Before going on with the list of the world’s largest multinational states, it is fair to start with the basics. Google Arts & Culture describes a multinational state as:
A multinational state or a multinational union is a sovereign entity that comprises two or more nations or states.
It is interesting that some multinational countries are multicultural, and some are multilingual. Some even geographically consist of more than one country.
A multinational state is the opposite of a nation-state. Citizens in a nation-state most (if not all) of them share the same language, culture, or even descent. See, Canada and Belgium are multinational countries. On the other hand, France (after 19th century Francization), Germany, Egypt, and even the USA are nation-states.
Let us now begin with our list of some of the world’s largest (some not so large) multinational states.
World’s largest multinational states — Discussing some eminent multinational states in each continent
As mentioned in our header, we will discuss some notable multinational states. It is impossible to talk about each state in-depth as it will probably sound a little bit drag; instead, let’s keep it short! So, here is our list of the world’s largest multinational states.
Some multinational countries in Europe
First and foremost, the world’s biggest multinational state is Russia. Russia was the biggest multinational state when it was USSR and holds the same position today. The country has 39 nationalities which make up 20% of the 145 million population non-Russians. Russia also possesses 193 ethnic groups which speak 100 different languages. Besides the majority of the Russian population, the other prominent nationalities in Russia include: Tatars, Ukrainians, Chuvash, Belarusians, Mordovians, Germans, and Chechens.
Belgium, another multinational state in Europe, consists of three prominent linguistic groups. First, the Flemish (which is Dutch) speaking Flemings in the north of Belgium. Interestingly, half of the Belgium population speaks Flemish. Going South from there, you will stumble on French-speaking Walloons. And, lastly, you will find German-speaking in some eastern regions. Fun fact, one-tenth of the population in Belgium is bilingual.
The United Kingdom is a multinational state, with four distinct and recognized nations existing together— England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. It is not a nation-state as per the claims of ONS (Office for National Statistics). The country is so multinational that each nation has its international football and cricket teams. Interestingly, the matches between them get pretty brutal even.
Spain is another multinational state in Europe whose constitution only recognizes one unitary nation — the Spanish Nation. Currently, 17 autonomous communities live in Spain with their separate parliament. Each community has its own distinct historical and political culture, tradition, and even languages. The prominent ones are: Andalusia, the Canary Islands, Asturias, Catalonia, Community of Madrid, to name a few.
Other honorable mentions
Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of Serbs, Bosniaks, and Croats ethnic groups with equal constitutional status. Similarly, Norway is another multinational state consisting of Norwegians, Sami, and other national minorities. The 19 ethnic groups in Norway are now national minorities. Serbia is also one of the multinational states in Europe.
Some multinational countries in Asia
The People’s Republic of China is a unitary multinational state where all nationalities are considered equal under the constitution. The State makes sure to safeguard the rights of minorities nationalities. There exist 56 recognized ethnic groups in China. China is the world’s most populous country and third-largest country by area, hence is also one of the world’s largest multinational states. The most dominant ethnic group is Han Chinese, constituting 90% of the population. The recognized minority ethnic groups include; Zhuang, Manchu, Uyghur, Hui, Miao, and others. Mandarin is the official language, while Xiang, Yue, Min, Gan, and Wu are other notable dialects.
After China, India is the second-most populous country and is a multinational state. The country is the seventh-largest country by area and is one of the world’s largest multinational states. The country possesses more than 2000 ethnic groups with hundreds of spoken languages. India is one of the most diverse countries in the world. It has more than 700 different tribes and consists of people from nearly every religious belief. Many states in India are not only ethnically diverse but also linguistically and religiously diverse. Out of hundreds of languages spoken in India, the constitution recognizes 22 languages. These languages are: Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Urdu, Sanskrit, Gujrati, Marathi, Telugu, Malayalam, and others. All this diversity makes Indian culture more intriguing and appealing.
The Indian neighbor Pakistan is another multinational country. The country is both ethnically and linguistically diverse country. Around 60 languages are spoken in the country, while the official language Urdu is spoken only by 10% of the population. The major ethnic group in the country is Punjabis, making up more than 40% of the population. Then, Pashtuns, Sindhis, Saraikis, Muhajirs, Balochis, and other ethnic groups live in this culturally diverse country.
Other honorable mentions
Malaysia consists of four major ethnic groups with religious, cultural, and linguistic assortment. These groups include Malays who are majorly Muslims and make up more than 50% of the population. Then, Chinese Malaysian (22.6% of the population), non-Malay indigenous groups (Bumiputra) make up 11.8% of the population, Indians (6.7%), and other Ethnic groups.
Likewise, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka are also some notable multinational countries in the Asian region, each offering ethnic and linguistic diversities.
Some multinational countries in Africa
Since significant African countries have witnessed colonization in the past, the continent consists of some of the world’s largest multinational countries with diverse cultures, languages, and ethnicities. South Africa is a multinational country with linguistic diversity (eleven spoken languages). It is home to multiple nationalities from its bordering countries, including Sotho, Swazi, and Tswana. Since each national speaks different languages, thus it has eleven official languages.
Nigeria, another multinational country in Africa, consists of more than 250 ethnic groups. The most prominent ethnic groups in the country are Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba, Igbo (Ibo), Ijaw, Kanuri, Ibibio, and Tiv. The country comfortably dwells 500 languages speakers.
Akin to Nigeria, Kenya is another multinational country with over 70 ethnic groups residing in the country. Similarly, Ghana is a country in the African region with a diverse population of Chinese, Malays, Lebanese, Europeans, and other ancestries.
Some multinational countries in South & North America
Canada, the second-largest country by area, is also one of the world’s largest multinational states. It has two official languages— French and English, hence is bilingual. Canada consists of several nations, constituting one-quarter of the country’s population. The prominent internal nations in the country are Francophones in Quebec, the 7 First Nations, people of British descent or anglophones, and Acadians.
Bolivia, a South American country is also a multinational country. The country recognizes the cultural variety of its indigenous community (Amerindians), which consists of 80% of its population. Besides them, there are people of European and Native American ancestries.
And lastly, Oceania
Australia, the world’s sixth-largest country (by area), is also one of the world’s largest multinational states. It provides a home to culturally and linguistically diverse first-people — Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous) communities. Besides, it is also home to people from other cultural backgrounds and ancestries, including Asians, Africans, and Europeans.
Rounding up multinational countries — the final words
The idea that people overlook all the national, cultural, ethnic, linguistic, and other barriers and live together in harmony still seems far-fetched. If we look into the history of almost all of these multinational countries, the minority communities have had a tough time getting recognition from the ruling nations. There are stories of struggle and treacheries in the realms of history. Still, the differences in culture, ideologies, religions, history, and languages come as barriers.
The acceptance of diversity and elimination of discrimination of gender, religion, sex, race, and color is need of today. It is imperative to embrace the differences for humanity, peace, and the overall growth of society and the country.