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How to distinguish between nationality, citizenship, and ethnicity


Nationality, ethnicity and citizenship

The persons who share an ancestor, a homeland, a heritage that includes language, culture (often including traditions, food preferences and the same religion) can be called ethnic group. The group is recognized as being distinctive from other groups. The young members become conscious of belonging to that ethnic group as they grow up, they seek the other members’ approval, and often they are proud to be part of that group.

A group of persons with the same language, culture, ethnicity, descent, and/or history can be called nation. Also the people who live on the same territory and under the same government, no matter what ethnicity they have, may be called nation. A country or a sovereign state may be referred to as nation in international relations.

Being part of a political, social, national community (a country or a city) makes a person a citizen. A person without a citizenship is stateless. However, trade organizations, non-governmental organizations, multi-national corporations, cross the national and geographical boundaries and a person can be “citizen of the world”, having the sense, being conscious of belonging to the entire mankind.


 The state of being a citizen, or the citizenship, implies a number of rights and obligations.


Generally, the citizenship implies a social contract between the community (through certain representatives, the state) and the citizen. The citizen is entitled to receive protection from the community, and in the same time he or she has responsibilities (to obey the law, to pay taxes, to vote).

Citizenship is viewed as a link between an individual and a state in the eyes of law. International law sees citizenship as synonymous to nationality, but these terms may have different meanings under national law.

Citizenship can be obtained through jus sanguinis (“right of blood”) policy and through jus soli (“right of soil”) policy. Jus sanguinis implies a certain ancestry or ethnicity. Through jus soli policy anyone born on the territory of the state can obtain citizenship. Also there is a hybrid birthright requirement of local nativity and citizenship of at least one parent. Citizenship can also be obtained through jure matrimonii (marriage to a citizen), or through naturalization (holding a legal status as a full-time resident for a period of time and promise to obey and uphold country’s laws). The dual citizenship is allowed, or forbidden, depending on the state’s law.

Every human being needs to be a part of a group. The group, no matter its size, can provide protection, and recognition, satisfying the person needs. Also a person wants to be similar to, yet different from other persons. You cannot choose where to be born, but you can choose where to live on the Earth. In modern times, the terms of ethnicity, nationality, and citizenship are beginning to loose their strong significance and although ethnicity cannot be change, one can choose his/her nationality.