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So, I have an empire, many political notes about which can be found here, although I will put more relevant notes here as well.

There are many fantasy races, all of them some form of animal person, they are of varying size and capabilities. Notably, within this setting, humans are actually regarded by themselves and the other races to be human person. They have a pantheon of common divine creators, as noted here.

Due to the circumstances of their creation, they are actually the same species, so they can and do quite often marry between races. For genetic inheritance, gender-based races are a thing, so the male children are the same race as the father while the female children are the same race as the mother. The children are no worse than any actual "pure-breeds".

So, how do I allow these people to not fall into all-out racial based wars of the 10th century world?

Do note that minor racism would be allowed, like some races thinking other races are not as clean as them, I just want to make sure that these races can be quite different, and would rather work together within their nation rather than their race.

To clarify, how to make promote nationalism amongst these different races so that they would work together to be able to beat other nations/kingdoms, both in a military and a economic standpoint, to make the bonds of nationalism stronger than racism

For example, kingdom A has a notable dog people, human, and cat people population; kingdom B has a notable dog people, cow people and horse people population. Even if the dog people of kingdom A do not quite like the cat people of kingdom A, they will work for kingdom A, against kingdom B, against their own race.

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  • $\begingroup$ They are from the same race but not necessary from the same culture. The Empire could have one common culture for all. $\endgroup$ – Vincent Feb 10 '15 at 3:03
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    $\begingroup$ That's easy...just take a look at todays news and you will see that things like that happen all over the world.It's called propaganda. $\endgroup$ – w_builder Feb 10 '15 at 13:25
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Nationalism means a feeling of superiority over other nations which serves as a way to differentiate oneself from them. Possible ways to achieve such superiority without promoting racism are:

  • Religious fanaticism: "Elbonia is the holy land of our great gods who love everyone no matter which race they are. Except those sinners in Elbinia who do not worship them as much as we do, and when they do they do it completely wrong. We as loyal servants of the gods must destroy Elbinia!"
  • Moral superiority: "The Elbinians are horrible people who embrace slavery, commit genocide, enjoy public executions and don't wash their hands after going to the toilet. We Elbonians respect the rights of every species and would never do such a thing."
  • Ideology: "The Elbonian system of a social market economy is so much superior to the Elbinian system of liberal decentralized socialism."
  • Cultural superiority: "Elbinian music sounds awful, their artists are talentless, their festival rites are ridiculous, their food tastes awful and their architecture just has no style. We Elbonians have so much better taste."
  • Cult of Personality: "Our great leader King Bob IX of Elbonia is so much better in every way than Emperor Charlie II of Elbinia. We will follow his orders to the grave!"

None of these statements must necessarily be true. The differences between the nations in these aspects can just be superficial, purely subjective or completely made-up preconceptions. Nationalist propaganda often likes to exaggerate the facts a bit. Nationalism is a great tool for rulers to stay in power, because it helps to unify the population against an external enemy while distracting them from any internal problems.

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  • $\begingroup$ I quite enjoy these avenues of approaching the question. It is just that I feel like racial ties seem to be really strong back in the ancient era, and these ideas are great. My setting is going to have fairly ancient tech, but quite liberal forward thinking. $\endgroup$ – grimmsdottir Feb 10 '15 at 13:19
  • $\begingroup$ We have a winner...to bad you were 12 hours late getting an answer in! $\endgroup$ – James Feb 10 '15 at 16:25
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    $\begingroup$ The only thing I would add to this list is "Friendly Competition". Like how most people likely cheer for their own country in the Olympics. This kind of nationalism isn't very good for creating strife however, since usually you want to dehumanize (animalize?) the enemy so you don't think about the terrible things you may do in war. $\endgroup$ – DoubleDouble Feb 10 '15 at 22:16
  • $\begingroup$ In short, you just have to exploit Social Identity Theory (the formal name of the 'Us vs Them' mentality). Create a concept of a unified 'us' that is bound together by...well...pretty much anything. Then create a concept of a unified 'them' in the same category. As countless psychology experiments have shown...that's all it takes to create positive bias towards the 'us' group, and negative bias towards the 'them' group. $\endgroup$ – guildsbounty Mar 17 '15 at 19:53
  • $\begingroup$ "It is just that I feel like racial ties seem to be really strong back in the ancient era" Yeah no, not really. $\endgroup$ – Hobbamok Mar 26 at 11:14
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There are a few relatively simple answers to this.

First, have nationalism be based on religion. You mentioned that there is one pantheon, which presumably actually existed (with physical evidence existing to back that up). Even with that, different kingdoms may place different levels of importance on different gods, and that may be used to fuel some of the nationalism.

Second, have nationalism be based on language. We see this sometimes in real life now in places like Wales, where the national anthem references the language a number of times. France is also very nationalistic in regards to their language, with l'Académie Française focusing on keeping the language the free from outside influences.

Third, have an ideological separation (separate from religion) that separates them. This was seen in the Cold War where western countries which were very different ethnically, culturally, and racially joined together against the Soviet bloc because of reasons of religion and political/economic ideals. Similarly, China has managed to unite (more or less) despite the fact that there are 56 different ethnic groups in China, and a lot of that has to do with strong ideological beliefs (along with a strong government).

The general idea of a common enemy will bring people together despite their differences. England worked with France to fight Germany in WWI even though France and England were long-time enemies and England's monarchy had kinship ties to Germany's monarchy.

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    $\begingroup$ I'd also note, in addition to this answer, that most European countries, at some stage, have been at war with each other. And that's before you consider civil wars. $\endgroup$ – Jon Story Feb 10 '15 at 14:58
  • $\begingroup$ “China has managed to unite (more or less) despite the fact that there are 56 ethnic groups” This isn’t a good example for the question at all. China is very ethnically homogeneous — Han Chinese are overwhelmingly dominant (>90%) — and many of the minority ethnic groups are not very happy with the whole “unity” situation. $\endgroup$ – Peter LeFanu Lumsdaine Sep 25 '15 at 7:38
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A good example would be to imitate real life in this case, namely the mighty empire of Rome. It doesn't really matter what race you are, so long as you are a citizen of the state. As long as the dog/cat/hamster/oompaloompa -person from the kingdom of x cares less about the fact that they are a dog/cat/hamster/oompaloompa and more about the fact that they are x-ian, they will dislike whichever kingdom their own kingdom dislikes. If x goes to war with y, the x-ians will see the y-ians as enemies, regardless of whether or not the y-ians are also dog/cat/hamster/oompaloompas.

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    $\begingroup$ Good example. As far as I can tell, the Romans didn't even really recognize the concept of race - hard as that is for someone raised in this racially-obsessed society. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Feb 10 '15 at 5:38
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For most of human history, countries (and especially empires) were just like as you described them in your question. The concept of a nation state is relatively recent. Even in the Middle Ages, it was usually not language which bound people together, but the intricate system of alliances and feudal contracts. Being part of the same nation meant having your rights granted to you by the same king. People often considered being the same nation with people of a different mother language, and considered being a different nation from other people speaking the same language.

One of the last such countries to exist was the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. By the beginning of the 20th century the spreading of nationalism and the idea of a nation-state made such an empire unsustainable. However, a few generations before that, such multi-ethnic countries were the norm rather than the exception.

A less-known example is France before the 18th century. Most of the country didn't speak a common language, most regional dialects and languages had little in similarity to the modern French language. Look up the Breton language: most regions of France in that period had their own language. They were not part of a nation because they shared a common language, they were part of a nation because they shared the same king and the same laws.

Of course, all these real-life countries were inhabited by humans (so no different fantasy races) but if you swap ethnicity with fantasy races, you could end up with similar concepts.

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  • $\begingroup$ Or you could look at real-world counter-examples, the nations cobbled together on the basis of lines drawn in the sand by some former colonial power. I'd say Iraq is a prime example: three (at least) different groups who don't like each other all that much, forced to pretend they're a 'nation'. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Feb 10 '15 at 18:58
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf : the question asked whether such thing is possible, and there are examples which support that's indeed possible. The fact that it not always turned out to be the case does not invalidate the fact that it is possible. If you just wanted to use the opportunity to make a political statement about some powers you consider evil, then you should consider that the same powers are also accused by others of doing the opposite: creating separate countries where they could have created a unified, much bigger country. You can't please everyone. $\endgroup$ – vsz Feb 10 '15 at 21:26
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I think it is important to clarify the definition of nationalism here. As defined in the Encyclopedia Britannica:

  • nationalism, ideology based on the premise that the individual’s loyalty and devotion to the nation-state surpass other individual or group interests.

Except that is doesn't have to be nation-state, the loyalty can be toward the state in case there is more than one nation or race in the country. But it's easier to do when it's more uniform. The different groups will join because they have certain things in common or certain enemies. The cause rallying them may vary.

I see a contradiction here between a feudal state and promoting nationalism. As I mentioned, with nationalism, the people are loyal to the state. In a feudal system, there is a whole system of aristocrats where everyone has a suzerain to whom they own their loyalty, except the Emperor. In order to make it possible, you need to make the people loyal to the state instead. That is no easy task considering the actual powers of the Emperor.

One way to do this (this might become a bit off topic so I will explain briefly), is to make the aristocrats useless. Without coordination, these lords are separated when it comes to fighting an enemy. Being members of the Empire is no grantee to have help form the others. The Emperor might have the moral authority to gather allies in order to defend the Empire. But, every time a local lord must depend on the leadership of the Emperor to defend it's territory, he is at risk of being marginalized, slowly. With a constant threat form the nomadic tribes nearby, this system of defence can become institutionalized (made official). Meaning that it could become an automatism that the Emperor lift troops and money from it's members to defend the Empire. Thus I just answered you other question here. It also mean that the Emperor could take the right to collect taxes across all the Empire. The lords might not like it but they can't do much about it since they can't defend their land appropriately by themselves. That is more or less what happened in France by the of the reign of Louis XIV. The nobility is still there but aside form some ascetic powers and some privileges (like not paying taxes), they are powerless. The loyalty of the people go toward the king or the state. In the case of absolutism, the king is the state: ''L'État c'est moi''. That is still not pure nationalism unless the king is considered to be a civil servant like Frederick 2 of Prussia. I think he was a good civil servant but I'm not sure. Eventually, the ideal nationalism would be to have a relatively weak king like the British Crown, with only limited power (the monarch is a symbol of the state). As long as they put the state before everything else.

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I suggest you start your thinking from the tribe/clan. Members of the tribe (which may be of any of your races/species) are more important to each other than non-members. As I've sometimes heard it expressed in small towns, "He may be a (member of despised group), but he's OUR MODG." Or the fact that my dogs & horses are more important to me than roughly 99.99999% of humans :-)

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I think the best approach may be to have a religious incentive to mix-morph breeding. It is believed that your family becomes weak if its blood grows too thin in one type or another (too little cat blood; too little wolf blood, etc.). By reinforcing cultural values which form mixed-type families, everyone would grow up in a diverse family and be likely to attribute positive values with diversity. Without racially motivated tribes, people would naturally fallback to nationalism.

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The nationalism could be based on cultural differences such as customs, dress, or diet.

One example that springs to mind is The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss in which a war is started because the two nations disagree about how to eat toast. You can watch it animated on YouTube.

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  • $\begingroup$ As it is, this reads more like a comment than an answer to the question. Can you elaborate? Jonathan Swift had a different example with big endion and small endions. But that is just an example, not a way to make things work. $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Feb 10 '15 at 19:29
  • $\begingroup$ Other answers mention religion and ideology. I hadn't seen anybody mention culture, so I'm contributing that as an answer. $\endgroup$ – Stephen Ostermiller Feb 10 '15 at 19:30

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