Cite JOURNAL ARTICLE
Drawing Borders and Protecting Minorities in a Post-Imperial World: Legal Conflicts and the League of Nations’ Minority Protection Regime
German Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 63 (2020), Iss. 1 : pp. 189–222
Michael Jonas, PhD, Associate Professor, Chair of Modern History, and Senior Research Fellow, German Institute for Defence and Strategic Studies (GIDS), Helmut Schmidt University, Hamburg.
This article explores the twin issues of autonomy and minorities in a world of residual empire, nationalism, and emerging nation-States that shaped the period after the First World War. From a primarily historical perspective, it delineates the general context of the newly established international political and legal order under the auspices of the League of Nations, and outlines the system’s premises and potential, its pitfalls and shortcomings, especially with regard to the late- and post-imperial make-up of continental Europe. Three case studies of politico-legal conflicts and challenges typical for the period form the article’s empirical backbone: the case of the Bohemian and Moravian Germans in the context of the Versailles peace process, the Finnish-Swedish dispute over the Åland Islands, and the abortive application for recognition and membership in the League of Nations by the Iroquois in 1923 and 1924. Taken together, these examples of international political and legal dispute illustrate both the promise and potential, and the inconsistencies and paradoxes, of an emerging internationalist system of conflict resolution and minority protection. In line with recent historiography, the article stresses the necessity of revisiting the League and its institutions beyond the previously dominant paradigm of failure. Through the prism of its minority protection system, the League’s influence on the political and institutional establishment of procedures and practices becomes particularly tangible. Most of what the League institutions created as a toolbox of internationalist governance has thereby remained with us until today, whilst the minorities for whom it was devised are, sadly, mostly gone: legal and administrative procedure, international supervision and mediation, enforceable minority rights and protections in terms of autonomy regulations, plebiscites, federative solutions or partitions as vehicles, and resources of legitimacy.
Table of Contents
|Michael Jonas\nDrawing Borders and Protecting Minorities in a Post-Imperial World: Legal Conflicts and the League of Nations’ Minority Protection Regime||189|
|II. Constituents and Characteristics of the New International System||192|
|III. The League’s Minority Protection System: Origins, Evolution, Practice||189|
|IV. Three Cases in Minority Problems||190|
|A. The Kaiser’s Lost Subjects: The Bohemian- and Sudeten-Germans or the German Question in Central Europe in a Nutshell||190|
|B. The Åland Question: An Arbitration Worthy of Solomon||190|
|C. An Application Lost in the Process: The Iroquois and the League of Nations||191|