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Irredentism is claiming a right to territories belonging to another state on the grounds of common ethnicity and/or prior historical possession, actual or alleged. The word was coined in Italy from the phrase Italia irredenta ("unredeemed Italy"). This originally referred to Austro-Hungarian rule over mostly or partly Italian-inhabited territories in the northern Adriatic such as Trentino and Trieste during the 19th and early 20th century. An area subjected to an irredentist claim is therefore sometimes called an irredenta.
Not all territorial disputes are irredentist, although they are often couched in irredentist terms to strengthen public support.
Other prominent irredentist disputes have included:
- Gabriele D'Annunzio's occupation of Fiume (now Rijeka) from 1919-1921 - the original irredentist dispute.
- The People's Republic of China's claims to the islands of Taiwan, Penghu, Matsu, Kinmen, and Orchid Island, collectively ruled by the democratically elected government of the Republic of China.
- The Republic of China's claims to Tuva, ruled by Russia, outer Mongolia, ruled by its own independent state of Mongolia, and mainland China, ruled by the People's Republic of China.
- French claims before World War I to Alsace and Lorraine.
- Weimar Germany's claims after World War I to Alsace and Lorraine, areas of Poland, Lithuania, Austria and the Czech Sudetenland.
- West Germany's claims after World War II to former territories beyond the Oder-Neisse Line (now in Poland) and to East-Prussia (now the Russian exclave the Kaliningrad Oblast).
- Jewish claims after World War I to territories within the British Mandate of Palestine.
- Palestinian claims after division of the land under the British Mandate of Palestine to Israel.
- Argentina's claims to the Falkland Islands.
- Bolivian claims to coastal regions of Chile annexed after the War of the Pacific.
- Pakistani Muslim claims to the Kashmir valley territory, which is divided between Pakistan and India.
- Hungarian claims that Felvidék (southern parts of Slovakia), Transylvania, Croatia and some other territories of Austria, Ukraine, Romania, Yugoslavia and Slovenia should belong to Hungary.
- Serbian claims to large areas of Bosnia and Croatia.
- Albanian claims to Kosovo, parts of Macedonia and Greece.
- Indian claims over what is known as Akhand Bharat, which includes Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. This is considered the historic homeland of the Hindus, long before colonial partition and the conversion of Hindus to Islam.
- Finnish inter-war claims that East Karelia according to a Finnish-Soviet treaty had been granted cultural and governmental autonomy that the Soviet Union violated.
- In World War II, Finland lost Finnish Karelia. After the Cold War, Karelia question in Finland is revived.
- Iraqi claims to Kuwait before the Gulf War
- King Hassan II of Morocco attempted to reintegrate so-called "Greater Morocco" from the entirety of Algeria, Western Sahara, and Mauritania and portions of Senegal starting in 1963. This led to a border war with Algeria and the annexation of Western Sahara in 1976.
- Greece's claims after World War I for what is now the Aegean coastline of Turkey, because of the predominence there of Greek speakers and former rule by the Byzantine Empire.
"Triadic nexus" of irredenta conflict
In his 1996 book, Nationalism Reframed, Rogers Brubaker outlined a pattern to describe a common theme of irredentist conflict, referred to as the "triadic nexus".
Irredenta conflict is a conflict between three parties: a nationalizing state, a national movement representing an ethnic minority within that state, and an external national homeland, to which that minority is construed as ethnically belonging. Brubaker's triadic nexus is a visual representation of this, granting each party a corner of the triangle. The implication is that the national minority is caught between the nationalizing state within whose borders it exists, and the external homeland to which it is seen as belonging.
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