The Ambiguous Legacy of Adwa as a National Symbol

16 Pages Posted: 24 Mar 2011 Last revised: 27 Mar 2011

See all articles by Alemayehu F Weldemariam

Alemayehu F Weldemariam

LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin; Suffolk University

Date Written: March 1, 2011


The legacy that the Victory of Adwa left to the diverse cultural communities of Ethiopia as a national symbol is ambiguous. To the dismay of the diverse cultural communities of Ethiopia, who had fought back colonial rule successfully at Adwa, successive rulers embarked on a nation-building project, bent on bloody suppression of their cultural diversity to the language and religion of the particular cultural community privileged by the state, soon after their victory at Adwa. So, in what follows, I shall attempt to demonstrate that the true, lasting legacy of Adwa consists in patriotic solidarity and cultural diversity, rather than in its national symbolism, inasmuch as the country’s diverse cultural communities could be shown to have for so long been ambivalent about their collective accomplishment as a result of the bloody suppression of their particularistic identities by the central state in the wake of their triumph.

Keywords: 1st Italo-Ethiopian War, The Battle of Adwa, The Victory of Adwa, 1896, National Question, Eritrean Question, Nationalism

JEL Classification: z, zoo

Suggested Citation

Weldemariam, Alemayehu F, The Ambiguous Legacy of Adwa as a National Symbol (March 1, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

Alemayehu F Weldemariam (Contact Author)

LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin ( email )

2317 Speedway
Austin, TX Texas 78712
United States
206 446 1432 (Phone)

Suffolk University ( email )

Boston, MA 02108
United States


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