The conception of an Ethiopian nation by Ethiopian nationalists is stated to have begun with the Aksumite Kingdom in the 4th century A.D. The Aksumite Kingdom was a predominantly Christian state that at the height of its power controlled what is now the Ethiopian Highlands, Eritrea, Somalia, and the coastal regions of Southern Arabia. The Aksumite Kingdom was responsible for the development of the religious movement that became the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. However the expansion of Islam in the 7th century caused the decline of the Aksumite Kingdom and most of the lowland populations converted to Islam while the highland people remained Christian. Since the Aksumite people became divided between Christian highlands and Islamic lowlands, religious and tribal tensions and rivalries between the people intensified. The Aksumite society changed into a loose confederation of city states that maintained the language of Aksum.
The establishment of modern Ethiopia was led by the Amhara people, particularly Amhara emperors, Tewodros II of Gondar who governed from 1855 to 1868, Yohannis IV who governed from 1869 to 1889 and managed to expand his authority into Eritrea, Menelik II who governed from 1889 to 1913 and repelled the Italian invasion of 1898.
Ethiopia unlike the rest of Africa up until 1936 had never been colonized. Ethiopia was accepted as the first independent African-governed state at the League of Nations in 1922. Ethiopia was occupied by Italy and made a colony after the Second Italo-Abyssinian War, but Ethiopia was liberated by the Allies during World War II.
After the war Ethiopia annexed Eritrea. However ethnic tensions surged between the Amhara versus the Eritrean, Oromo, Somali, and Tigray peoples whom each had formed separatist movements dedicated to leaving Amhara-dominated Ethiopia. After the overthrow of the Ethiopian monarchy by the Derg military junta it aligned itself with the Soviet Union and Cuba after the United States failed to aid Ethiopia in its military struggle with Somali separatists in the Ogaden region. After the end of military government in Ethiopia, in 1993 Eritrea separated from Ethiopia.
Influence on others
Although Ethiopian nationalism was only conceived for Ethiopians and specifically grew out of Ethiopian culture, various non-Ethiopian peoples and polities have over the years drawn inspiration from it. Following the coronation of the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I (Ras Tafari) in 1930, the Rastafarian movement based in the Caribbean erected an elaborate religious philosophy that depicted Ethiopia as the spiritual homeland for Jamaicans.
- Motyl, Alexander J. (2001). Encyclopedia of Nationalism, Volume II. Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-227230-7.