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The Formation of Ethnic and National Identities  

Liah Greenfeld and Nicolas Prevelakis

Nationalism is the worldview of the modern world. It is based on three fundamental principles: it is secular; it sees the members of the community defined as a nation as fundamentally equal; and it presupposes popular sovereignty. Modern ethnicity, that is, ethnic identity, is the result of ethnic nationalism. One can classify nationalisms into three major types: the individualistic-civic type, as seen in England, the United States, and a few other countries, though it remains a minority in the world; the collectivistic-civic type—also a minority; and finally, the collectivistic-ethnic type, which is found in most of the nations in the world. This third and last type is what is usually referred to as “ethnic identity” in the modern world. These types of nationalism seldom exist in their ideal form. Typically, one will find a combination of elements from different types. Their relative importance may vary from one period to another, or within the same period and among different social strata. The case of Greek nationalism illustrates this point. It also represents a clear example of the causal role of nationalism in shaping ethnic identity. The seeds of ethnicity emerged in the first decades of the Greek state, though it was only in the middle of the nineteenth century that Greek nationalism took its definite ethnic form. This evolution can be seen in two areas: the emergence of Greek irredentism, and the construction of Greek historiography.