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Ethiopian nationalism

Ethiopian nationalism asserts that Ethiopians are a nation and promoted the cultural unity of Ethiopians. It is especially centered on the culture of the Amhara people.[1]


Painting depicting the Battle of Adwa of 1896 where Ethiopian forces were victorious over invading Italian forces. The victory is cherished as an example of Ethiopia upholding its independence against European colonial powers, and is annually celebrated in Ethiopia in Victory at Adwa Day.

The conception of an Ethiopian nation by Ethiopian nationalists is stated to have begun with the Aksumite Kingdom in the 4th century A.D.[1] The Aksumite Kingdom was a predominantly Christian state that at the height of its power controlled what is now the Ethiopian Highlands, Eritrea and the coastal regions of Southern Arabia.[1] The Aksumite Kingdom was responsible for the development of the religious movement that became the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.[1] However the expansion of Islam in the 7th century caused the decline of the Aksumite Kingdom and most of the lowland populations converted to Islam while the highland people remained Christian.[1] Since the Aksumite people became divided between Christian highlands and Islamic lowlands, religious and tribal tensions and rivalries between the people intensified.[1] The Aksumite society changed into a loose confederation of city states that maintained the language of Aksum.[1]

Plain tricolour flag of Ethiopia without state symbolism on it, the Ethiopian tricolour is a common symbol of Ethiopian identity.

The establishment of modern Ethiopia was led by the Amhara people, particularly Amhara emperors, Tewodros II of Gondar who governed from 1855 to 1868, Yohannis IV who governed from 1869 to 1889 and managed to expand his authority into Eritrea, Menelik II who governed from 1889 to 1913 and repelled the Italian invasion of 1896.[1]

Ethiopia unlike the rest of Africa had never been colonized.[1] Ethiopia was accepted as the first independent African-governed state at the League of Nations in 1922.[1] Ethiopia was occupied by Italy after the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, but Ethiopia was liberated by the Allies during World War II.[1]

After the war Ethiopia annexed Eritrea.[2] However ethnic tensions surged between the Amhara versus the Eritrean, Oromo, Somali, and Tigray peoples whom each had formed separatist movements dedicated to leaving Amhara-dominated Ethiopia.[2] After the overthrow of the Ethiopian monarchy by the Derg military junta it aligned itself with the Soviet Union and Cuba after the United States failed to aid Ethiopia in its military struggle with Somali separatists in the Ogaden region.[2] After the end of military government in Ethiopia, in 1993 Eritrea separated from Ethiopia.[2]

Influence on others

Ethiopia's influential Lion of Judah flag.

Although Ethiopian nationalism was only conceived for Ethiopians and specifically grew out of Ethiopian culture, various non-Ethiopian peoples and polities have over the years drawn inspiration from it. Following the coronation of the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I (Ras Tafari) in 1930, the Rastafarian movement based in the Caribbean erected an elaborate religious philosophy that depicted Ethiopia as the spiritual homeland for Jamaicans.[3]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Motyl 2001, pp. 149.
  2. ^ a b c d Motyl 2001, pp. 150.
  3. ^ Motyl 2001, pp. 149-150.