autonomy

autonomy (ôtŏnˈəmē) [key] [Gr., = self-rule], in a political sense, limited self-government, short of independence, of a political state or, more frequently, of a subdivision. The term is also used for other self-governing units, such as a parish, a corporation, or a religious sect. A test of autonomy is the recognition that the group may make the rules governing its internal affairs. Political autonomy is frequently based on cultural and ethnic differences. Autonomy within empires has frequently been a prelude to independence, as in the case of the evolution of the British Empire into the Commonwealth of Nations, containing both autonomous and completely sovereign states. Autonomy as in the former Soviet "autonomous" republics and regions in Russia, providing local control over cultural and economic affairs, often is perceived as inadequate by nationalists, who sometimes have demanded independence, as in Chechnya. The same has proven true in Slovakia, and provides impetus for terrorism by Basque, Corsican, and Welsh extremists.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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