Has there ever been an independence movement with the goal to split off an underperforming part of a nation?



There have been many independence movements in history. The Wikipedia category of independence movements alone lists 145 articles about mostly distinct independence / seperationist / liberation movements.

It seems that all of these movements have one thing in common: They involve some group of people who want to split off from another group, for religious, economic, etc. reasons, with the other group denying the split.

Has there ever been a case where the reverse scenario happened? Was there a group of people who wanted some other group of people to split off, and the other group refused? Perhaps a country with a couple wealthy states who want to get rid of some poor, underperforming state?

Robert Hönig

Posted 2021-01-27T13:08:01.567

Reputation: 653

Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.

– JJJ – 2021-01-29T19:30:44.063

1The title asks about "an underperforming part", the body lists that as possible example of what it actually asks for: a case where "the other group refused". Please clarify! – Leif Willerts – 2021-01-29T20:05:00.053

2Vocabulary nit: the term "independence movement" is usually applied to a group who wants independence for themselves. Casting off an undesired portion of yourself against that group's wishes is probably more accurately described as an "expulsion" or an "ejection". You may get more results searching with those terms. – bta – 2021-01-30T00:51:24.843

Rule 34 by Charles Stross features a fictional example. The under-performing part is temporarily hived off in a complicated scheme to engineer a short squeeze on its national debt, thereby paying off the parent country's national debt. – Paul Johnson – 2021-02-01T16:01:03.033



An example I could think of is Singapore. The country became independent from Malaysia after the Malaysian Parliament voted to expel Singapore, due to a combination of racial, economic and political tensions (Wikipedia has a relatively informative article regarding this). This came two years after a union was formed between Malaysia and Singapore (both Singapore and Malaysia were British colonies before). From the country's Library Board:

On 9 August 1965, Singapore separated from Malaysia to become an independent and sovereign state.3 The separation was the result of deep political and economic differences between the ruling parties of Singapore and Malaysia,3 which created communal tensions that resulted in racial riots in July and September 1964.3

[ ... ]

Although all signs were pointing to trouble, very few were prepared for the dramatic end to Singapore’s union with Malaysia.

From the BBC:

In 1965, Singapore was forced to leave the Malaysian Federation. Manjit remembers seeing the prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, cry during an interview. "We'd go to our neighbours' house and watch TV and we saw him crying and we didn't know why."

It was a traumatic beginning to independence. Many believed Singapore could not survive on its own. But with huge hopes for the future, Singapore began to build the infrastructure that would transform the city.

At that time, Singapore was one of the "poorest countries in the world" and its transformation to its current success has sometimes been dubbed the "Singapore miracle".

From The Huffington Post:

When Singapore was expelled from Malaysia in 1965 and thrust into an unwanted independence, it was a typical Third World country. Its per capita income of $500 was the same as Ghana’s then. It was not desperately poor, but it had malnutrition.


Posted 2021-01-27T13:08:01.567

Reputation: 41 470

1Not for nothing did the Royal Navy put a base there. The fact that it's PCI is the crime. – RonJohn – 2021-01-27T21:46:48.053

9@RonJohn What does PCI mean here? – Ergwun – 2021-01-28T04:29:17.983

2@Ergwun per capita income. – RonJohn – 2021-01-28T04:57:40.287


Fairly confident Singapore is also the only example, because Singapore is the only modern nation to become independent against its will. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Singapore_in_Malaysia (third paragraph in the lede)

– Allure – 2021-01-28T07:13:03.873

However, doesn't this also fit the "racial tension" category of splits? Malay vs Chinese – pjc50 – 2021-01-28T09:45:14.563

1@pjc50 I think OP's intention (though not clearly stated, requires clarification) is to find examples where it's the larger part of the country who wanted a smaller part split off. Or possibly the ones who wanted the others out kept the name. – jcaron – 2021-01-28T11:24:44.287

9Fascinating and informative answer, but a major criterion of the question seems unclear: Was Singapore “poor” or “underperforming” compared to the rest of Malaysia? The answer and its sources give figures showing Singapore in 1965 was poor compared to Western countries then, or to Singapore 20 years later. But I can’t find anything comparing it to the rest of Malaysia in 1965 — everything in the sources seems consistent with, say, Singapore having been one of the more successful parts of the union, but Malaysia demanding more weath-sharing than Singapore was willing to accept. – Peter LeFanu Lumsdaine – 2021-01-28T11:57:35.043

3Of course, that deal did not work out so well for Malaysia. Singapore today has one of the highest GDPs per capita in the world, while Malaysia is doing far worse. Singapore even outperforms Malaysia in nominal GDP, despite being a much smaller country. Maybe this example speaks to why expelling an underperforming region is not such a great idea. – Darrel Hoffman – 2021-01-28T15:31:55.183

1@Allure: But only if you do not count Danzig and Austria after WWI. – Jan – 2021-01-28T22:38:22.823

The RN put a navy base there as Singapore is a good spot to have a base to control sea traffic from Asia to the Indian ocean and beyond. – C'est Moi – 2021-01-28T22:55:51.497

However it sounds like they weren't completely unified, but rather in a strong union similar to the European Union. – JonathanReez – 2021-01-29T12:57:39.943

3@JonathanReez Not quite, Malaysia is a federation. Singapore was one of 14 states of Malaysia (now it has 13 states). Singapore then was also represented in the UN as part of Malaysia, unlike individual EU countries. – Politics Enthusiast – 2021-01-29T13:21:57.803


If exaggerated slightly, Denmark "wants to" "get rid of" Greenland.

In reality, Denmark would be fine with Greenland's independence, in case they ever wanted it. The problem is that 78% of Greenlanders are opposed to independence, if it means a fall in living standards. Currently Greenland's economy relies on fishery, tourism and a substantial annual block grant from the Danish state. It is expensive for Denmark to have Greenland, so most likely there are people in Denmark who want Greenland's independence for that reason, but they are too polite of a nation to express it publicly like that.


Posted 2021-01-27T13:08:01.567

Reputation: 419

8Very nicely put: "but they are too polite nation to express it publicly like that" – Bennet – 2021-01-28T12:17:22.980

11Maybe they could make a huge deal with an interested buyer ;-) – Italian Philosophers 4 Monica – 2021-01-29T04:03:10.367

1Not so sure Danmark would let them go that easily. Greenland is a huge territory near the north pole. With the ice melting over that region they will get really nice locations for gas/oil drilling. And even more importantly they will be really nicely located for future navigational routes that will go over that area (way shorter to go from Asia to Europe or America via the north pole than the current routes) – Moucheg – 2021-01-29T08:39:46.313

4@Moucheg Long-term oil and gas drilling is incompatible with the Paris climate agreement, to which Denmark is a signatory. – gerrit – 2021-01-29T09:02:23.940

5@ItalianPhilosophers4Monica In fact, they got quite mad when Trump offered to buy Greenland, "it's not ours to sell!". They are strongly in favor of Greenland's right to self-govern. – Boat – 2021-01-29T12:09:07.313

@gerrit I might be wrong, but I think the Paris agreement is only about keeping warming below 1.5C. But oil can be used for plastics manufacture etc, which I think is still fine under the Paris agreement? – Tim – 2021-01-29T15:30:01.643

1@Tim I don't know enough about the long-term climate environmental impact of producing plastics from fossil resources to comment on that. – gerrit – 2021-01-29T16:32:01.880

@gerrit Given some large swath of agricultural lands that you could either use to grow materials for alternative plastics, or that you could reforest, I'm pretty sure reforesting the land (or keeping it forest in the first place) and using fossil source plastics is better in the medium term. Plastic from fossil sources has (apart from manufacturing energy expenditure, etc., which doesn't depend that much on the source of raw material) very roughly the same climate impact and heating value as crude oil (of the same weight). – Nobody – 2021-01-30T13:25:00.880

@gerrit Well China is also but they don't do much about it.. But oil isn't the only thing. I think the fact that it will be along a navigational route )in the future) is way more important & valuable – Moucheg – 2021-01-31T07:58:34.737

1@ItalianPhilosophers4Monica you have misspelled "yuge." – phoog – 2021-02-01T15:52:32.613

1@Boat O yay! I remember the exchange, including The Donald deploying one of his trademark She's really nasty... twits about the response he got. Kinda odd to be back to a POTUS behaving with decorum. – Italian Philosophers 4 Monica – 2021-02-01T19:48:40.033


If I understand the question correctly, Italy's Lega Nord might fit the bill. The modern incarnation had become the kind of right-wing populist party that's rising across the Western world. But, as its name suggests, it's original mission was to split rich northern Italy from the much poorer south, in order to stop tax revenue from the former flowing into the latter.

As Wikipedia put it:

The LN advocates the transformation of Italy into a federal state, fiscal federalism, regionalism and greater regional autonomy, especially for northern regions. At times, the party has advocated the secession of the North, referred to as "Padania", and consequently Padanian nationalism.

Lega Nord has long maintained an anti-southern Italian stance. Party members have been known to oppose large-scale southern Italian migration to northern Italian cities, stereotyping southern Italians as welfare abusers, criminals and detrimental to Northern society. Party members have often attributed Italy's economic stagnation and the disparity of the North-South divide in the Italian economy to supposed negative characteristics of the southern Italians, such as lack of education, laziness, or criminality.

Bob Tway

Posted 2021-01-27T13:08:01.567

Reputation: 1 795

3Unless I'm missing something, this is the usual scenario described by OP (a rich part wanting a secession), and not the unusual one OP asked about (kicking just one small part of the country). – Eric Duminil – 2021-01-28T22:43:23.240

2@EricDuminil It's more the rich part wanting the whole state to be divided in two roughly equal parts, so it's arguably neither (the Lega certainly did not want the new "Northern" state to be called "Italy", the name "Padania" was often mooted, although it's hard to say how seriously) – Denis Nardin – 2021-01-28T22:59:03.997

1Same thing with Catalonia and Spain – Moucheg – 2021-01-29T08:41:04.883

@Moucheg Not really. For starters, Catalonia has its own language. Also Catalonia is tiny compared to spain as a whole, while northern and southern italy are roughly the same. The border between the two areas is also much better defined in spain, as far as I know. The Lega Nord is a far right-wing party, while Catalonian separatism is independent of the left-right spectrum. – Nobody – 2021-01-30T13:12:24.187

@EricDuminil I think you are missing something. The Lega Nord is actively perpetrating stereotypes against the south, they say the south is inferior, etc. They don't just want two nations, they want two nations with closed borders between them. So it's fair to say they want to expel those parts. In the case of Catalonia for example, no one in Catalonia is trying to picture Spaniards as inferior human trash, they just feel that they are being somewhat oppressed and want more self-determination. – Nobody – 2021-01-30T13:16:37.650

@Nobody I'm not sure whether the LN would have drawn the border, but the unified Italian language is very much a political construct. – phoog – 2021-02-01T15:55:12.640

@phoog I was under the impression that 'Italian' as a language was as predominant in Italy as for example German in Germany (i.e. most young and middle aged people speak it as their only non-foreign language). Is that wrong? – Nobody – 2021-02-01T16:22:04.313

1@Nobody It varies a lot regionally and with age cohort. Almost all Italians speak Italian as a native language, but significant groups are bilingual with their own regional language (typically older speakers and speakes from regions where the linguistic tradition is strong, like Veneto or Campania). This in fact is not unlike Germany, where particularly strong regional languages still survive as living languages (e.g. Bayerisch). It is not as strong as Catalan, but the LN originally made a point of having his politicians speak in regional languages during rallies. – Denis Nardin – 2021-02-06T07:58:14.577


Has there ever been a case where the reverse scenario happened? Was there a group of people who wanted some other group of people to split off, and the other group refused?

Tokelau has refused to split from New Zealand multiple times when pressed to do so.

Tokelau is a dependent territory of New Zealand near Samoa, inherited as a colony from the UK. Tokelauans are New Zealand citizens, and New Zealand retains the power to legislate for it, though it is in practice locally self-governing. This is a different situation to Niue and the Cook Islands, which are fully self-governing independent states that New Zealand has no power to govern but which retain some constitutional links and citizenship.

The United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization's list of "Non-Self-Governing Territories" that it urges to be decolonised includes Tokelau, and New Zealand as the controlling power. New Zealand wishes to be removed from that list of colonial powers, and has pressed Tokelau to become independent in the same way that Niue and the Cook Islands did decades earlier.

In 2006, there was a referendum held in Tokelau under the auspices of the United Nations decolonisation process, which rejected the option. That result was unexpected and unwelcome by the New Zealand government, and the next year there was a second referendum on the same topic, which also rejected it. One caveat to these is that under the standard UN process for these votes, the threshold to pass was 2/3, and in both cases a simple majority did vote in favour, but short of the requisite bar.

I'm not sure whether you'd count this or not: it's not a popular "reverse-independence" movement, but an abstract push driven by elite governing actors; most people in New Zealand are probably not aware of Tokelau's status at all. Nor is it pushing out an underperforming territory, since Tokelau would retain all support it currently receives and it's unlikely to be any cheaper in free association. It is, however, a case of "a group of people who want some other group of people to split off, and the other group refused", actively, by voting against it repeatedly.

Michael Homer

Posted 2021-01-27T13:08:01.567

Reputation: 290

Huh, weird. So New Zealand wants to get rid of them against the will of most of their inhabitants, and the UN agrees? – Obie 2.0 – 2021-01-29T16:26:26.873

Against the will of just over a third of their inhabitants, yes, though nobody is suggesting it happen in spite of the vote — I think the result of the first referendum was a surprise, and both the UN and the New Zealand government had expected it to pass because the practical difference would be essentially nil. The second referendum followed some efforts to reassure people who were concerned that there would be a substantive change, but the vote didn't shift by enough to pass. – Michael Homer – 2021-01-29T20:24:16.860


The dissolution of Czechoslovakia was somewhat like this. Though not a coherent political movement, opinions to "let the Slovaks go" were present in the Czech Republic, and it culminated by basically the Czech politicians deciding to dismantle the federation.

Radovan Garabík

Posted 2021-01-27T13:08:01.567

Reputation: 918

2This is quite surprising, many Czechs would probably swear it was just the opposite: Slovaks (especially their leader Meciar) wanted to leave and that is why the country split. Scenario of the richer part getting rid of the poorer part definitely surely wasn’t the case of Czechoslovakia. – vojta – 2021-01-28T20:54:07.550

2The version I heard (from someone who spent two semesters in Slovakia some years ago) is that the Slovaks voted for Meciar, but did not really want independence. And then they were quite surprised when the Czechs gave them what they had voted for. Not sure if that is accurate - but anyway the answer would be better with some words on Meciar etc. – Jan – 2021-01-28T22:31:10.893

Well, the only party with an outright independence goal was SNS, an they got just a few percent in the election (though other parties, like KDH, toyed with the idea). HZDS was quickly becoming a typical populist party, and Mečiar probably knew independence agenda was not something to win the vote of Joe the Average. And then there were polls giving about 30% in favour of the independence - and the referendum clause put into the constitution (at the insistence of the Slovaks) that was never exercised. Mečiar winning the Slovak election was likely the last straw (or a welcome excuse) for Klaus. – Radovan Garabík – 2021-02-01T12:32:01.777

This answer lacks any mention of whether the Slovak Republic or Czech Republic was "underperforming" relative to the other. Without that, it appears not to be responsive to the question, because if they split for reasons other than "performance," this example is not relevant. – phoog – 2021-02-01T16:01:07.027


In Belgium, there is the Flemish Movement. Belgium is split in two areas, very roughly speaking it is Flanders in the North and Wallonia in the South. Wallonia is the economically poorer part nowadays, but the Flemish Movement already started when this was not the case and when Flanders was over-ruled by the rich South:

In the 19th century, the area began to industrialize, mainly along the so-called sillon industriel. It was the first fully industrialized area in continental Europe,[12] and Wallonia was the second industrial power in the world, in proportion to its population and its territory, after the United Kingdom.[17]


Wallonia is rich in iron and coal, and these resources and related industries have played an important role in its history.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wallonia

Nowadays, after the decay of the mining industry, Wallonia has become the weaker part of the economy, and the old resentments are still there: in addition to the new costs of the South.

In recent history, the Flemish Movement has increasingly grown amid the 2007-11 Belgian political crisis and its aftermath.[1][2][3] Since 2010, the separatist N-VA party has been the biggest polled in Flanders,[4] while Vlaams Belang, has become the second largest in the 2019 federal and regional elections.[5]

In the last decade, Belgium was at the threshold of partition. Still, partition of Belgium has its own wikipedia entry more for historical reasons. That is why it does not fully count as an answer here: since this movement has already grown the most when Flanders was the underperforming part, and the underperformance of Wallonia is likely not the main reason for the power of the separatist N-VA party or 2019 Vlaams Belang, but history. The clearest reason seems to be written in these lines about the start of the Flemish Movement:

French was the only official language of Belgium until 1898, even though Flanders was and still is predominantly Dutch-speaking. The government's long refusal to acknowledge Dutch as an official language led to hostilities between Flanders and the French-speaking bourgeoisie who held both political and economic power. These hostilities gave rise to the Flemish movement, which began as a literary and cultural organization, but later became a political movement that called for legal recognition of Dutch and for social emancipation of the Flemish people.

That Flemish movement was obviously a reaction to the Walloon Movement starting in 1880:

The Walloon movement arose in the 19th century along with the language disputes; French-speakers sought the preservation of the French language and culture as the defining creed of the country.

Of course, the Walloon economic "underperformance" of today will still play a role, therefore this post, but it does not fully fit.


Posted 2021-01-27T13:08:01.567

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Not a popular movement, but in 1866, Prussia fought a war against Austria to expel it from Germany (of which it was [kind of] a part then).

Jann Poppinga

Posted 2021-01-27T13:08:01.567

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8There was no Germany in 1866 from which Prussia could try to expel Austria. At best, there was the German Confederation which was more like the EU. And only parts of Austria and Prussia (the parts with significant German-speaking populations – essentially the former Empire of 1806) were part of the Confederation. – Jan – 2021-01-28T15:57:51.537

2And the reason for the conflict was not that Austria was "underperforming" at the time, it was more that it (or the ruling Habsburg family) was considered too influencial and that it tried to expand its influence even more. Austria did lag a little behind in industrial developement, and had missed a few crucial developments in weapon technologies, but while that was a factor contributing to the outcome of the war, I don't think it was an important part of the cause. – Hulk – 2021-01-29T14:25:28.083


Not sure if this counts, because it's not at a national level, but: During WWII, the US federal government purchased a small portion of land in a town near me (Randolph, NJ) to provide housing for workers for nearby war industry efforts.

A few years after the end of the war, with the area now housing both war industry workers and veterans, Randolph voted to split it off into a separate town (Victory Gardens, NJ), despite the overwhelming majority of votes from that area (483 out of 513) being cast in favor of staying as a part of Randolph. The pro-split side explicitly argued based on economic and political reasons for kicking the others out: Randolph is a pretty well-to-do town, whereas Victory Gardens is not, and Victory Gardens was heavily Democratic whereas Randolph was heavily Republican.

Bob Vesterman

Posted 2021-01-27T13:08:01.567

Reputation: 131


Logically speaking, there is no difference in the two cases you present. It is just a matter of definition.

Splitting off part X while your are outside of X is equivalent to splitting off the complement of X (in regards to the country you are in), which you reside in.

For example, let's say Germany wants to get rid of Berlin because it is underperforming. Now this is equivalent to us saying that Germany wants independence for not-Berlin (given Germany as the outside boundary).

Konrad Höffner

Posted 2021-01-27T13:08:01.567

Reputation: 119

1You are correct, and yet there are more and less satisfying answers to my question :). I have left the definition deliberately vague, because I didn't want to restrict answerers too much. Now that we see the consensus on good answers, we could introduce a more rigid definition... – Robert Hönig – 2021-01-29T15:23:52.400

1@RobertHönig but there may be a logical distinction to be made depending on the disposition of the debts and assets of the unified entity at the point of the split, and depending on the designation of the successor state on the world stage. Does Berlin get Germany's existing UN seat while newly independent not-Berlin has to apply as a new member? No; the opposite would happen. – phoog – 2021-02-01T16:12:37.593


There is one example I can think of. First, the Lega Nord (Northern League), a right wing party in Italy, at times advocated the independence of the north of Italy, and which it called Padania, from what they said was the under-performing south. It was established in 1991 as a federation of six regional parties from the north and the north-central of Italy. I'm not sure if it still advocates such a policy - but I rather doubt it.

Another possibility may be after the reunification of Germany after the fall of the Berlin wall. I know the vast majority of West Germans were not happy with the burden of integrating the under-performing East Germany. It would be surprising if some minor party had not attempted to make political hay out of this by advocating independence.

Mozibur Ullah

Posted 2021-01-27T13:08:01.567

Reputation: 3 678

2Bab Tway's answer already covers Lega Nord, and please point to any real independence movements where the Western half of Germany wants to 'kick out' the Eastern half. – CGCampbell – 2021-02-03T16:50:58.893

@CGCampbell: I'm noting the second case as a possibility that someone else may care to investigate and who has a closer knowledge of German politics than I do. And I did point out the Lega Nord as a real case, even if someone else has already answered the same. After all, it gives new information, stating that it was formed as a federation of six regional parties of the North and was inclined to think of North Italy as Padonia. Hence it's not plaigarism .... – Mozibur Ullah – 2021-02-03T17:08:24.107

-1 because: SE is not a forum. It is a Q&A. Any A's (answers) are expected to be full answers in and of themselves, not "possibilities, that some other people can craft into answers." That would be better suited as a comment. The first half of your answer is a repeat of another, and the second half is not an answer. And before you chastise me, consider that I have down-voted, and given my reasons for it, which is better than downvoting anonymously. – CGCampbell – 2021-02-03T17:16:20.807

@CGCampbell: "SE is not a forum" - I've heard that questioned elsewhere on the site. Plus, there are both questions and answers that include a point of information. The first half is not a repeat as I've already pointed out - you're accusing me of plaigarism - whilst it's merely two people coincidentally hitting upon the same example - and this is shown by the differing information that I've included. – Mozibur Ullah – 2021-02-03T17:20:49.833