Multiethnic societies, in contrast to nationalistic societies, integrate different ethnic groups irrespective of differences in culture, race, and history under a common social identity larger than one "nation" in the conventional sense. All cities and most towns can be regarded as multiethnic societies, even ones where prejudice is common.

Also, nations that today are considered monoethnic, like France or Spain, have their origins in a more or less violent melting or mixing process.

There is a distinction between a society, a nation, a people, and a state. See multi-national state for the specific political and military issues arising from such a state. There is much overlap however between the concerns of running a state, and finding a common identity as a nation.

Table of contents
1 History of multiethnic societies
2 Examples of existing multiethnic societies
3 Examples for destroyed multiethnic societies
4 Preconditions for the success of multiethnic societies
5 Possible reasons for breakdown of multiethnic societies

History of multiethnic societies

Multiethnic societies have existed in various historical contexts such as ancient China, the Roman Empire, or the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In recent times, formation of the United States of America, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia are examples of more or less successful multiethnic societies. Last but not least, establishment of the European Union is such a multiethnic experiment which is still in progress and whose outcome is still uncertain.

The ultimate step in multiethnic integration is the U.N, whose goal is to ensure the peaceful coexistence of as many different countries or ethnic groups as possible.

Examples of existing multiethnic societies

Examples for destroyed multiethnic societies

Preconditions for the success of multiethnic societies

An apparent important precondition for the success of a multiethnic society is the availability of a common language, as was the case in the Roman Empire, and still is the case in the U.S. Alternatively, several "overlapping" languages, as found in the European Union or Canada, can serve the same function. However, even in the European Union, English is the lingua franca for business and scientific exchange.

An even more important precondition for the functioning of a multiethnic society is an education towards tolerance and understanding. This means not the weak tolerance of those who feel themselves inferior, but the strong tolerance of a self-confident but not proud personality which is able and willing to learn from others without fear of losing its own identity.

Possible reasons for breakdown of multiethnic societies

Due to their ethnic or cultural heterogeneity, multiethnic societies in general are more fragile and have a higher risk of conflicts. In the worst case such conflicts can cause the brakdown of these societies. Recent examples of this were the violent breakdown of Yugaoslavia and the peaceful separation of Czechoslovakia. Forced mixture or coexistence of ethnically different populations might be the reason for the outbreak of nationalistic and racistic tendencies which over the years can become so strong that they are able to destruct a multiethnic society.

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