Abstract. This article deals with the principle of national self‐determination, its historical roots, interpretations, dilemmas, contradictions and double standards. An attempt is made to divide the concept into its analytical components and to demonstrate that the words ‘national’, ‘self and ‘determination’ mean different things to different people. Issues – such as goals and means of national selfdetermination, the question of ‘settlers’ and of the ‘critical date’, the irreversibility of ‘determination’, the right of secession and the domino theory of secession, the minimal size of viable states and the collision between the principle of national selfdetermination and other international norms and values – are also discussed. The analysis is based on modern case studies and on the political thought of nationalist ideologues and politicians.