Social group or category of the population that, in a larger society, is set apart and bound together by common ties of language, nationality, or culture. Ethnic diversity, the legacy of political conquests and migrations, is one aspect of the social complexity found in most contemporary societies. The nation-state has traditionally been uneasy with ethnic diversity, and nation-states have often attempted to eliminate or expel ethnic groups. Most nations today practice some form of pluralism, which usually rests on a combination of toleration, interdependence, and separatism. The concept of ethnicity is more important today than ever, as a result of the spread of doctrines of freedom, self-determination, and democracy. Seealso culture contact; ethnic cleansing; ethnocentrism; race; racism.
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The creation of an ethnically homogenous geographic area through the elimination of unwanted ethnic groups by deportation, forcible displacement, or genocide. Ethnic cleansing also has involved attempts to remove physical vestiges of the targeted group in the territory through the destruction and desecration of monuments, cemeteries, and houses of worship. Although some critics of the term have claimed that ethnic cleansing is simply a form of genocide, defenders of the usage have noted that, whereas the murder of an ethnic, racial, or religious group is the primary intention of a genocidal policy, the chief goal of ethnic cleansing is the establishment of homogenous lands, which may be achieved by any of a number of methods including genocide. The term was widely employed in the 1990s to describe the brutal treatment of Bosniacs (Bosnian Muslims), ethnic Serbs in the Krajina region of Croatia, and ethnic Albanians in the Serbian province of Kosovo during the conflicts that erupted in the wake of the disintegration of Yugoslavia.
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