In the world I've thought of, monstrous beings more or less ended civilization on my planet. From the fires of this apocalyptic event, the world empire arose. It took over territory either by force or people willingly joined the empire due to its ability to effectively protect its populace from these monsters. A couple of centuries passed and while these monsters continue to exist, the military has been able to prevent another apocalypse. Civilization has been rebuilt and people lead normal lives for the most part. With the immediate fears of survival out of people's minds, tribalism and the threat of balkanization looms heavy. Previously, attempts to leave the empire were violently quelled. Over time, higher ups realized that this only lead to further resentment and it used up valuable resources (weaponry, vehicles, soldiers, etc.) so they are interested in finding more peaceful solutions, though they have no interested in conceding to any attempt at leaving the empire.

Some information:

This is a futuristic world, about 400 years ahead of our world

All individuals upon reaching adulthood must join the military for a minimum of 5 years

  • $\begingroup$ (1) The title of the question is about "ethnic conflicts" and the body speaks about rebellions and independence movements. They are very different things. As an example, the American rebellion against the British Crown was not an "ethnic conflict" in any way. (2) Armies are expensive. An empire which can afford to conscript all men and women for 5 years is one extremely very rich empire. I would bet that the empire has more problems with outsiders trying to move in than with provinces trying to break out. (3) Historically speaking, ethnic conflicts are a very modern problem. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Aug 18, 2021 at 18:53
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP Good point. I changed the title to reflect the body $\endgroup$
    – forgotenm
    Aug 18, 2021 at 18:55
  • $\begingroup$ ... The point being that "ethnic conflicts" did not exist in the ancient world, did not exist in the medieval world, did not exist in the early modern world. Why would there be ethnic conflicts 400 years from now? What is the basis of those conflicts? Why do provinces want to break out of the empire? How many provinces want out? Why doesn't the empire just let them go? Whithout knowing what fuels the conflicts, how can we speculate on a solution to temper them? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Aug 18, 2021 at 18:57

6 Answers 6


Tribalism and nationalism (Balkanization is a derogative term) mean that local and ethnic identities are too strong. In other words, people chiefly see themselves as members of tribes/ethnicities A, B, C, etc.

The court needs to start working on imperial identity promotion: Make people see themselves as citizens of the empire first and, ideally, forget about their past tribal and ethnic identities.

The following policies could help to promote the imperial identity:

  • imperial law is the only law (the use of any other law system should be strictly prohibited and severely punished);

  • ethnic desegregation (no ghettos, no ethnic autonomies, no tribal territories; ideally, any territory of the empire should have a population comprising as many ethnicities as possible)

    If you do not want to relocate people forcefully, the court may offer incentives for those who move where the court desires them to live. This way desegregation will take a long time, but people will be content. Mandated and enforced desegregation with forced relocation will mix ethnicities faster, but whether the court can do it or not depends on the loyalty of troops and ability to relocate a huge number of people in a very short period of time (hence people who do not want to move have no time to organise and start a rebellion).

    Ethnic desegregation can also be achieved by relocating young specialists to other regions. For example, the court pays all relocation costs and a fixed yearly premium to those who move where the court wants them to move. It is very likely that after 10-15 years these individuals will settle down and start families with locals. Most of them will not have any desire to move back to their hometowns.

  • promote marriages between ethnicities (when groups intermarry en masse their children and grandchildren eventually form one united group that does not identify with any of the original groups);

  • promote imperial culture and language (education system, entertainment industry, and advertisement could be used to propagate culture, ideology, and language);

  • remove ethnic identity from all official documents (it is better to do it after a certain extent of desegregation is achieved);

  • promote imperial identity and make people feel pride because of it (make use of entertainment and advertising industries, fill people's minds with images of glorious and prideful sons and daughters of the empire, make people want to be the protagonists of that beautiful stories).

For real-world examples, you can take a look at the USA. While Americans love to talk about their racial and ethnic diversity, they see themselves as Americans first and everything else second (more often it is not even second or rather somewhere way down the list). These days racial identities still cause conflicts, but ethnic identities are no longer an issue. Someone can say that their family is originally from Germany, but it is very unlikely that they can speak German, understand German culture, or follow German traditions (this obviously does not apply to the 1st and 2nd generation of immigrants). The connection to the original ethnicity exists only in words and it has no real substance.

  • $\begingroup$ What would Balkanization be a derogatory term? Does it offend the Balkan mountains or the Balkan peninsula? It is simply descriptive of the very complicated mosaic of languages, ethnicities, and histories of this ancient and restless land. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Aug 18, 2021 at 20:21
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP maybe just a long-time Traveller TTRPG player - worlds with government type 7 (balkanization - defined as no single world government) have generally been a problem in adventure modules through all editions of the game. $\endgroup$ Aug 19, 2021 at 4:58

Just give the people of the empire more reasons to stay in than to leave.

If you have safety, prosperity and a reasonable amount of freedom, why would you want to leave?

That's what the empires of the past did or tried to do: the roman empire and the mongol empire, just to cite a couple, were built with war and violence, but were kept united by those elements.

  • $\begingroup$ The Roman Empire, yes. The Mongol Empire, not so much; it was not kept united by anything: it broke up into pieces as soon as it ran out of land to conquer. (And of the broken pieces, only China was a real state, but it was a Chinese state, with nothing of the Mongol structure, laws, or whatever passed for Mongol culture; the others never never became functional states. It was not the fault of the Mongols; it was simply a case of geography is destiny -- the Mongol Empire was created at a time when overland transportation technology was just not yet advanced enough.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Aug 18, 2021 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ A decade ago I would have agreed with you, as I agreed with the same sentiments in an essay by Larry Niven. Then Brexit happened... The UK had safety, prosperity and a reasonable amount of freedom, but (just) over 50% of those who voted still chose not to stay in an association much more benign than an empire demanding 5 years of conscription from everyone. $\endgroup$ Aug 19, 2021 at 4:46
  • $\begingroup$ @KerrAvon2055, I would argue that the EU has not tried to build a common sentiment of being "EU citizen" as much as it has worked on defining what beer, butter, milk are. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Aug 19, 2021 at 5:31


Drinks flow

People forget

That big wheel spins, the hair thins

People forget

Forget they're hiding

eminence front; the Who

There is a reason for empire and that reason is still there. But people forget. Maybe the people need a little reminder of what they have forgotten. Or a big reminder. Give the military a week off. Remind the people of the reasons why you have a military. The reasons might do the reminding.

Maybe not minimal bloodshed. But minimal bloodshed by your soldiers.


Hope & Fear

If you want to oppress/control a people these two are to be balanced. The fear of what happens when they disobey and the hope of what they can achieve when they obey.

Make sure you control the resources, and make a sort of "scoring" system... for example if the output of an province is higher then what the quota demands give them perks like more food or better infrastructure (roads/hospitals and so on). If the output is lower then demanded, punish them by taking away certain things like leisure activities... like blocking all radio/tv or enforce a curfew to lock people inside their homes.(or in extreme cases, executions(of religious/political figures) or destruction of cultural/religious important structures and places.

This will give both positive and negative reinforcement to do what is told... "To serve the empire is to serve yourself, to forsake the empire is to forsake yourself."


The wisest way would be to start as soon as the empire arose. This may have occurred owing to military needs.

Do much to ensure that parts of the empire are interdependent and work together. Have your military units be composed of soldiers from all over the empire. Provide schools to educate people for use in war -- and teach them all the same language and other things that encourage them to view themselves as part of the empire.


Kill the rich.

One common cause of wars is a surplus of the rich. When you have a surplus of labour, the elites reproduce a lot, and then you have elite overpopulation. The elites then compete for resources, and will start wars.

This leaves your empire unstable. The young won't care about the deals you made with the rulers of regions, as they want more stuff and there's not enough stuff to go around. They'll recruit commoners, anti elite commoners will recruit other commoners, and war will start.

As such, you need a way to get rid of surplus rich people. Duels are one way. Dangerous games for prestige are another. Wars against monsters are a third. Find ways to get rid of elite hotheads, and you'll have a more stable empire.

Kill men.

When you have a surplus of men and not enough women around, the men won't be tied down in stable relationships and they'll be eager for any cause to win them some fame and prestige. War is more likely with an imbalanced gender ratio.

As such, you need to find a way to get rid of men if there's a surplus. Frontier towns with a high death rate. Gladiator fights. Wars against rebels for loot. Find ways to expend men if the gender ratio is off before they expend themselves rebelling.

Kill rebels and dissidents.

Some people love revolutions. They have high minded ideas and want to plan to fix the world. They are a problem for you.

As such, make sure you have a place to send them all. Strongly encourage them, but don't force them, to emigrate to a far away land of freedom.

If all the rebels are in one place they'll fight and kill each other to lead the revolution, and you can focus your troops in one place filled with revolutionaries.

Kill poor self esteem.

Nations love to compete and prove their standing and prestige. A lot of wars aren't over security (which you maintain) or resources (which you control) but over their feelings of prestige and satisfaction.

As such, have lots of international competitions and sports and ways to show off. Give the locals some measure of control over funds so they can compete to show off their skill and effectiveness.

Try to also encourage a culture of shame around war. War wastes resources, kills people, and should not be seen as a way to get honour.

Kill poverty.

People who are on the brink of starvation or devastation are likely to rebel, to ensure they are safe and sound. Make sure you have stable food lines, and stable jobs everywhere so people can earn enough to live.

Any person who wants to get a job should be able to get a job. In some places you can encourage businesses, in some places you can have more state jobs, or welfare. It depends on the place. Make sure everywhere, people can spend most of their time working, people can get ahead, and people aren't starving.

  • $\begingroup$ Kill the rich, and kill poverty… you’re basically trying to remove social inequalities… isn’t that way too hard? $\endgroup$
    – tbrugere
    Aug 19, 2021 at 14:34
  • $\begingroup$ Managing social inequalities is a key part of a successful empire. $\endgroup$
    – Nepene Nep
    Aug 19, 2021 at 14:48

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