The concept of free nationality acts as a counterweight to the momentum of imperial growth that preceded World War I. The expression and development of this concept left a lasting impact and yielded real results which eventually brought about the end of the great European empires and the birth and development of more than a hundred nations throughout all the continents of the world, and the eventual formation of the United Nations as a forum for the interaction of the close to 200 nations that exist today. (actually 193 nation-members and 2 observer-nations for a total of 195).
Sri Aurobindo identified four specific results of the rise of this idea: “The most important of these, the result of the Russian Revolution born out of the war and its battle-cry of free nationality but contingent on the success and maintenance of the revolutionary principle, is the disappearance of Russia as an aggressive empire and its transformation from an imperialistic aggregate into a congeries or a federation of free republics. (Not so free in practice under Bolshevik rule as in principle; but still the principle is there and capable of development in a freer future.) The second is the destruction of the German type of imperialism and the salvation of a number of independent nationalities which lay under its menace. The third is the multiplcation of distinct nationalities with a claim to the recognition of their separate existence and legitimate voice in the affairs of the world, which makes for the strengthening of the idea of a free world-union as the ultimate solution of international problems. The fourth is the definite recognition by the British nation of the qualified principle of free nationality in the inevitable reorganisation of the Empire.”
It took decades for these four principles to take definite shape. The Soviet Union went through its own imperialistic phase before breaking down and spinning off a number of free nations. German imperialism rose again under the Third Reich and only broke after the Second World War. The rise of independent nations also only gained traction to a great degree after that second war. And the British Empire did not finally break up and transform into the British Commonwealth of Nations until after the Second World War ended in the 1940’s. Yet one can see the seeds of each of these four in Sri Aurobindo’s analysis decades earlier.
Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 29, The Idea of a League of Nations, pg. 259