With a population of over 200 million, the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has a much larger population than most EU countries(eg: Switzerland has approx 9 mil population). Why is it that small places became countries in Europe when they big places become states in India?

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    Note that if you correct for population density, Uttar Pradesh is not quite so huge as it first seems. Uttar Pradesh, despite it’s size, actually has a higher population density than quite a few European capital cities, and actually has a significantly higher population density than some of the smallest European countries (of the seven smallest countries in Europe, only Monaco and the Vatican have a higher population density than Uttar Pradesh, and all five of the next smallest have less than half he population density). Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 17:28
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    @AustinHemmelgarn what are you talking about? How exactly would you "correct for population density"? This question is about comparing states and countries by population. The density of the population is irrelevant to the size of the population. A place with a million people has a million people regardless of whether it occupies 100 square kilometers or 100,000.
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 23:59
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    @phoog Uttar Pradesh has a huge population partly because it has a high population density, and the geography and sociopolitical environment are actively conducive to maintaining that high population density. Montenegro, as a counter-example, has a tiny population not just because it’s a small country, but also because the geography and sociopolitical environment can’t support a high population density. ‘correcting for population density’ is probably not the best way to say what I meant, but I’m not really sure of any better way to say it concisely. Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 13:42
  • Don't you think that's more about linguistic idiom than politics or demographics, economics or history? Consider most obviously - to me - US America or Australia, as well as my own UK. To citizens of Wales, New South Wales or Washington, what difference is there between states and countries? I suggest that matters so much, it might be why we have a United Nations, rather than a United Countries or a United States. Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 20:11
  • @AustinHemmelgarn Are you proposing something other than that we should compare land area rather than population? Commented Jan 9, 2022 at 8:13

3 Answers 3



India did consist of many more-or-less sovereign countries before the British came. When decolonization came around and the colonizers left, it split into India and Pakistan, and then Bangladesh.

The Indian independence movement came at a time with the telegraph, printed newspapers, etc. Many of the European states came before that. You might compare Germany and Italy, which also consolidated many small polities at a later time.

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    History and military power en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annexation_of_Hyderabad Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 15:32
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    At least half of all modern geopolitical conflicts can be traced to some (usually) British guy drawing a line on a map.
    – Kevin
    Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 6:26
  • @Kevin, like the one in Yalta?
    – o.m.
    Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 6:31
  • "You might compare Germany and Italy, which also consolidated many small polities at a later time." - Was the second possible meaning of that sentence intentional? It certainly supports the point that history is messy, and decides what is and what isn't a country.
    – Peter
    Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 16:51
  • @Peter, the decision between the kleindeutsche and grossdeutsche unification came rather late in the process. But little polities had been merging since the 30 years war and even earlier. I don't think much got gobbled up that wasn't somehow Germany, but how many Germanies was an open question.
    – o.m.
    Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 18:02

Some possible historical reasons for areas to come together to form countries:

(1) Similar cultures. If all the people in the region speak the same language and follow the same religious beliefs, there isn't much reason to be independent from one another.

(2) External threats. If you're worried about being conquered or colonised, there's strength in numbers.

(3) Empire building. If an ancient ruler conquered and pacified a vast area and his successors crushed all separatist movements, over time it might be accepted that the region he controlled is a natural nation.

None of these factors guarantee that a single country will exist and hold together. Everywhere has its own history - for example a former nation might have been forcibly split up after being defeated in a war, and never reunited due to local rulers successfully clinging on to power.

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    Note that a common language can also be imposed from above to force a national identity. For a good example, see France and languages like Breton, Occitan, Provencal, Alsatian that have been more or less forcibly suppressed. In 1794, only 3 million French people (out of 25 million) spoke French as their native language.
    – user141592
    Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 17:45

A often-used explanation of why Europe is divided into a lot relatively tiny states is that there are a lot of natural borders within this continent. For example, the Pyrenees divide France and Spain, the Alps divide Italy from France, Austria and Switzerland.

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    Are you proposing India is a featureless plane with no natural borders? Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 19:03
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    I said it's an often-used theory, not one I necessarily agree with. However in the case of the Indian subcontinent, are the borders between India and most of it's neighbors not defined by either extremely inhospitable mountain ranges (Bhutan, Nepal, China/Tibet, Pakistan) or a sea (Sri Lanka)? Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 20:07
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    @AzorAhai-him- Where he said that India is featureless plane with no natural borders?! Commented Jan 7, 2022 at 23:44
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    @MithridatestheGreat he didn't say it; he implied it.
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 0:02
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    That doesn't explain the small countries. The borders of Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Monaco, Andorra, are not really natural. Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 16:46

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