National myth

National myth

A national myth is an inspiring narrative or anecdote about a nation's past. Such myths often serve as an important national symbol and affirm a set of national values. A national myth may sometimes take the form of a national epic. A considerable amount of related material is at civil religion.

A national myth may be a legend or fictionalized narrative, which has been elevated to serious mythological, symbolical and esteemed level so as to be true to the nation (Renan 1882). It might simply over-dramatize true incidents, omit important historical details, or add details for which there is no evidence; or it might simply be a fictional story that no one takes to be true literally (see Abizadeh 2004), but contains a symbolic meaning for the nation. The national folklore of many nations includes a founding myth, which may involve a struggle against colonialism or a war of independence. In some cases, the meaning of the national myth may become disputed among different parts of the population.

In some places, the national myth may be spiritual in tone and refer to stories of the nation's founding at the hands of God, the gods, leaders favored by gods, and other supernatural beings.

National myths serve many social and political purposes. In totalitarian dictatorships, national myths often exist only for the purpose of state-sponsored propaganda. The leader might be given, for example, a mythical supernatural life history in order to make him or her seem god-like and supra-powerful (see also cult of personality). However, national myths exist in every society. In liberal regimes they can serve the purpose of inspiring civic virtue and self-sacrifice (see Miller 1995), or of shoring up the power of dominant groups and legitimizing their rule.



The National myths (sometimes referred to as Nationalistic myths or Nationalist myths) are myths created and propagated by national intellectuals who use them as instrument of political mobilization on the basis of ethnicity.[1]

Social background

The concept of national identity is inescapably connected with myths.[2] Complex of myths are the core of ethnic identity.[3] Some scholars believe that national identities (equipped with invented histories) were constructed only after national movements and national ideologies emerged first.[4]

All modern national identities were preceded by nationalist movements.[5] Although the term "nation" was used in the Middle Ages, it had totally different meaning than in the age of nationalism, where it was linked to the efforts aimed to creation of the nation-states.[6]

Psychological background

Besides their social background, nationalist myths have also a psychological explanation which is connected with nationalist myth of stable homeland community. The complexity of relations with the modern external world and incoherence of the inner psychological world can result with anxiety which is reduced by static self-labelling and self-construction and gaining an imaginary emotion of stability.[7]

Primary myths

Two nationalism's primary myths are connected with beliefs in[8]:

  1. community's permanence (the myth of the eternal nation), based on its national character, territory and institutions and on its continuity across many generations, and
  2. community's common ancestry (myth of the common ancestry).

The nationalist myths portray the nation like sleeping and waiting to be awakened, but scholarly discourse avoid such image because national identity either exists or not and can not be asleep and awakened.[9]


Nationalist myths sometimes have a tendency to stimulate conflicts between the nations[10], to magnify distinctive characteristics of the national group and to overstate the threat to the nation posed by other groups propagating militant fulfilment of the their goals.[11]

See also


  1. ^ Safty, Adel (2002) Leadership and Conflict Resolution USA: Universal publishers p. 273 ISBN 1-58112-617-4 "Shnirelman (1995) considers nationalist myths ... created by national intellectuals and propagated by the intelligentsia with the aim of using this myths as an instrument of ethno-political mobilization under interethnic conflicts." 
  2. ^ Cameron, Keith (1999) National identity Exeter, England: Intellect p. 4 ISBN 9781871516050 OCLC 40798482 "Myth is inextricably linked with the concept of national identity" 
  3. ^ J. Kaufman, Stuart (2001) Modern hatreds : the symbolic politics of ethnic war New York: Cornell University Press p. 25 ISBN 9780801487361 OCLC 46590030 "The core of the ethnic identity is the "myth-symbol complex" — the combination of myths,..." 
  4. ^ Østergaard, Uffe; Heine Andersen, Lars Bo Kaspersen (2000). Classical and modern social theory. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell. p. 448. ISBN 9780631212881. Retrieved 8 September 2011. 
  5. ^ Østergaard, Uffe; Heine Andersen, Lars Bo Kaspersen (2000). Classical and modern social theory. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell. p. 448. ISBN 9780631212881. Retrieved 8 September 2011. 
  6. ^ Østergaard, Uffe; Heine Andersen, Lars Bo Kaspersen (2000). Classical and modern social theory. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell. p. 448. ISBN 9780631212881. Retrieved 8 September 2011. "We can, for example, certainly encounter term "nation" in the Middle Ages, but the word meant something completely different than in the age of nationalism, where it is inextricably linked with the efforts to create an associated state." 
  7. ^ Brown, David (2000) "Contemporary nationalism" Contemporary nationalism: civic, ethnocultural, and multicultural politics London ; New York: Routledge p. 24 ISBN 0203380258 OCLC 43286590 
  8. ^ Brown, David (2000) "Contemporary nationalism" Contemporary nationalism: civic, ethnocultural, and multicultural politics London ; New York: Routledge p. 23, 24 ISBN 0203380258 OCLC 43286590 
  9. ^ M. Danforth, Loring (1995). The Macedonian conflict : ethnic nationalism in a transnational world. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. p. 15. ".. nationalist myths of nation waiting, Sleeping Beauty like, to be awakened....In scholarly discourse this image should be avoided .. national identity is a matter of self-ascription, it either exists or it does not, it can not be asleep and then be awakened..." 
  10. ^ Edward Brown, Michael (1997). "Nationalism and ethnic conflict". Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. p. 67. ISBN 9780585358079. "... we do argue that tendency to breed conflicts is inherent to typical nationalist myths" 
  11. ^ Schnabel, Albrecht; David Carment (2004). Conflict prevention from rhetoric to reality: Organizations and institutions. Lanham, Md: Lexington Books. p. 45, 46. ISBN 9780739107386. "overemphasize the cultural and historical distinctiveness of the national group [and its territory], exaggerate the threat posed to the nation by other groups, ignore the degree to which the nation's own actions provoked such treats, and play down the cost of seeking national goals trough militant means." 

Further reading

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужно решить контрольную?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • National mysticism — (German Nationalmystik) is a form of nationalism which raises the nation to the status of numen or divinity. Its best known instance is Germanic mysticism, which gave rise to occultism under the Third Reich . The idea of the nation as a divine… …   Wikipedia

  • Myth of Skanderbeg — Skanderbeg s monument in Tirana The Myth of Skanderbeg is one of the main constitutive myths of the Albanian nationalism.[1][2][3 …   Wikipedia

  • Myth II: Soulblighter Tournaments — This is a list of tournaments for the game Myth II: Soulblighter. The second of the Myth series, originally created by Bungie and later maintained by Take 2 Games (now called Take 2 Interactive), Myth II: Soulblighter was by far the most popular… …   Wikipedia

  • Myth of origins — Iceland s founding myth – the arrival of the first Norse settler Ingólfr Arnarson on the future site of Reykjavik, as depicted in 1850 by Johan Peter Raadsig. An origin myth is a myth that purports to describe the origin of some feature of the… …   Wikipedia

  • National epic — A national epic is an epic poem or a literary work of epic scope which seeks or is believed to capture and express the essence or spirit of a particular nation; not necessarily a nation state, but at least an ethnic or linguistic group with… …   Wikipedia

  • myth — noun 1 story from ancient times ADJECTIVE ▪ ancient, classical ▪ religious ▪ Biblical ▪ Christian, Greek, Norse …   Collocations dictionary

  • National language — A national language is a language (or language variant, i.e. dialect) which has some connection de facto or de jure with a people and perhaps by extension the territory they occupy. The term is used variously. A national language may for instance …   Wikipedia

  • National Day of Mourning (United States protest) — (See National day of mourning) The National Day of Mourning is an annual protest organized since 1970 by American Indians of New England on the fourth Thursday of November, the same day as Thanksgiving in the United States. It coincides with an… …   Wikipedia

  • NATIONAL SOCIALISM — (for short, Nazism), a movement in Germany patterned after fascism, which grew under adolf hitler s leadership and ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945. The Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, founded on Jan. 5, 1919, changed its name in the summer of 1920 to… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • National Socialist Movement in the Netherlands — Nationaal Socialistische Beweging in Nederland Leader Anton Mussert (1931 1945) …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”