In the last decade of the 20th century, as the Soviet Empire disintegrated, so, too, did that prison house of nations, the USSR.
Out of the decomposing carcass came Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Moldova, all in Europe; Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Caucasus; and Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan in Central Asia.
Transnistria then broke free of Moldova, and Abkhazia and South Ossetia fought free of Georgia.
Yugoslavia dissolved far more violently into the nations of Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Kosovo.
The Slovaks seceded from Czechoslovakia. Yet a Europe that plunged straight to war after the last breakup of Czechoslovakia in 1938 and 1939 this time only yawned. Let them go, all agreed.
The spirit of secession, the desire of peoples to sever ties to nations to which they have belonged for generations, sometimes for centuries, and to seek out their own kind, is a spreading phenomenon.
Scotland is moving toward a referendum on independence from England, three centuries after the Acts of Union. Catalonia pushes to be free of Madrid. Milanese and Venetians see themselves as a European people apart from Sicilians, Neapolitans and Romans.
Dutch-speaking Flanders wants to cut loose of French-speaking Wallonia in Belgium. Francophone Quebec, with immigrants from Asia and the Third World tilting the balance in favor of union, appears to have lost its historic moment to secede from Canada.
What are the forces pulling nations apart? Ethnicity, culture, history and language – but now also economics. And separatist and secessionist movements are cropping up here in the United States.
While many red state Americans are moving away from blue state America, seeking kindred souls among whom to live, those who love where they live but not those who rule them are seeking to secede.
The five counties of western Maryland – Garrett, Allegheny, Washington, Frederick and Carroll, which have more in common with West Virginia and wish to be rid of Baltimore and free of Annapolis, are talking secession.
The issues driving secession in Maryland are gun control, high taxes, energy policy, homosexual marriage and immigration.