The short book is an attempt at sketching the routes along which different ideas of ‘modern’ (i.e. Western) statehood reached Ethiopia in the 20th century, as consciously (or not) adopted by the elite intent on modernizing (i.e. Westernizing) the country. The preliminary assumption, based on the available literature, is that such a transfer of these ideas took place from (Central) Europe to Ethiopia by way of Eurasia (mainly Japan, the Soviet Union and China). Ethiopian thinkers and politicians appear not to be aware of the Central European origin of the two models of statehood implemented in their country. Instead, they consciously borrowed these Central European models of statehood as employed in Japan and the Soviet Union. The volume’s authors check this hypothesis with the use of relevant literature and, most importantly, by looking at Ethiopian sources. The material and sources indispensable for researching and writing this book are in numerous languages (Amharic, English, Chinese, German, Japanese, Polish or Russian) and stem from a variety of sociopolitical, historical and geographical contexts. Not a single scholar can be reasonably expected to master all these languages and gain in-depth knowledge of all these contexts and their history. Therefore, an endeavor of this type needs to be collaborative in its approach for the sake of doing justice to such a highly ‘transnational’ subject matter (cf Manifesto 2018).
Modern Ethiopia: the beginnings
In the mid-19th century, Ethiopia1 was a landlocked, decentralized (‘federal’ or ‘fragmented’), predominantly Christian (Coptic, Oriental Orthodox - i.e. Miaphysitic) polity located in the northern half of the Ethiopian Highlands with Lake Tana at its center. This polity was composed of the historical regions of Begemider (A19r‘£'C begemidir), Gojjam ('1%‘P gojam), southern Tigray tigiray), western Wello (fflA° weld) and Shewa (fiff shewa), meaning that its territory overlapped with the northern quarter of today’s Ethiopia, or the present-day regional states (provinces) of Amhara and Tigray. The Semitic-speaking ethnic group of Amharas constituted the majority of the population. The kindred Semitic ethnic group of Tigrayans were united with the Amharas through faith and the liturgical and official Semitic language of Ge'ez (°7dTi go 'a:). Since the early Middle Ages, Ethiopia had been gradually surrounded by Muslim polities in the wake of the early expansion of Islam across the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa (Sluglett and Currie 2014: 69).
The rule of Emperor Tewodros II (-RT °z1. C (1 dagimawi ‘ats ’e tewodiros, reigned 1855-1868) marked the beginning of modern Ethiopia. He subdued the regional princes and centralized power in the country, especially by bringing the southern historical region of Shewa under his control. Later, in 1886, in the center of Shewa, the present-day Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa was founded. During Tewodros’s reign, the
Figure 0.1 Ethiopia in the mid-19th century (Ethiopia around 2010) imperial and state administration decisively shifted from the antiquated liturgical language of Ge’ez to vernacular Amharic, thus linguistically signaling the growing separation of state from church (Shinn and Ofcan-sky 2013: 7). The 1868 British invasion defeated the Ethiopian forces and plunged the polity into a brief period of internal strife, from which Emperor Yohannes IV (°)í (K<+iTñ Ô? ‘ats’è yohânis âratenya, reigned 1872-1889) emerged successful as the country’s ruler. In 1875-1876, in the north, he defeated the encroaching armies of the de facto independent Ottoman Egypt, which by 1880 had extended its rule to Eritrea; northern
Figure 0.2 Ottoman Egypt’s empire in 1880 (Don-kun and Gaba 2011) and southern Somalia; and Harar in the east and today’s northwestern Uganda in the west. From the Egyptian perspective, Christian Ethiopia sat between these new possessions, preventing their territorial integration (Gaba 2011). Subsequently, the Mahdist War (1881-1899) in Sudan frustrated Egypt’s imperial designs but also endangered northern Ethiopia (Shinn and Ofcansky 2013: 233).
Emperor Menelik II (·4°7£n)tÇ °zl dagimawï ‘ats’ёniintlik, reigned
1889-1913) continued with the policy of centralizing the country and embarked on numerous campaigns of conquest in the west, east and south. By 1904, these conquests had extended Ethiopia’s borders to where they remain now, in 2020 (Marcus 1975: Plaut 2018; Zheim 2010a, 2010b, 2010c). In this manner, from a relatively ethnically and confessionally homogenous polity Ethiopia was transformed into a multiethnic and polyconfessional empire (Levine 1974). In the context of the then ongoing partition (‘scramble’) of Africa among the European powers as decided at the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, Ethiopia managed to retain its independence, alongside Liberia (founded in 1822 for freed and free-born ‘Black’ people from the United States). Italy, in quest for an empire in the Mediterranean and the Horn of Africa, attacked Ethiopia, but the Italian forces were resoundingly defeated at the Battle of Adwa in 1896. In this manner, Ethiopia joined the exclusive club of the few non-Western polities that escaped Western colonization. At the turn of the 20th century, they numbered only five: Ethiopia (Abyssinia2), Japan, Persia (Iran), the Ottoman Empire and Siam (Thailand).
Landlocked and fully surrounded by the British colonies of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, British East Africa and British Somaliland, alongside the Italian colonies of Eritrea and Somaliland, Menelik II in 1894 forged a tentative alliance with Britain’s fierce colonial opponent that enjoyed no foothold in Africa, namely the Russian Empire (Podeszwa 2000: 17; Shinn and Ofcansky 2013: 357). This alliance was also facilitated by the mutually perceived confessional (‘Orthodox’) closeness between both countries (Eribo 2001: 56). Apart from the external Western European powers, the ultimate ‘Other’ for the two allied ‘Orthodox’ empires was Muslims, be it in Sudan and Somalia in the case of Ethiopia or in Central Asia, the Caucasus and in the Balkans from the Russian perspective. Another similarity was the fact that the dominant ethnic group - be it Amharas and Tigrayans (Semitic-speaking Christians) in Ethiopia or (Great) Russians (Slavophone Orthodox Christians) - constituted a mere plurality in the respective imperial populations. In 1900, Ethiopia’s population amounted to 12 million (Ethiopia: Historical 2019; Kibruyisfa Achamyeleh 1997), while the Amharas and the Tigrayans together accounted for a third of the inhabitants. Should the Amharas be
Figure 0.3 Menelik’s campaigns, 1889-1896 (Zheim 2010a)
considered separately, their number would amount to a mere quarter of the Ethiopian populace (Demographics of Ethiopia 2019).
With its 125 million inhabitants in 1897, Imperial Russia’s population was then ten times that of Ethiopia’s. Ethnic Russians accounted for 44 percent of the inhabitants (Russian Empire Census 2019). However, from the vantage of confessional statistics, Orthodox Christians accounted for almost 70 percent among the Russian population, while Muslims amounted to no more than 12 percent (Russian Empire Census 2019). The situation was quite different in the Ethiopian Empire,3 which because of its sudden territorial expansion during the second half of the 19th century lost its previous confessionally homogenous character. Hence, Miaphysitic Christians, Muslims and adherents of nonscriptural (local, ‘traditional’) religions each roughly accounted for one-third of the inhabitants. As a result, cooperation with Muslims was a must, especially when foreign or colonial powers invaded. Otherwise, intolerance, especially of the faithful of nonscriptural religions (‘pagans'), was rife, and they had no choice but to adopt Christianity, imposed by either the Ethiopian Church or foreign missionaries (Abbas H. Gnamo 2014: 180; Caulk 1972; Ford 2009). In today's Ethiopia, Christians (of various denominations) account for two-thirds of the population, while Muslims account for one-third (Demographics of Ethiopia 2019).
Interestingly, at present (i.e. in 2019 and 2020), Ethiopia’s population, standing at 109 million, is quite close to that of post-Soviet Russia’s, at 144 million (Ethiopia Population 2019; Russia Population 2019).4 This similarity also extends to ethnolinguistic diversity: over 80 ethnic groups are recognized in Ethiopia, and as many as 160 are recorded in the Russian Federation. The difference is, however, that ethnic Russians amount to over 80 percent of Russia’s inhabitants, while in Ethiopia, the Amharas,
Figure 0.4 Menelik’s campaigns, 1897-1904 (Zheim 2010c) at 27 percent, have been unseated as the plurality of the countiy's population by the Oromos, who make up 35 percent. From this angle, present-day Ethiopia’s ethnolinguistic diversity is comparable more to that of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union (Demographics of Ethiopia 2019; Demographics of Russia 2019).
The making of Ethiopia into a fully recognized member of the world's West-dominated international system of nation-states is connected to the person of Ras5 (Duke) Tafari Makonnen (+
negesit k’edamawi hayile silase, reigned 1930-1974). Hence, his effective rule lasted for 58 years. The first international success came in 1923, when Makonnen secured for Ethiopia membership in the League of Nations (LN) (Vestal 2011: 21). The following year, he led the Ethiopian delegation, which for four and a half months toured Europe (Britain, Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, Sweden and Switzerland) and the Middle East (Britain’s Protectorate of Egypt and Mandatory Palestine) (Vestal 2011: 21-22). To a degree, this effort to observe and learn the ways of Western modernity was modeled on the Japanese governmental delegation to Europe and the United States in 1871-1873 (Tsuzuki and Young 2009). In turn, the Japanese emulated Russian ruler Peter the Great’s 1697-1698 diplomatic and fact-finding delegation to the West (England, the Holy Roman Empire, the Netherlands and Poland-Lithuania) (Nish 2008: 130). It would be interesting to check whether Makonnen's retinue might have been aware of the 1890 Ottoman embassy to Japan and the Ottoman Sultan’s efforts to modernize his empire by copying western solutions adopted in Imperial Japan (Seljuk 2011: 132; Worringer 2014). Hopefully, a scholar will take up this research challenge.6