A simple ethnic classification of Ethiopia's population is
not feasible. People categorized on the basis of one
criterion, such as language, may be divided on the basis of
another. Moreover, ethnicity--a people's insistence that it
is distinctive and its behavior on the basis of that
insistence--is a subjective response to both historical
experience and current situations. A group thus
distinguished may not be the same as that established on the
basis of objective criteria.
Historically, entities defining themselves in ethnic terms
reacted or adapted to Amhara domination in various ways.
Affecting their adaptation was the degree of Amhara
domination--in some areas Amhara were present in force,
while in others they established a minimal administrative
presence--and the extent of ethnic mixing. In some areas,
historical differences and external conditions led to
disaffection and attempts at secession, as in multiethnic
Eritrea and in the Ogaden. In others, individuals adapted to
the Amhara. Often they understood the change not so much as
a process of becoming Amhara as one of taking on an
Ethiopian (and urban) identity.
Data as of 1991