The Differences Among the Concepts of Nation, Country, State, Government, and Nation-State
A state is “a legal/political and administrative entity composed of a governing central authority that makes and reinforces laws and is recognized as the primary subject of the international legal system”. To be a state, this entity has to possess a permanent population, a defined territory, a government, and a capacity to enter into relations with other states. Thus, the government is a smaller entity than the state is, and it is composed of the executives whose actions adhere to the legal proceedings of the state and who handle domestic and foreign affairs in different sectors for the sake of the state’s welfare.
The nation-state is different in meaning and essence – it refers to the state that unites nationalities living on its territory due to the specific political design, building the national bureaucracy to defend and unite various people, classes, and groups, cultivating their loyalty to the state entity (e.g. Canada, Brazil or Russia). Judging from this point, it is easy to define a nation as a group of people who possess common cultural characteristics, e.g. one language, one lifestyle, etc., and who consciously identify themselves as parts of a nation. Finally, a country is only a geographical term identifying a particular region in political terms of sovereignty.
Since 1648, the considerable growth of nation-states has been observed in the world; it was preconditioned by the starting point of the Peace of Westphalia as a result of which the major European empires collapsed and divided into smaller nation-states. The second wave of the nation-state proliferation occurred after World War II due to the phenomenon of decolonization of the remaining part of European empires, mainly in Africa and Eastern Europe (here the proliferation process was caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union). The fact that there are so many nations and so few nation-states is justifiable by the fact that some nations are minorities and they have no forces to sustain their own territory, so they unite with others to form a joint nation-state. Generally, nation-states are formed due to the partition that occurs along linguistic or ethnic lines (e.g. Czechoslovakia).