In sociology, “identity” is a property and product of institutional regulation (intentional or unintentional) and group socialization since identities are recognized when interacting with others. Furthermore, since social interaction is present every day, identities might change through the socialization process; identities are not fixed, rather they are provisional, fluid and flexible (Malesevic, 2002).
As any other identity, national identity is recognized in the interaction with others, there are some differences recognized in narratives, myths, rights, goals, territory or self- determination. As mentioned above, traditionally nations are perceived as a composition of a state; strong sense of a nation is a precondition of a stable and strong democracy (Bomhof, 2011). A sense of nationhood does not eliminate other social identity divisions- class, gender, status, age, religion or others; each division (including nation) gives a different self- identification and sense of belonging to a certain group (Tamir, 1995; Smith, 1992). Furthermore, national identity is multidimensional; even if analytically it could be separated in components such as ethnic, legal, territorial, economic and political divisions, they all are united by the nationalist ideology into a vision of person’s identity and community (Smith, 1992).
Smith implies that a national identity should be seen as an aspect or dimension of “national community”. According to his theory, concepts of “national identity” and “ethnic identity” are very close because of historical bases on nation building; national or ethnic identity implies that the given community have a shared difference and distinctiveness that these members feel, believe or experience (Smith, 2011). As Smith claims, “national identification has become the cultural and political norm, transcending other loyalties in scope and power” (Smith, 1992, p58). However, the individual has multiple identities, who might reinforce or cross- cut each other; for instance, social class, gender, religion, occupation, family role, etc. (Smith, 1992).
“Conflicts between loyalty to a national state and solidarity with an ethnic community, within or outside the boundaries of that state, may lead to accusations of ‘dual loyalties’, and families may find themselves torn between the claims of competing communities and identities” (Smith, 1992, p59), thus there is a need for a distinction between individual and collective identities. While individual identities refer to situational identification both perceived by the individual and others; collective identity tends to be pervasive and persistent and are mostly present when quite large numbers of individuals feel oppressed or no longer feel their power (Smith, 1992).
According to Smith, national identity (national identity is seen as an aspect of national community) is a kind of public good, which is being sought and cultivated, preserved and transmitted through several channels; national identity is linked to the ideals of national autonomy and unity (Smith, 2011). Members of the particular national community are perceived to be proud of their group identity, they are willing to transmit it to the next generation or fellow members.
Existing cultures (and nations) are tied to specific people, places and periods; they are bound up with certain historical events, myths, memories and traditions; these features are essential to a national identity. Because of this reason, cosmopolitan culture has a memoryless nature and is harder to attach to than traditional national community identities (Smith, 1992).
The same as the concept of “nation”, “national identity” also has different definitions, however, they all distinguish national identity between a “national culture” (or ethnic identity) and a “civic national identity”. Cultural or ethnic national identity includes language, traditions, social customs and norms, religious practices; while civic national identity is based on a shared commitment to the state and on historically embedded liberal democratic principles (Wilcox, 2004). Another way to describe the distinction between the civic and ethnic national identity is: ethnic identity as an ascriptive and civic as a voluntraristic (Jones& Smith, 1991), because it is perceived that a civic national identity is “thin”, because it is culturally neutral; and cultural national identity is “thick”, because there is an emotional attachment to the self- identified group (Wilcox, 2004).
1.1.1. Civic national identity
Civic national identity does not automatically mean that there is a pure political allegiance to the state, it means that the respective person identifies himself as a part of the civic nation; there is a sense of shared political loyalties. Civic national identity involves a mutual and exclusive sense of solidarity, sympathy and obligation to be politically active and being proud of this political nation (Wilcox, 2004).
Strong civic national identity involves a strong sense of relatedness and mutual and exclusive feelings of solidarity, sympathy and obligation. These feelings are connected to the trust and proudness of political institutions and practices of the state, and a sense of a shared future with other individuals of the state. It is also possible that those, who have strong sense of belonging to the polity, don’t have strong feeling of sympathy or relatedness to other members of the polity. Minority groups are usually motivated to participate in the polity, if they can participate fully in the socio- economic and political life; the polity must be inclusive culturally (Wilcox, 2004).
According to Bomhof, a country should be focused on developing a civil national identity, because it provides groups with a political power and with a social power regardless their cultural background. If a state is developing a strong civic identity, the government must be committed to democratic principles. In the countries, where minority groups are forced to employ certain habits, behaviour or beliefs, there will be no political will of the people to follow these democratic principles (Bomhof, 2011).