20 Separatist Movements that Changed History
20 Separatist Movements that Changed History

20 Separatist Movements that Changed History

Steve - May 31, 2019

Involving the withdrawal of a group from a larger political entity, secession is the ultimate objective of separatist movements. Seeking to untangle themselves from the wider polity, often perceived as oppression or restrictive to an intolerable degree, these smaller organizations seek to obtain self-determination and self-government. Whilst some of these movements achieve their ultimate objectives – most notably the Thirteen Colonies during the American Revolution – many are short-lived, facing insurmountable odds, and are consequently forcible reabsorbed by their larger counterparts.

20 Separatist Movements that Changed History
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Hashim Thaçi with the Declaration of Independence of Kosovo (c. May 21, 2009). Wikimedia Commons.

Here are 20 separatists movements throughout history that, successful or otherwise, had a profound impact upon their nations and the wider world:

20 Separatist Movements that Changed History
“Defeat of the Rebels at Vinegar Hill”, by George Cruikshank (c. 1845). Wikimedia Commons.

20. Inspired by the success of the American Colonies, as well as by the French Revolution, the Irish Rebellion of 1798 was the first attempt for more than one hundred years by the island of Ireland to break away from English control

Governed since the end of the Williamite War in 1691 under a system of institutionalized sectarianism, discriminating against the majority Irish Catholic population in favor of Anglican Protestants, in 1793 Catholics owning sizable property were finally granted the right to vote. Regarded as insufficient progress by the Society of United Irishmen, the group – comprised predominantly of Roman Catholics and Protestant dissenters – sought to “break the connection with England”. Attempting to organize an invasion by France in 1796 to aide with their rebellion, the 14,000 man strong Expédition d’Irlande was forced to return home after bad weather precluded a landing.

Left to revolt alone, on May 24, 1798, the rebels attempted to seize the counties surrounding Dublin to prevent relief for the city. Successful in some areas, in County Wicklow, as news arrived of a wider rebellion, loyalists started massacring all those suspected of harboring rebel sympathies. Achieving the greatest initial success in County Wexford, loyalists amassed a force of 20,000 to march against the rebels in response and crushed them at Vinegar Hill. Resulting in the loss of greater autonomy granted to the Protestant Ascendancy in the late-18th century, as well as thirty thousand lives, the Act of Union was passed in 1800 as a response to the failed secession effort.

20 Separatist Movements that Changed History
Josef Friedrich Matthes, a leader of the Rhenish Republic, in Koblenz (c. November 22, 1923). Wikimedia Commons.

19. A response to the economic turmoil and occupation by the French in 1923, the Rhenish Republic was a short-lived effort to declare independence from the Weimar Republic that quickly turned into anarchy

Following the humiliating end of the First World War, the German region of the Rhineland endured a period of immense political and economic turbulence. Dissatisfied with the performance of the Weimar Republic, in 1923 the German currency collapsed and France occupied the Ruhr to claim war reparations. Resulting in a moment of anti-Berlin sentiment, on October 21, 1923, separatists captured the Aachen Rathaus, proclaiming in the Imperial Chamber a “Free and Independent Rhenish Republic. However, the chamber was held for less than two days, with loyalists responding and the streets descending into violence.

Becoming reminiscent of the Thirty Years’ War according to observers, with plunder, rape, and murder widespread, local militias began to organize to defend themselves from the anarchy. Resulting in the massacre at Aegidienberg, where, in response to the shooting of some of their own, a group of locals murdered fourteen separatists. Triggering a split in the movement, combined with a crackdown by the occupying French, on November 28, 1924, Matthes announced he had dissolved the government. Fleeing into exile, those who remained were protected by an amnesty but widely shunned for years.

20 Separatist Movements that Changed History
A 1958 St. Vincent stamp to mark the establishment of the West Indies Federation. Wikimedia Commons.

18. An abortive attempt by the imminently independent Caribbean colonies of Great Britain, the West Indies Federation was a brief attempt at collective secession before departing to continue on their separate ways into statehood

Desiring independence from the United Kingdom, in 1958 several British colonies in the Caribbean united in a joint-effort to become independent as a single state akin to the Australian Commonwealth. Consisting of twelve island colonies, including Jamaica, Grenada, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago, these polities banded together to form the Federation of the West Indies on January 3, 1958. Despite domestic support for independence, the federation was poorly constituted and immediately encountered major political problems. Most notably, the larger islands, such as Jamaica, contested the strength of the federal government and struggled against domination by a collective of smaller islands.

Not forming a customs union between the islands, nor possessing the powers of taxation, the Federation quickly spiraled into a quagmire. Dissatisfied with the lack of progress towards independence after three years, in September 1961 Jamaica quit the federation. Previously the economic powerhouse of the collective, and unable to find sufficient recourse to remain viable – with Trinidad required to provide seventy-five to eighty percent of the federation’s funding thereafter – on May 31, 1962, the union was formally dissolved. Becoming separate colonies once more, many of these islands would quickly move to secure their own independence from the United Kingdom in the years which followed.

20 Separatist Movements that Changed History
Leaders of the Republic of Ezo, with President Enomoto Takeaki front right (c. 1869). Wikimedia Commons.

17. A separatist rebellion in the aftermath of the Meiji Restoration, the quickly stifled Republic of Ezo was the first democratic enterprise in the history of Japan

Following the defeat of the Tokugawa shogunate in the Boshin War in 1869, bringing about the Meiji Restoration of Japan, Admiral Enomoto Takeaki fled to the northern island of Ezo (modern-day Hokkaido) with several thousand soldiers. Petitioning the Imperial Court to permit the largely uninhabited Ezo to remain in isolation, governed according to the traditions of the samurai, after being denied Enomoto proclaimed the Republic of Ezo on January 27, 1869. Modeling its government on the United States, following the first elections ever held in Japan and using universal suffrage, Enomoto was elected as the new nation’s first president.

Fortifying the island’s defenses in anticipation of a military response by the Emperor, in April an imperial fleet carried a force of seven thousand to the rebellious island. Defeating the republican forces at the Battle of Hakodate, the fortress of Goryōkaku was quickly besieged. Forced to surrender on June 26, 1869, Enomoto’s life was spared by his captors out of respect for his martial prowess. Renaming the island to cleanse it of any negative connotations, Enomoto, after serving a brief prison sentence, swore allegiance to the Meiji Government and was offered an official position within the administration as an act of reconciliation.

20 Separatist Movements that Changed History
Photograph of Malcolm X (c. March 12, 1964). Wikimedia Commons.

16. Attempting to fulfill the dream of Malcolm X, the Republic of New Afrika sought to lay claim to five southern states of the United States of America as part of a new nation for historically oppressed African-Americans

Convened by the Malcolm X Society and the Group on Advanced Leadership, the Black Government Conference, held in Detroit, Michigan, sought to fulfill the vision of the deceased civil rights leader of an independent and free black nation. Issuing a declaration of independence on March 31, 1968, signed by approximately one hundred of the five hundred conference attendees, the document proclaimed the formation of a new nation: The Republic of New Afrika. Instituting the framework for a provisional government, with Robert E. Williams named as the first president, the movement lay claim to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, George, and South Carolina, in addition to some black-majority counties in neighboring states.

Advocating militant self-defense of these claims, encouraging the creation not only of local militias but also of a standing army – the Black Legion – the controversial republic quickly faced sanction. Infiltrated by the FBI, the group became the target of sustained criminal investigations for the organization’s role in multiple violent confrontations with police including shootouts in Jackson, Mississippi. Still theoretically in existence today, following the prosecutions of several leading figures the movement fizzled out, losing momentum and failing to garner the popular support necessary to achieve its grandiose goals.

20 Separatist Movements that Changed History
Map of Upper Silesia, Homann heirs, Nuremberg (c. 1746). Wikimedia Commons.

15. Refusing to resort to acts of terror or armed conflict in an attempt to secure independence, the Union of Upper Silesians was unable to bring either Germany or Poland to the table and recognize their political movement

With political support for an independent Silesia dating to the widespread revolutions of 1848, these aspirations were carried into the twentieth century by the Silesian People’s Party. Aiding in the formation of the Union of Upper Silesians on November 27, 1918, the founding committee declared the entity to possess an “independent political stance” and offered guarantees of neutrality akin to that of Switzerland. Despite this, German authorities moved to silence the separatist enterprise, arresting prominent supporters on charges of high treason. Seeking to rally support at the Paris Peace Conference, the movement was left frustrated by the general lack of interest among Western powers for the cause.

Despite this absence of support, with only the United States interested and forced to back down in the face of French opposition, a plebiscite was nevertheless held to determine the borders of Germany and Poland in the region of Upper Silesia. Provoking outrage within the Union – which at the time of the vote enjoyed a peak membership of more than 500,000 – that they had been so blatantly ignored, in spite of these strong passions the leadership issued a clear statement condemning violence as a means to achieve their ends. Honorably fading without the use of force, the movement diminished into obscurity in the face of the European political upheavals of the mid-century.

20 Separatist Movements that Changed History
Major General Aung San of the Burma National Army (c. 1943). Wikimedia Commons.

14. Initially turning to the Empire of Japan to assist with their separatist movement, Burmese nationalists were later forced to rely on the support of their colonial masters – Great Britain – to escape from the control of Imperial Japan

Opposing increasingly strict and harsh British rule in Burma, support for self-government in the colony gradually increased during the twentieth century. A student activist, Aung San rapidly became an influential political leader within the Burmese nationalist community. Infuriating Japan through their support for Nationalist China, the Japanese decided to support San’s movement and encourage internal dissidence within Burma in retaliation against the British. Formed in 1941, the Burmese Independence Army assisted their Japanese benefactors in their conquest of the country as part of World War Two a year later.

However, upon attempting to form an independent government per their agreement, the movement was dissolved by the Japanese. Instead, a puppet government was imposed under Ba Maw in 1943, cracking down on liberties and imposing martial law. Embarking upon a second separatist enterprise, Aung San successfully made contact with the British and changed sides. Rebelling against the Japanese, the Burmese nationalists, now part of the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League and renamed the Patriotic Burmese Forces, drove out their former allies. Following the conflict, San continued his struggle for independence but in an entirely peaceful capacity in the post-war period. Assassinated in 1947, Burma was granted independence the following year.

20 Separatist Movements that Changed History
Portrait of Stephen F. Austin, who strongly opposed the Fredonian rebellion despite later leading the Texas Revolution. Wikimedia Commons.

13. Actively opposed by the “Father of Texas” Stephen F. Austin, the Republic of Fredonia was a premature attempt by Americans to claim Texas for their own in 1826

Purchasing a vast tract of land and the right to colonize it, upon arriving in Texas Empresario Haden Edwards immediately encountered opposition from locals already inhabiting the area. Forcibly removing residents and reselling their land, Edwards eventually provoked the Mexican government sufficiently that it revoked his grant and ordered him to depart. Responding violently, Edwards gathered his militia and marched on the town of Nacogdoches in December 1826. Seizing the Old Stone Fort, Edwards and his followers proclaimed his former colony to be the independent Republic of Fredonia on December 21.

Sending emissaries to the neighboring colony run by Stephen Austin, Edwards was instead denounced by the future “Father of Texas”. Announcing that “infatuated madmen at Nacogdoches have declared independence”, Austin alternatively rallied almost three hundred militiamen and marched on Nacogdoches alongside Mexican soldiers to restore order. Forced to flee back to the United States in the face of overwhelming odds, the short-lived republic was cast down on January 23, 1827. Following the failed secession, the Mexican government increased its military presence and prohibited American migration to the region in an attempt to hold onto its possession, but would nevertheless ultimately succumb to the Texas Revolution in 1836.

20 Separatist Movements that Changed History
A map of the Kingdom of Sardinia after the fusion of all its provinces into a single jurisdiction (c. 1856). Wikimedia Commons.

12. An ongoing separatist movement that has endured for centuries ever since the island was transferred from Spain to the House of Savoy, Sardinian nationalism remains to this day a major political force on the Mediterranean landmass

An unwanted part of the settlement between Spain and the House of Savoy following the War of the Spanish Succession, transferred in 1720, the Kingdom of Sardinia was initially permitted to continue operating with a reasonable degree of autonomy due to widespread indifference towards the island. However, following the “Perfect Fusion” in 1847 – designed to abolish administrative differences between the mainland and island constituent parts of Savoy possessions – Sardinia lost its unique autonomy and liberty. Relegated to an insignificant territory with limited power, following the Unification of Italy it became even less cared for.

Never having a say in becoming part of the new country, already being a member of the Piedmontese Kingdom under the House of Savoy, calls for separatism and self-determination emerged into prominence in the twentieth century. Coinciding with the independence of Ireland, in 1921 the Sardinian Action Party achieved thirty-six percent of the popular vote in elections. However, before action could be taken, Mussolini aggressively banned the political movement in 1926. Although suffering under Fascism, the concept has never truly diminished, with a consistent twenty to thirty percent of voters supporting nationalist parties in elections to this day.

20 Separatist Movements that Changed History
The Brazilian Army fighting the Confederate troops in Recife, capital of Pernambuco, 1824. By Leandro Martins (c. the 1820s or the 1830s). Wikimedia Commons.

11. A short-lived rebellion in the northeastern region of Brazil, occurring soon after Brazil’s own successful separatist movement against Portugal, the Confederation of the Equator sought to stand up to the centralizing reforms of Emperor Pedro I

Following the promulgation of the Imperial Constitution in 1824, which imposed greater centralized control over the fledgling nation, leading Liberals felt betrayed by the promises of the monarchy regarding increased autonomy prior to the dissolution of the Brazilian Constituent Assembly in 1823. Removing the provincial governor, Paes Barreto, attempts to compel the Liberals to obey were denied and Pedro I instead appointed a fresh governor in the hopes of avoiding an unnecessary conflict. Rejecting the Emperor of Brazil’s choice once more, on July 2, 1824, Liberal leader Manuel Paes de Andrade proclaimed the independence of Pernambuco.

Inviting other northern provinces to follow suit, Andrade declared a new republican state: The Confederation of the Equator. However, widely rejecting the offer of secession, only the town of Olinda sided with Pernambuco. Responding with a naval division and 1,200 soldiers, faced with such odds the already indifferent population of Pernambuco offered little resistance to the imperial forces. Despite declaring he would fight to the death, Andrade instead abandoned his outnumbered men and fled in secret aboard a British ship. Offering a pardon to all but sixteen of those involved in the rebellion, Pedro quickly reasserted his control over the region.

20 Separatist Movements that Changed History
František Palacký, whose actions in 1848 laid the groundwork for the foundation of the Young Czech Party (c. 1855). Wikimedia Commons.

10. Playing a foundational role in the independence of Bohemia from the Germanic empires of Europe, the Young Czechs never reaped the rewards of their decades of work

Following the 1848 Revolutions, the Austrian government was compelled to cede the right to hold elections for a parliament to the Bohemian national assembly. However, never actually taking place due to disagreements, in June František Palacký instead demanded at the Prague Slavic Congress withdrawal from the German Confederation. Triggering mass uprisings, including in Vienna, although suppressed following the creation of an Imperial Council in 1860 separatist sentiment organized once more. Splitting into two ideologically separate groups, in September 1874, seven elected Young Czechs took their seats in the Diet in defiance of the Old Czech policy of abstention in protest of the February Patent.

Relinquishing their boycott on the German Reichsrat in 1880, by the turn of the century they had successfully won one-fifth of the seats and overturned the German majority in the parliament. Nevertheless, the group faced severe repression at the hands of the governing authorities and remained unable to achieve legislative goals due to a united opposition to Bohemian independence. Gradually losing ground to the Social Democrats, the Young Czechs had declined into obscurity by the time secession was achieved in 1918, whereupon the state of Czechoslovakia was founded.

20 Separatist Movements that Changed History
Map of the Captaincy General of Yucatán during its colonial tenure as New Spain. Wikimedia Commons.

9. An attempt by the province of Yucatán to declare independence from the Mexican Federation, the Republic of Yucatán defeated their larger rival militarily but later succumbed to severe economic pressures

Initially existing briefly between May 29, 1823, and December 23, 1823, as the Federated Republic of Yucatán, the short-lived entity became one of the founding members of the United Mexican States following its transition from a monarchy into a republic. Swearing to recognize the government of Mexico “only if it is liberal and representative”, even whilst enthusiastically entering, Yucatán warily laid the groundwork for a future secession and retained the right to “form their particular Constitution” if necessary. Following the increased centralization of power and loss of autonomy, after being denied return to federalization Yucatán declared independence in February 1840.

Led by the commander of the federal army in Yucatán, the separatists quickly seized control over the territory and formally proclaimed the Republic of Yucatán once again on March 13, 1841. Instituting one of the most progressive constitutions of the age, including the abolition of conscription and provisions for religious liberty, Mexico responded by declaring war. Failing to invade the Yucatán Peninsula, sending four thousand soldiers to discover almost fifteen thousand waiting for them, Mexico responded by blockading their new neighbor. Causing economic turmoil throughout the republic, as a result of the Caste War with indigenous Mayans, Yucatán was forced to accept military aid from Mexico and rejoin the Federation.

20 Separatist Movements that Changed History
Armed Freikorps paramilitaries – the group responsible for the suppression of the Bavarian Soviet Republic – in Berlin (c. 1919). Wikimedia Commons,

8. Beginning as a separatist movement mirroring the German Revolution of 1918, the People’s State of Bavaria was hijacked by revolutionary communists to become the Bavarian Soviet Republic before being brought down and returning to the Weimar Republic as a semi-autonomous federal state

Following the defeat of the German Empire in the First World War, civil unrest spread throughout the nation. Starting with the German Revolution, which saw the overthrow of the monarchy and creation of the Weimar Republic, on November 7 King Ludwig III of Bavaria was forced to follow suit and flee his dominion. Led by Kurt Eisner and the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany, a People’s State of Bavaria was proclaimed but his party inexplicably came sixth in elections held the following February. However, whilst en route to announce his resignation, Eisner was shot dead by right-wing nationalist Anton Graf von Arco auf Valley.

Prompting violence between rival politicians, each blaming the other for the murder, unrest and lawlessness engulfed the infant state. Energized by the revolution in Hungary, a group of Communists led by Ernst Toller declared a Soviet Republic on April 7, 1919. Calling upon a Bavarian Red Army to support the dictatorship of the proletariat, Toller announced the ruthless suppression of counter-revolutionary ideas and behavior. Although celebrated by Lenin in Red Square, Socialist leader Johannes Hoffman contracted the Freikorps to save Bavaria. Providing access to twenty thousand trained soldiers, the Freikorps stormed Munich one month later and reclaimed the region from the revolutionary communists.

20 Separatist Movements that Changed History
Daguerreotype of Antonio López de Santa Anna, taken by the Meade Brothers (c. 1853). Wikimedia Commons.

7. A short-lived effort to stand up to the imperial aspirations of Mexico’s first president and dictator, Santa Anna, the Republic of the Rio Grande was failed by an arrogant and duplicitous commander-in-chief

Akin to the Republic of Yucatán, following the shift towards a centralized government by General Santa Anna in 1833, regional concerns regarding the condition of the fledgling Mexican republic were widespread. In response to Santa Anna’s suspension of the Constitution of 1824, as well as his dissolution of Congress and conversion of elected assemblies into military juntas, Antonio Canales called a convention in Laredo which voted to uphold the constitution. Raising an army, the republicans defeated the Mexican forces at Mier and soon after, on January 17, 1840, formally announced their secession and formation of a new republic.

Although aided by Texas, the Republic of the Rio Grande faced insurmountable opposition. With most of the government fleeing to Texas for sanctuary, Canales refused and instead resolved to meet Mexico in battle. Overwhelmed and outnumbered, the arrogant revolutionary lost the bulk of his forces and was forced to retreat into exile. Rebuilding his army and seeking to reconquer the lost republic, Canales secretly engaged in negotiations with Santa Anna’s representative General Arista. Surrendering on November 6, 1840, Canales accepted a pardon and a position as an officer within Anna’s army. With the loss of its commander-in-chief, the republic swiftly fell.

20 Separatist Movements that Changed History
Stjepan Radić at the assembly in Dubrovnik (c. pre-1928). Wikimedia Commons.

6. Attempting to obtain independent rule for Croatia, first under Austria-Hungary and later under the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the Croatian People’s Party repeatedly came so close to their goal before being suppressed by authoritarianism each time

Founded in 1904 by Antun and Stjepan Radić, the Croatian People’s Peasant Party was created with the objective of obtaining independent statehood for Croatia from Austria-Hungary. Following the end of the First World War and the breakup of the Austrian Empire, Croatia was earmarked for the newly formed Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Campaigning that their participation should be the product of self-determination and only go ahead following a plebiscite, in the 1920 parliamentary elections the Radić Brothers’ party won all fifty-eight seats assigned to Croatia. Failing to achieve their goals within the system, in 1920, unhappy with the poor position of Croats within the new kingdom, the party shifted its stance to secession.

Becoming the Croatian Republican Peasant Party, the political movement garnered even wider support. Doubling the number of votes won in the 1923 and 1925 elections, the separatist party rose to become the second largest in the Yugoslav Parliament. However, attracting sustained persecution by Yugoslav authorities, the party suffered following the assassination of Stjepan Radić in 1928. The following year, King Alexander declared the imposition of a dictatorship and the outlawing of any political opposition. Continuing underground throughout Nazi occupation, many leading members were forced to flee the country into exile upon the start of communist rule in 1945.

20 Separatist Movements that Changed History
The first inauguration of Jefferson Davis as President of the Confederate States of America at Montgomery, Alabama (c. February 18, 1861). Wikimedia Commons.

5. Precipitating the American Civil War, the secession and formation of the Confederate States of America was an effort by the South to withdraw from the infant United States and create their own country on the North American continent

Formed by the secession of seven states from the United States of America, joined later by four more, the Confederate States of America sought to extricate itself from the Union and form an independent nation. Declaring their departure from the North American country following the election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860, who had won office opposed to the expansion of slavery into the western territories and without appearing on the ballot in the southern states, on February 8, 1861, the Confederate Constitution was promulgated. Rejected by the federal government as illegal, following the attack on Fort Sumter by Confederate forces on April 12, 1861, the American Civil War began.

Failing to garner recognition from a single foreign entity, the separatists stood alone against the emerging industrial might of the remaining United States. Outnumbered and outmaneuvered, the Confederacy came close to securing their independence at the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. Without allies, resources, or sufficient manpower, after four brutal years of conflict, the Confederacy was forced to surrender to the Union in 1865. Reabsorbed into the United States and occupied by federal troops until 1877, the secession effort claimed the lives of more American soldiers than every other war, both prior and since, combined.

20 Separatist Movements that Changed History
A Swiss political poster advocating for the accession of Vorarlberg to the Swiss Confederacy, by Jules Courvoisier (c. 1919). Wikimedia Commons.

4. Lasting for more than a century, the Alemannic secession movement repeatedly sought to unify their culturally and ethnically similar inhabitants with those residing within the Swiss Confederacy

Divided across the regions of Baden and Württemberg, also including parts of Swabia in modern-day Bavaria, inhabitants of these areas were historically, culturally, and linguistically distinct from the German confederacy of states. Speaking instead varying dialects known as High German, suffering persecution and marginalization within wider Germany for this distinction, Alemannic separatism first emerged during the Napoleonic occupation and reorganization of the region into the Confederation of the Rhine between 1806 and 1813. Reintegrated into Germany following the fall of the Napoleonic Empire, support for self-determination did not cease.

Growing resurgent in the aftermath of the First World War, attempts were made by Alemannic separatists to ride the coat-tails of other new nations. On May 11, 1919, Vorarlberg, part of the short-lived Republic of German-Austria, voted eighty-one percent in favor of secession and joining Switzerland. Denied by Vienna, similar polls were brutally repressed in Baden and Württemberg before elections could be held. Emerging once more upon the conclusion of the Second World War, the French overseeing authorities repeatedly denied any such overtures. Following the forced creation of the German state of Baden-Württemberg within the newly created Federal Republic in 1952, support for separatism diminished and faded into obscurity.

20 Separatist Movements that Changed History
Orélie-Antoine I, King of Araucanía and Patagonia (date unknown). Wikimedia Commons.

3. An attempt captained by an insane French lawyer, the Kingdom of Araucanía and Patagonia was a short-lived political entity that sought to secede from Chile

Inspired to become a king after reading La Araucana by Alonso de Ercilla, in 1858 French former lawyer Orélie-Antoine de Tounens departed his homeland for South America. Arriving at the port of Coquimbo, Chile, Antoine met with the tribal chieftains of the Ioncos and promised to secure French backing to their ongoing insurgency against colonial oppression. Elected as their Supreme Chieftain – likely in the belief a European face would enhance their previously unsuccessful cause – on November 17, 1860, Antoine issued a decree denouncing colonial interference and proclaiming the formation of the independent Kingdom of Araucanía and Patagonia. Naming himself as its inaugural king, Antoine unnecessarily provoked Chilean authorities.

Responding with the Occupation of Araucanía, Chilean president José Joaquín Pérez ordered a full-scale invasion to capture the rogue monarch and end the indigenous rebellion. Despite promising arms and foreign support, Antoine was unable to fulfill any of his pledges to the Inonco prior to his coronation. Captured on January 5, 1862, Antoine was imprisoned before being declared insane by a court in Santiago. Expelled to France on October 28, 1862, Antoine would return to Chile three more times to ferment rebellion and attempt to reclaim his lost kingdom.

20 Separatist Movements that Changed History
President Afeef Didi, pictured with the Suvadive flag (date unknown). Wikimedia Commons.

2. Rejecting their central government after centuries of mistreatment, the United Suvadive Republic sought to break away from the Maldives before being forced to return by the British

Historically, the remote southern atolls of the Maldive Islands developed and existed in a state of near-total isolation and separation from the administrative capital of their country. Divided by dangerous waters, without even basic needs met, the southern atolls turned instead to British Sri Lanka and India for trade and provisions. Following the British withdraw from the Indian subcontinent, the central Malé government sought to reassert control and authority over their wayward southern possessions. Imposing unilateral controls and restrictions, including a land tax and poll tax, without representation and after centuries of inattention, the southern islands responded angrily.

Following the announcement of plans for a tax on boats, the southern atolls revolted. Declaring their independence on January 3, 1959, Addu Atoll, joined by Huvadhu Atoll and Fuvahmulah, banded together to promulgate the formation of the United Suvadive Republic. However, abandoned by the British, the Maldives responded with a violent campaign to suppress the separatists. Culminating in the Massacre of Thinadhoo, whereupon soldiers engaged in the systematic raising of the eponymous town on Huvadhu Atoll, on September 22, 1963, the British ordered, under threat of severe punishment, the immediate dissolution of the rebellious Republic and reconciliation with the central government in spite of its oppression.

20 Separatist Movements that Changed History
The leader of the Negros Revolution, General Aniceto Lacson (c. 1898). Wikimedia Commons.

1. Seeking to take advantage of the preoccupation of the Spanish due to war with the United States, the island of Negros declared independence from the Philippines before being forced to surrender to the victorious Americans

Initially thought to have been unsympathetic to their counterparts during the “Cry of Balintawak” and subsequent revolt headed by the Tagalog Katipuneros, two years later the sugar planters oof the island of Negro followed suit and rebelled against the Spanish Empire. Taking advantage of the ongoing Spanish-American War in the Philippines, the Negrenses revolted against imperial authorities and the colonial governor. Raising an army, the revolutionaries, led by Juan Araneta and Aniceto Lacson, marched on the foremost city of the island: Bacolod. Witnessing a pincer movement and a large host seemingly armed with rifles and cannons, the Spanish elected to surrender just days later.

Later transpiring to have used rifles made from palm fronds and cannons constructed from rolled bamboo, the victorious islanders instituted a provisional government with Lacson as their President. Proclaiming on November 27, 1898, the establishment of the Cantonal Republic of Negros, with the ongoing conflict against the Americans proceeding poorly, Lacson made the decision to raise the American flag instead and welcome the impending invaders. Surrendering to the United States on March 4, 1899, the Republic of Negros was permitted to exist independently until April 30, 1901, when the United States annexed the islands back into the Philippines.

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“Silesia and Central European Nationalism: The Emergence of National and Ethnic Groups in Prussian Silesia and Austrian Silesia, 1848-1918”, Tomasz Kamusella, Purdue University Press (2007)

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“Revolution in Bavaria, 1918-1919: The Eisner Regime and the Soviet Republic”, Allan Mitchell, Princeton University Press (2015)

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River of Hope: Forging Identity and Nation in the Rio Grande Borderlands”, Omar S. Valerio-Jimenez, Duke University Press (2013)

“The First Yugoslavia: Search for a Viable Political System”, Alex N. Dragnich, Hoover Press (1983)

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