sites whose documentation supports the cultural link and names the group.
By implication, using the above arguments, a site inscribed SOLELY on Natural criteria couldn't be linked to a cultural group (I can hear Assif protesting that this will miss out some valid connections!). Some cases in point
a. Tongariro - only when UNESCO accepted its "cultural dimension" did it achieve that "connection".
b. Canaima - Pemon indians inhabit the area but Venezuela didn't even consult them over the nomination! However, since it is only inscribed on Natural grounds I wouldn't link it to them.
c. Lapponian area - a cultural landscape inscribed on Natural and cultural gorunds - therefore connectable to the Saami

The main problem is likely to be the other way round - documents which make too much of such potential links. Kizhi and Karelians is one such case which we have already discussed without a real conclusion. Kazan and Tartars is another. As reviewers of this site state, Kazan Kremlin actually exists as a reminder of the subjugation of the Tartars by Ivan the Terrible rather than as a cultural icon for them! The documentation tries to be inclusive by making much of the "fusion" of styles etc but I am not convinced! However there is the modern Mosque within the walls and I guess that Tartars have come to terms with their history - for better or for worse the Kremlin is a part of it and they seem to have embraced it. So, perhaps it is not unreasonable, despite its negative connotations within their history, to connect it too them (IF of course we regard "Tartars" as a valid minority in our terms!!)

We need to bear in mind that some potential links with "minorities", even if they are mentioned explicitly in documentation or site titles, are purely historical and not living "community" links. For instance
a. Armenian Monasteries in Iran - Wiki shows Armenians as one of numerous groups constituting less in total than 1% of Iran's population. Can these churches really be linked tto that minority? They are still pilgimage sites but surely represent a past era rather than a genuine link to a present community?
b. Bahai Churches in Haifa - for historical reasons these are a pilgrimage destination in israel and administrative centrers have been built there but (Wiki) there is no Bahai community in Israel apart from the staff for these locations and proselytising is not allowed. Would a "connection" with a minority in Israel really be appropriate?
c. Monuments in Kosovo - well there is still a small Serbian minority there hanging on so I guess this hasn't quite reached the "historic" stage yet!

So those are my attempts so far to clarify our understanding of "Minority" and "Connection". Views??

Author Assif
#10 | Posted: 9 Jul 2008 16:52 
I find the discussion interesting. I do agree now that natural sites/ historical minorities should not be considered. I do consider, however, many of the groups Solivagant mentions as minorities: Maories, Tartars, Catalans etc. Usually even the relevant governments relate to these groups as minorities. Perhaps it would make sense to discuss each case seperately.

Author Assif
#11 | Posted: 9 Jul 2008 17:32 
And yes - the Scots are a minority within the UK. Things are different for Switzerland and Canada which are more egalitarian federations.

Author meltwaterfalls
#12 | Posted: 10 Jul 2008 08:07 
I like this debate, but I still think there could be lingering problems.

If as Assif states we should look upon the Scots, as being a 'minority' then pretty much every country could be broken down further. We have already mentioned the Catalans and Galician's in Spain, but we would also have to consider Basques, Arogonesse, Valencianas... But these would be represented in a more federal system like the Walloons, French Canadians or the Italian Swiss so should the Spanish 'minorities' be ruled out. Then the Scots and Welsh also have their own parliament/assembly.

In central and eastern Europe there are the large Hungarian, Albanian and Romanian Diasporas do any sites come into play via this?

If anyone wants to wade into the extremely murky waters of trying to pin down ethnicities in Central Asia, please feel free.
Am I correct in thinking that Bukhara and Khiva are ethnically Turkmen, but situated in Uzbekistan and Kunya Urgench is the other way around (I may be well wide of the mark here) I can never seem to get my head around the soviet era borders and why it seems that every ethnicity mostly live outside the country named after them.

I'm afraid I just don't know enough about ethnic make ups in Africa to attempt the majority,
Ait Ben-Haddou is a Berber site in Morocco, but then Berber culture has been well integrated into the broader Moroccan identity I don't know whether this would

Taking sites in the British minority regions
Cornish mines - I think the should have a bit more investigation, part of the reason they were inscribed was that they were instrumental in exporting Cornish culture around the would (with a strong reference to rugby!) and the only person I know that is directly associated with them off the top of my head, is Richard Trevithick which is about as Cornish a surname as you can get. And on the traditionally Cornish elements it was for miners that pasties were invented which would probably be the peninsula's single most famous export (well in Britain anyway). I think it would need some investigation in terms of language but I would say there was a reasonable case for supporting it.

Giant's Causway – N/A as the cultural aspect of the site was never nominated by the UK, despite an ICOMOS recommendation.

Bleanavon – A very Welsh site but also a distinctly British site due to its exports being a driving force in the empire building of the 18/19th centuries. Not sure how the definitions apply in this sort of case.

Castle's and Town Walls – A bit of a conundrum, now in the Welsh Speaking heartland but they were originally built to subjugate the Welsh. The first language especially in Caernarfon is Welsh and there is a real 'national' pride in the towns. I would say they were representative of a minority now.

New Lanark - I don't feel there is anything distinctly Scottish as opposed to British, but if someone with more knowledge can point this out then feel free.

Edinburgh - well yep it is distinctly Scottish being the capital and all, it could be argued that it is a very British place as well because the Scottish Enlightenment that was focused on Edinburgh really had a massive effect on British culture and society.

St Kilda – I think this is a pretty decent shout for inclusion, though whether it is Scottish or representative of the Islands I couldn't tell.

Orkney - As Solivagant has already covered this would probably be separate minority, but to what extent the sites themselves are associated with contemporary Orcadian culture could be debated.

Yorkshire (Saltaire & Fountains Abbey)- I think would be stretching the 'minority' idea too far and neither site would be particularly 'Yorkist'

Author Solivagant
#13 | Posted: 10 Jul 2008 08:16 | Edited by: Solivagant 
Hi Assif -
Re the UK federation not being as "egalitarian" as eg Switzerland and Canada. There are many of us "English" in the UK who feel that the main lack of egalitarianism here is discriminating against us rather than the Scots and Welsh!!! They get better social services than we do, a larger share per head on the national pot etc etc. Are you aware of the "West Lothian question"? ???

Author Assif
#14 | Posted: 10 Jul 2008 09:05 
Maybe it's not a bad idea to start checking different suggestions.

1) Arab (Palestinian) Israeli minority - Israel is defined as a Jewish state, hence enforcing a minority status on its Arab (non-Jewish) citizens. These constitute the majority in old Arce as well as in old Jerusalem. These cities are also abundent with sacral buildings built by the Arabs. Any objections?

2) Bahai sites in Israel - indeed no Bahai minority in Israel

3) Carpathian forests, Golf of Porto, Giant Causeway, Komi Forests etc - as agreed, these natural sites shouldn't be taken into account.

An important comment - I don't think the status of a minority changes as such if it is granted political representation or autonomy. Of course this usually improves the minority's well being within the home country, however numerically as well as culturally the minority remains one.
More specifically, I don't think the fact the Saami, Tatars, Scots or Catalans have their own regional parlaiments makes them less of a minority. Taking the disputed example of the Scots (no offence Solivagant), I didn't mean to imply Scots are being mistreated or disfavoured in the UK legally or in practice, but there are a few facts that make them a minority:
they have a strong ethnic identity (national in this case), they are numerically inferior to the majority groupe (Englishmen), the Englishmen as well as Scots don't perceive of the minority groupe being a part of the majority groupe (although this isn't an obligarory condition it makes the minority a more solid one, I think), the minority's culture isn't perceived as representative of the whole (contrary to the English one!!!!), hence the minority's culture is often disfavoured (eg - no official status for the Scots language in Scotland), the majority has significantly more political and economic power than the minority (this is certainly true in the UK).
As for the Spanish regions - not all of them see themselves as ethnos. Galicians, Basques and Catalans certainly do, Aragonese in general don't.

4) Lappi, Laponian Area - Saami minority

5) Gusuku - Ryukyuan minority

Need to go I'll go on later...

Author Solivagant
#15 | Posted: 10 Jul 2008 10:02 
Actually there is "official status" for A Scots language (see ) - note I say "A" not "The" as there are several languages/dialects in Scotland. Is is a misconception to see Scottish Gaelic as (ever) having been the language of the whole of that area now defined as "Scotland".
Consider the language used by perhaps Scotland's greatest poet - Robert Burns viz - "Lallans". As always language is part of the politics and myth of Nationalism.

Perhaps we have got ourselves into this by concentrating on "Minority". A minority has to relate to some defined unit within which it exists in comparison with the "total". We are taking that entity as being the States which are sovereign members of the UN. These include a wide range of "models" and sizes of state - some are very centralised, some consist almost entirely of a single nationality/religious group, others are federal, others are multinational etc etc. Why should the Scottish "ethnic identity" be regarded as being in some way more "significant" for relating to a UNESCO site than my English identity just because we both exist within some entity called "UK" and there are numerically more English than Scots? Since the UK has given up so much of its autonomy/sovereignty to the EU I might regard myself as a "minority" within that organisation. So why can Bengalis be regarded as "minority" within the "Union of India" but "English" can't be regarded as a minority within the Union of Europe"? Merely because "UK" is regarded as being more "sovereign" than "Bengal" -not good enough I say!

Might it be better to drop the idea of "Minority" all together and identify those WHS which are clearly identifiable with/linkable to a cultural group whether that group is a "minority" or "majority" within some current political structure? We would then be treating ALL cultures equally regardless of whether they are "minorities" or not and also avoid the problem of how to define "minority"!!!

The "Connection" could be (We could "wordsmith" this later) something along the lines of
"Locations of Cultural or Ethnic significance" - and if we English have such a location on the list (I am not sure we do!) then fair enough. Indeed I would link "Statue of Liberty" to the USA.
We would then need to be careful in identifying the strength of the connection -I am not sure that just being the "Capital" of Scotland woudl be enough to get Edinburgh on the list (but I don't think it would be on the list for a "Scottish minority" either - I might ask why it is not on the list of Sites in a "Capital city" not to have it there seems to "downgrade" it AND Scotland). Groups which don't have the "cultural" identity (e.g Assif suggests the "Aragonese") just won't have a location with such a connection

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